Thursday, November 3, 2011

The Fantastic in the Fine Arts: "Re: Your Brains"

If you are a fantasy or sci fi fan who likes music, you may well already be familiar with the music of Jonathan Coulton. You may have heard his song about a zombie-infested office, "Re: Your Brains."

In the winter of 2011, Minneapolis playwright Bill Stiteler wrote and filmed a music video to go with the song. He was kind enough to answer some questions on that project, on zombies, and on what he's up to next.

Before we get to the interview, if you want to read Stiteler's ... post-mortem of the filming process, you can find it here.

1. What was your particular inspiration for creating this project?

I wanted to shoot something more technically complex than I had done before, but also something that could be completed quickly. Quickly, because I hadn't done any filming for a while (we had planned to shoot in November and got hit by a blizzard), and complex because I'd gotten access to a set of post-production tools that I was anxious to use. A music video seemed like a good compromise and I knew Coulton's song would be a good hook with the nerd herd I run in, making it easier to encourage people to link to it.

Oh and Neil Gaiman mentioned once he wanted to make a really good video for the song, but would never have the time. So I stole his idea.

2. Aside from your own, what are some examples of the best uses of zombies in film?

Night of the Living Dead is probably the best example of DIY filmmaking and turning a weakness (low budget) into a strength--the one location gives the film a great sense of claustrophobia as the survivors turn on each other. Shaun of the Dead is a wonderful comedic take on the genre, but it still has an emotional core. Shaun is a zombie in his everyday life, and it takes the end of the world for him to grow up.

3. Are there any other songs that you think lend themselves to zombification?

I'm not sure; zombies aren't particularly "sexy" and the point of most pop songs is "I'm so cool."

No, wait, I've changed my mind. All songs should have a zombie music video. Imagine "Straight Outta Compton" with NWA trashing the walking dead as they rap about how badass they were. And Whiney Boy With Guitar songs would be vastly improved with the addition of zombies. "Hey There Delilah" where Delilah is a zombie. "Whoa, what you do to me." At the end, she eats him. This is a great idea. Lyrics about hearts and minds take on a whole new meaning.

4. Zombies have become a stable part of pop culture. Can you speculate a bit on the possible reasons for their popularity?

Well, zombie makeup is a cheap effect. So that's appealing from a production prospective. Second, writers don't have to worry about their motivation. They're hungry. They want to eat humans. When you're writing them, you can focus on your survivors and what they want. Third, there's no moral quandary about killing zombies: they're already dead. You don't have to worry about offending anyone when you plant a pickaxe in their skull, which makes them the perfect villain.

5. What are some upcoming projects that you are working on, and where can people find your other creative work?

I'm directing a play titled "Man Saved by Condiments!" by Mary Jo Pehl (MST3k, Cinematic Titanic) in Minneapolis at the Bryant-Lake Bowl ( December) and New York City at the Frigid Festival ( February-March). It's based on the true story of a man who was trapped in his car for five days and survived by eating snow and condiment packets in his car. My first film, THACO, is available on Amazon video . As an experiment in social media and theater we put the archival video of Macbeth: the Video Game Remix, a play I directed an co-wrote, online in its entirety. And we're in pre-production for a couple of video projects at Moontalk Productions.

You can find Bill Stiteler on the web here or follow him on Twitter.