Sunday, 13 January 2013

Love Nerf? Love Zombies? You'll love this!


Wow. Wow. Wow. That is all I can sa-  what in the Nerf... ?!


Only 1:41 long??


At first I thought my Wifi had crashed. Then I blamed YouTube for overloading. I then suspected foul play from that Squirrel that normally comes by my window for nuts and raisens.

Then I realised this was a teaser-trailer.


For many of us Nerf fans we love staying up to date with Nerf news, reviews, range tests, unboxings and other shenanigans the Hasbro blasters can bring us. Believe me when I say I went crazy for this trailer-tease and had to speak to the brilliant mind of director Nate Sorrentino.


MyLastDart: When did you start production on this series?
Nate Sorrentino: We started filming back in late February 2011, finished about 5 weeks ago. Editing will probably take a couple months more, as this is extremely demanding.

MLD: Your film "Human vs Zombies" appeared back in 2010 as a top story in tech-electronics and nerdlinger gadget site, the Escapist and Geeks are Sexy- are there more scenes to film?
Nate: Nope, all scenes have been filmed for this set of 3 episodes. The first two, as I am editing the scenes together are seeming to run at about 10 minutes in length each, while the 3rd is looking closer to around 12-15 minutes. Months after the launch, we began filming in February of 2011, originally with the intent of creating three 7 or so minute secret agent spoof episodes, as we felt that getting enough people together for full scenes of zombie combat would be impossible on no budget, with dozens of conflicting schedules that we as students have. But as we began filming and developing the story, I finally decided it was a risk worth taking - we had managed the large numbers once, we could do it again, but it has to be during the fall, the early half when weather is good and academic pressure is at its lowest.

MLD: How did you get the idea to write the scipt for "Human vs Zombie"? The dialogue between the characters is often intense and very creative and funny. How long has it taken you to perfect or "tune up" their speaking parts?
Nate: Originally this was actually not even going to involve zombies. It was going to be a spoof of popular secret agent films/shows, especially the popular show "24". I originally felt that there was simply no way to bring together large enough numbers of people for human vs. zombie battles on a frequent enough basis, competing with busy college scheduling, including my own. But then looking back again at the hype that the Humans vs. Zombies Theatrical Trailer 2010 had built, I eventually reconsidered. I still viewed this as a risk, a very high risk, but one worth taking. Because of this, I elected not to start letting any word out publicly until we were literally 99% done filming, to avoid the chance of a terrible disappointment of building up hype, then having something go wrong that stops production altogether. For screenwriting, it was actually a few of us working on it, sometimes even just having some the actors come up with the exact lines they said, and also some improv. The direction of the story evolved throughout the first set of months of production, and some more during the dead periods in which many of us were simply too busy to do much. Some scenes had to be reshot for improvement, and sometimes to alter a scene a bit for pacing.

MLD: What other films and videos have you completed?
Nate: I haven't really done anything this big in scale before, the closest would be weddings I have filmed professionally in the past, which is where most of my skills in cinematography developed. Those averaged at 2 and 1/2 hours. Though there were often a lot of shots to plan out for those, it wasn't quite the same as what you do in film production.

MLD: You have done several other pieces of short film - will we see more episodes? I loved the "Detonation: Deflected" and "Assassination: Avoided"
Nate: If you mean more episodes of HvZ after these first three, I do believe we will be expanding - it is very open to expansion, and not just forwards, but sideways as well, as we do involve other schools to a small extent - establishing that the psychotic mastermind has sold the virus to other terrorist cells. So basically, other schools could work off of this, having an "HvZ Marvel Universe". I am hoping to begin this at RIT, which is where I am now, and they have been doing HvZ even longer than Geneseo. As for the Detonation and Assassination shorts, I'm really not sure. Those were shot at a summer camp for kids in grades 5-8, but those camps are no longer in session.

MLD: Directors all have idols and movies that inspire them - who and what inspired you?
Nate: Much of my inspiration for this project came from the show 24, as well as the Bourne films. There are definitely a lot of directors that I get my inspiration from, such as Steven Spielberg, Peter Jackson, Christopher Nolan, and Marc Webb to name a few. A couple years ago, I read a book "How to shoot video that doesn't suck" by Steve Stockman, and held several major story-telling words of advice close while working on this. Chiefly, to keep things short and down to the point, not straying off into loads of subplots of little relevance to the main plot, and also to "keep them wanting more" - we don't always answer questions right away, some answers aren't revealed until one or two episodes later, and for good reason. Also, not simply explaining something in the story, but more showing as a means for explanation. These three principals worked greatly in line with our approach of also spoofing 24, as that is a very fast-paced show, consistently ending with cliffhangers. There are also quite a few other cross-references throughout the series from other movies and shows - it is after all not to be taken too seriously, but to be fun and entertaining. It has it's obvious epic segments, but also comedic and mildly cheesy moments as well - it is a spoof.

