Director Alex Nicolaou recently wrapped up one of Full Moon Feature’s latest projects, Zombies Versus Strippers. During an all too brief break, Nicolaou– yes, you do recognize the name, as he’s the son of Subspecies director Ted Nicolaou– took the time to speak with Geekscape about the trials and rewards of working with an excess of zombies and bare flesh. As if there could be an excess of either of those.
A: Was this your choice? When this project came up, were you like “Yes!! Zombies and strippers!“?
No, actually, it’s a funny story. I got hired to rewrite a pre-existing script and apparently an executive at Red Box had come up with the idea and they had the script and I got hired to rewrite it. I brought my friend, Frank, to write it with me. We do a radio show on KXLU and we write all sorts of sound sketches and special episodes so we’ve done a lot of writing together. We hammered it out in probably seven days for no pay, just a page one rewrite. We kept in some of the lines, the basic trajectory of the plot and what happens, stripped out some unnecessary exposition and increased the character quirks and changed the characters around. We decided that frat boys weren’t as interesting as punks, so we changed frat boys to punks and basically we were working out of love for movies like Return of the Living Dead and just all these really inspirational movies from the 80s. So we’re trying to work that retro vibe into it, but as soon as we rewrote it, I pitched myself as the director to Charles (Band) and got the job. Immediately after that, pre-production began. Which was its own special chaotic situation. We basically had to cast the movie as quickly as possible. I think casting ended about two days before shooting began. We had a table read that went really well, we have a pretty amazing cast—they’re really working their asses off, they’re all really great actors, they all fill their characters out really nicely, come up with brilliant suggestions and ideas to throw in there. The only problem is, thus far, we’ve started with two of the heaviest scenes in the movie in terms of just dialogue and the amount of characters, so it’s been a really testing first couple of days, but we’re getting through it and the stuff we’ve shot so far looks great. I’m really excited about it, I can’t wait to see how the rest of the shoot goes.
A: And this is your first movie?
This is my first movie, correct. I made a bunch of films in college and had been writing a lot of stuff, but I put it down to pursue other things. I worked for about a year in a sort of punk rock cinemateque called Cine Family on Fairfax, where it was a continuation of my film education. We were showing a different movie every night, from the insanely obscure Son of Dracula, which is a Bollywood horror film that just has some of the most psychedelic bizarre sequences to John Cassaveti’s(??) movies. So this theater just shows everything. They’re amazing and I learned a lot from them. And then I stopped working there in December and started writing again, got the call from Charles and wrote the script.
A: So everything’s great, this is something you wanted to do– direct films?
It’s something I’ve really wanted to do, and this is definitely one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, just trying to block scenes and stage action on the fly… because often times, by the end of the day we’ll have three hours remaining and still a number of scenes we have to shoot and suddenly the set-ups and shot lists that I had intended to use are no longer possible. So immediately I have to think of something completely different. I guess what we really realized is that the script we wrote and the script as it appears on the page cannot be the same one… it would be impossible to get the script that we wrote fully on camera. Time makes everything different. Time is the most important thing, making the schedule. So, we’re trying to throw in as many artistic and aesthetic flourishes as we possibly can but the most important thing is that we get this movie shot in nine days and there’s a ton of action and a ton of characters and we want that to be the case, because we feel like everyone has a really nice character arc, the story’s cool and the dialogue is funny and there’s cool references in there. But, man, is it hard to jam it into such a condensed time period.
I would not be able to do it if I didn’t have such an incredible camera crew and DP. Everyone is fighting so hard to help make the movie that I’d like to make on this time frame. So if I didn’t have some of those people backing me up, there’s no way I’d be able to. I am directing this one, we’ll see where it goes from there.
You can check out the on-set coverage of Zombies Versus Strippers over here.