Alex Ballar is multifaceted with great knowledge of the inner and outer workings of the movie industry. Method trained, with nearly two decades of experience in writing and acting, Ballar is able to bring a different insight while directing. Alex has almost a dozen screenplays sold to companies like Universal Pictures and Sci-Fi. His latest project, Zombie Drugs, is not only his script, but he produces, directs and stars in the comedic story of two burnouts.
Beau Nelson came to Los Angeles with high stakes in mind and has already gained traction and a reputable name in the entertainment industry with credits in upcoming hit movies, Madoff: Made Off With America (Tom Sizemore, Michael Madsen), Q For Death (Jeremy London), The Artist (John Goodman, James Cromwell) and Diablo (Danny Trejo, Michael Madsen.
Together, Beau and Alex formed the Production Company, Manginity Films, to put their visions together and make high-impact films geared towards the enjoyment of the audience. Their newest film, Zombie Drugs, is just finishing up post-production and we recently sat down with Beau and Alex to discuss the film. Check it out below.
We Got This Covered: Why don’t you give us a brief summary of the film?
Alex Ballar: The movie is, without preaching to anybody, what it would be like to be on a journey off of drugs and starts with two friends whose whole existence is doing drugs. Not saying this is a hardcore drug movie, we don’t want to give you the wrong impression. It’s more in the fun sense of Dude Where’s My Car. These two friends partied in school, did some pot, a little coke, a lot of drinking and they carried that on out of high school. That’s where this movie kind of starts, when the character, Vinny starts to have different effects from the drugs. He starts to see zombies and see his dead brother who died of an overdose. That all plays into his ability to no longer have fun with the dugs. But his friend, Sabastian, played by Beau, is still on the journey and thinks drugs are the best thing in the world. And he wants to start a drug business.
WGTC: How did the film come about? Where did you get the idea from?
AB: Well, the idea came from us wanting to make a movie…one of my favorite director’s is Quentin Tarantino and I’ve heard him say something like: ‘I make movies for the audience, what they want to see. And I’m a fan of movies myself.’ And that’s true for me. I’m the kind of person that will sit there and watch 15 movies a week; I love movies. I love to watch them and analyze them. So with Zombie Drugs, it’s really a vision derived from, what does this particular audience want to see? We wanted to create a movie geared towards the college market that doesn’t take itself too seriously, but at the same time has a message. And the zombies are used as a metaphor for what can happen to someone if they become a drug addict. So that’s kind of how the movie came about.
I wrote the script about 3 years ago when I had some downtime. I wanted to create something that I could possibly do on a lower budget. After the film was shopped around, hitting numerous dead-ends, I was lucky enough to find Beau. We met up on a web series called The Resolve, which I helped produce. We had cast Beau as a guest star and the first day I saw him walking around on set, I was like ‘wow, he’s Sebastian! He can really play that character’. He had the framework in place to play the character. It was like one of those moments you read about where a director meets an actor and they know he or she is perfect for the character. That was that moment for me.
We went out there, ended up finding money and made sure not to compromise. We did it for a lower budget but the one thing we’re proud of is that everyone who has seen it says, ‘that’s such a funny movie, I enjoyed it so much.’ And we’re hoping that continues. But part of the reason I think people are saying that is because we put so much effort into it and didn’t sacrifice or settle for anything. We didn’t have much money so we scoured through ads to make sure we found the perfect cast and crew. Another person that was a real trooper was Alex Berezovsky; he helped us with pre production and production. He was a huge asset for us as well.
WGTC: Beau, do you want to tell us what drew you to the role?
Beau Nelson: I look at acting as an art of being something you’re not and for me I like to transform myself into a particular character that you don’t always get the opportunity to do on a regular basis. This particular role was something that really interested me; really learning about drugs, researching drugs, taking Alex’s directions about the behaviours and acting is a lot about behaviour. I took that and did a lot of research and it was really something that I wanted to go a 100% on. And from some of the stills you’ve seen I came up with the idea of having a tattoo and having a lip ring, those kinds of character choices I thought would separate me from myself as an professional, business type person to someone who is more a like the character Sebastian. I think my strong point right now in my career is really my comedy aspect anyway so I felt I really related to this role in a certain aspect of my life.