MLD: "Humans vs Zombies" has some pretty awesome choreography - who masterminded the scenes?
Nate: Much of the choreography was a combination of my ideas, and ideas of my cast on the spot - they came up with a lot of great stuff! For our third episode, the audience will be treated to a huge, campus-wide brawl, lasting over 10 full minutes, and it is not just simply a mix of shots of random people fighting and getting nommed by zombies - no! It is very sequential and dynamic - solid beginning, middle, and end.
MLD: Did you come up against any major filming issues shooting the movie? How did you go about drumming up support? Can fans expect longer battle scenes?
Nate: With all the scheduling issues we had, there were several times I had thought for certain this was a doomed-to-fail project, but then it hit me that in 2011 we didn't build up half the hype we did in 2010, which involved first running a booth in the union with the hold trailer and mini-flyers to pass out with info on the Nerf War to happen the next night, and the first filming session the day after that. Running the booth and the Nerf War event were two critical steps in "winning the crowd" - getting everyone excited and pulling them right in. But I didn't just want to get this done and done right, I genuinely wanted it to be a positive--no--AWESOME experience for everyone. I first wanted the battle filming to only take 2-4 sessions total, putting the battle at a potential 5 or so minutes in duration when added to the footage from the previous spring. But that's not quite what happened. See, this semester, our cast and crew was on fire for this like never before - and I was already greatful to have been given the kind of dedication I had before, but this - no director of a no-budget film could ask for more than this: We didn't stop at 4 sessions. We stopped at 10, not including all the night-time gap-filler sessions we had to film during some weeknights - this all progressed right into to the last weekend prior to finals week. We are all so psyched to reveal that our third episode won't just have 5 minutes of battle, it is approximately 10 full minutes - very dynamic and high in energy!

MLD: Aside from the "Humans vs Zombies" project, do you have any other future movies or videos that you are working on? Any projects on your mind that we can get a sneak peak into?
Nate: As of right now, I am currently not working on any other projects, as I really want to release this as soon as possible. I would like to do something different after, but I will always be up for more of these as well!
MLD: Movie making can be a time consuming job what do you do for hobbies? Do you have any peculiar interests?
Nate: Film-making is actually not my career, but it is my favorite hobby. I am actually a teacher, part of a company teaching LEGO robotics and other technology courses, including film-making on occasion. I do have a pretty diverse set of interests, such as ballroom dancing (which I did competitively for a few years), theatre, tinkering with technology, photography, etc. - I do like doing a lot of different things, keeping life interesting.

MLD: How much of the movie "Humans vs Zombies" remains on the editing floor? How hard was it for you to choose what stayed and what got chopped?
Nate: I'd say about 85% of the scenes we've shot are making it into the final product. Only two scenes were fully scrapped and replaced, while a couple others had 1 or 2 alternate versions, shot for comparison in how they affected pacing and story development. What I didn't realize was that it wasn't the upcoming fall of 2011 that we'd be filming the majority of outdoor battle sequences, it would be Fall 2012, as the production had some major downtimes due to periods of high academic pressure among many students including myself. We actually barely got a thing done in Fall 2011, but returned full-force in 2012. Filming all indoor scenes at night during the winter, with darkness hiding the snow outside the windows from the camera, and then all the outdoor/daytime scenes throughout the spring and fall. We were faced with a few other challenges as well, including being forced out of a building when a janitor was uncertain of our activity, and a few cast members had to bow out, leaving us to reshoot a couple scenes.
MLD: Making a movie, as you have said was hard on you especially being in term-time and general stresses of life - how have you managed to keep your head above water?
Nate: Well, I'm first gonna clarify there were several occasions I had serious doubts about whether or not we would actually finish this - that was extremely stressful at times, but I refused to give it up - after everything that we had accomplished thus far, it would have all been for nothing if we stopped. The most awesome part about all this is that as focused and under pressure as I was on getting it done right and ASAP, was that it was a truly amazing, rewarding experience - there are no words to express my greatfulness for having such an incredible opportunity to work with such fun, hilarious, and dedicated people.
MLD: Most actors and aspiring directors never achieve modest success. You have had a lot of media coverage and interest from your trailer and short movies - what do you say to young people out there struggling to get into the film industry?
Nate: Since I'm not actually in the film industry, I can't really say more than to keep it small, but strong when doing independent film projects. Film production big and small requires more time than we realize at first - but keep at it, build your skills and experience. As your videos improve, you will attract more people to participate in them, and make sure you thank your participants for sacrificing their valuable time - don't be too much about the business, be a friend, not just a director.

Many thanks to Nate Sorrentino, i'm so excited for this short movie, it's bound to be a definite hit with all fans of not only off Nerf but the Zombie genre!

We will keep you posted on this, let us know what you thought?

*All photo / video rights & credits to Nate Sorrentino and Mukarram Ismail.

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