A new Australian zombie western started shooting today in South East Queensland. Bullets for the Dead is set in the American West and will follow a bounty hunter (Christopher Sommers, Unfinished Sky) who discovers the aftermath of a massacre while escorting a young woman (Vanessa Moltzen, I Am Evangeline) and her band of misfits to the sheriff.
Developed from a 2011 student short film, the feature is the writing and directing debut of Griffith University graduates Joshua C. Birch and Michael Du-Shane, who are being mentored by creative director Alberto Sciamma. The filmmakers are both great admirers of Robert Rodriguez (From Dusk Till Dawn) and Quentin Tarantino (Django Unchained) and say the concept of their film hails from a great affection for genre films and American westerns. “It was about making a tribute to those movies,” says Birch. “We grew up watching spaghetti westerns, which have that cheeky take on the American westerns, so we wanted to reinvent that kind of genre with the zombie genre. We thought why not marry the two and make something unique?”
Bullets for the Dead is the latest local production to be Americanised, following the Spierig Brothers’ science fiction thriller Predestination, which was criticised in some quarters for doing just that.
“Australian filmmakers shouldn't feel restricted to tell stories about Australia,” says Du-Shane. “I feel we should be telling stories that most appeal to us as best we can. American film studios don't only make films set in America, they make films set all over the world with stories about people all over the world and it's the same everywhere you look. I feel we should be telling stories that most appeal to us as best we can. We'll be doing a cool and uniquely Australian-American western: a kangaroo western.”
“If you would have set it here, you would limit the potential audience of the film and take it away from the actual roots of the storytelling,” says the film’s Brisbane-based producer, Cathy Rodda, of Visionquest Entertainment.
“There’s not a strong culture of Australian westerns,” adds Rodda. “It’s very, very difficult to make an Australian film because the Australian market is not big enough and the reality is that film fandom is a global thing and you go with the passion of what it is that you love about the film, while at the same time looking at the marketability of it and where our audience base is likely to be.”
Rodda was also one of the producers on the locally shot sci-fi comedy Iron Sky, a co-production between Germany, Finland and Australia, which significantly benefited from its strong, carefully built-up fan base. Consequently, the producer is considering a slew of zombie fan event screenings for the eventual release of Bullets for the Dead.
“I’ve been very inspired by the way Iron Sky engaged the community,” says Rodda. “What I loved about that experience was the passion of the community that was built around the film and the fact that they stick with you. I’d love to be able to do that [again] and develop an audience base and keep them entertained with more things. If that works, we’ve got a sequel and possibly a ‘threequel’ planned to build a larger story around the concept. It’s very early days for that, but it’s something that we’re trying to build.”
Backlot Studios will be handling local theatrical distribution for Bullets for the Dead for a late 2015 release.