WGTC: You said that the movie isn’t done yet what stage are you in?
AB: We’re in the end of post production and just had a guy finish 5.1 master mix. Really the last thing we have to do is just wait for the mail to come tomorrow for delivery from our After Effects Artist containing the titles and the credits. We have some really cool titles and credits that poof into smoke, and then on some of the zombies we gave them crazy eyes so we’re wrapping that up but we’re literally like a week away from calling this 100%.
WGTC: So where and when can audiences expect to see this?
BN: We’re actually planning for a fairly large premiere in April and it sounds like we have some amazing sponsors that might be on board. Then we’re also going to be trying to do a limited theatrical release throughout the major cities in the US, including my home state of Wisconsin as we start talking with distributors. I really do believe that this film should be in theatres in New York and LA and St. Louis and Atlanta, etc and I think this film will eventually find a home on Showtime or HBO.
AB: And we’ve already got some interest from distributors, without saying names yet, not wanting to jinx anything, but they’re wanting to see stuff, just based on premise and based on the stills and things that they’ve seen already in the clips online. So we’re kind of excited about that, because for a small film like this for people to even inquire about it, especially a mid to higher end distributor is exciting.
WGTC: What about film festivals, have you looked into any of those?
AB: We figured that we’d finish the film first. Zombie Drugs may do well in some festivals and we may premiere it in one or two but it’s a very distinct type of film being dark comedy/horror. The comedy comes more from the situations and the outrageous points of view of the characters based on being drugged and who they are. We see it as more of a college type film. We were hoping to submit to SXSW, but the film wasn’t finished and we know how those things work, people say they’re not going to judge the film when it’s not done but they do. So we held off.
WGTC: You’re saying its both comedy and horror, tell us how you found the balance between both, is it more of one than the other or is it an even split? What genre does it fall into?
AB: It’s probably more dark comedy than it is horror, there are zombie moments in it but they’re sporadic throughout the movie. There are some moments in the movie where people have jumped while watching, so it has those moments because of the zombie stuff and what the character of Vinnie is going through; his mind is screwing with him. So I would say it is 60 or 70% dark comedy and 30 to 40% horror. Would you say so Beau?
BN: Yeah I would agree with that.
WGTC: Would you says it’s R-rated material? Or PG-13?
BN: We have more of a PG-13, there are some swear words, but there’s no major nudity or anything.
WGTC: The horror genre and especially zombies is something we’ve seen so many times before. What do you think will make the film stand out?
AB: For me I think it’s the way it’s handled, like I said it’s unique in itself because I don’t think anyone has seen this type of zombie in the way that we’re portraying it. Maybe there’s movies out there where people use zombies as a metaphor for drug addicts, but this is unique in itself as it’s this guy’s journey off drugs. I also think the characters are very strong, unique, and very engaging.
BN: I think it’s very relatable, that’s my favorite part about it and that’s some of the feedback we’ve got from people who have seen the clips. It’s things a lot of people either have experienced from their own life or witnessed in others lives; and like Alex said each character has its own thing that is easily relatable to a wide audience.
WGTC: What about future projects are you guys working on anything else?
AB: We have a couple of things. Right now Beau and I are both shooting a mockumentary called Bring Me the Head of Lance Henriksen, directed by Michael Worth, who also directed the festival award winning film God’s Ears and will be directing a David Mamet movie soon. This film has Lance Henriksen, Tim Thomerson, Adrienne Barbeau and John Saxon. It’s an examination of what it’s like to be in the B-movie industry. It also touches on ageism and what that’s like. We’re also putting together another movie right now called Redress, which is a psychological thriller kinda like Se7en meets Frailty. It’s a twisted game between a serial killer and cop and how this cop’s wife went missing a long time ago and, all of a sudden, years later this serial killer gets caught after all these women have died and confesses he’s the biggest serial killer of all time. He wants to show everybody where these bodies are buried and, of course, he wants to be taken by the cop on the journey.
WGTC: Thank you so much for talking with us and good luck with everything!