Loving Fans & Killer Zombies


So you love a video game a whole lot. You have it, you’ve probably beaten it multiple times, and maybe you even own some merchandise from the game.  Perhaps you’ve even gone as far as cosplaying one of the characters at a convention, or participating in internet discussion boards? This is all within the realm of normal fandom.  Sometimes, though, a game is more than just a good time, or something to talk about with your friends.  Sometimes, a game sparks to life an inspiration and imparts a desire to create. Such was the case with director/producer Daniele Bellucci and screen writer Bryan Schulz.

Allow me to provide a bit of context. A few weeks back something very interesting appeared on the official Left4Dead facebook page; a Youtube video. Cut to an ancient radio, an old man cutting his face, and then a helicopter view of…Mercy Hospital!?  A fan created Left 4 Dead movie. A spark of inspiration. But why? I spoke to Daniele and Bryan to find out.

[youtube id=”YCbZC59W3IE” width=”620″ height=”360″]

It’s pretty obvious you must love Left 4 Dead even more than I do! What inspired you to start work on this project?

Daniele Bellucci:   Well, for sure Marco [who is no longer with this project] and I loved this game.  All the campaigns in the game are movie structured and presented as such. Marco and I used to work together for a long period,  and pretended to be movie makers since we were children. Both of us were interested in cinema and wish to work in that field. One day we said this thing to each other, “Why can’t we make our own movie? We can, we know how, it would be very interesting to create a Zombie movie that would recall the sytle of the movies in the 80’s.” In a minute the idea of a zombie movie translated into a Left 4 Dead fan movie. We had two thoughts in mind when doing this. The first one was to honor a videogame that we loved, and seeing it come to life in a live action movie would be great for us. The second one was that making a movie based on a hit videogame would interest lots of people. We thought the four survivors from Left 4 Dead were incredible characters for a screenplay, even if the game doesn’t go deeply into their back stories.Filming Louis - zombie

Bryan Schulz:  I found out about this project on a L4D modding forum.  I’m a huge fan of the game.  I’ve played as Zoey from pretty much day one and Ellis from day 1 of L4D2.  I have my co-op team of 4 friends that have played countless hours in both 1 and 2, have played the best of the 3rd party stuff out there, and continue to enjoy what the community is releasing.   I have always wanted to write a Zombie movie and when I saw this project, I had to try and see if they’d let me write it.  I emailed them on 5.21.09 about the movie, the size and scope they were going to take on, their take on how things should be from video game to movie screen and overall vision for what this short could be.  After that we came up with a general outline together and after a few drafts of that, I went off to write the pages.

Valve made an amazing game in Left 4 Dead, the one thing of course is that it was not that in-depth story wise.  Along the way we would hear this and that about the characters, but I wanted to know more.  This short allowed me to enter this world and explore some of those ideas.  I love the dynamic of these 4 strangers being thrown in together and trying to survive, not only the zombie outbreak, but their own quirky personalities as well.  In the real world with no outbreak, they probably would have never met, but because of this disaster, they are forced to deal with each other whether they like it or not.  That is conflict, and conflict is drama.  Without conflict there cannot be story.

Has it been challenging , thus far, to adapt a video game with very little in the way of plot into a movie? What do you consider the biggest challenge?

Daniele Bellucci:  When we started this project in Spring ’09, the idea in the beginning was to create a sort of maxi trailer; about 6-10 minutes of clips, to be used as a fund raiser for a full length movie. But when we launched our first blog on Splinder, we received a lot of word of mouth around the web. During this period a fantastic guy sent an email to us, and proposed to work on the screenplay for the movie: Bryan Schulz, who is a really skilled writer at the beginning of his career. We took this opportunity and ask him to write a 40-45 minutes long screenplay for us.  I’ll never  be able to thank him enough for been so patient with us. We asked him for a lot of changes and he always worked with us, even if he was busy with his own work. In the end, we decided to go with a 40 minute short, hoping to find funds during the way, and starting with our own money. Honestly the game has no particular plot, so with Bryan we decided to make a completely new storyline, that would let us to get into the depth of the characters. Any more than that would ruin the surprise!

Filming Bill - zombieOne of the biggest challenges, though, and perhaps the greatest, is dubbing. We are based in Italy, our actors speak Italian.  Not all of them are fluent in English, and playing a role in English would be highly difficult for them. After shooting we have to find actors who give their voices to the 4 survivors. It’s a really hard task, even because dubbing is expensive work and few dubbers would work for free. I fear that the post-production of the movie will take a really long time due to this factor.

Bryan Schulz:  Adapting was easy for me.  I know these characters because they are me and my friends.  I’m sure each player out there feels the same way.  By Valve not having much back-story and character embedded in the game, it allowed the user to create this on their own.  The issue will come up that not everyone will see them the same way I do.  A perfect example is the L4D comics Valve released.  My L4D characters that I know so well were not those people in those comics.  I enjoyed them for what they were but it will not change the way I view my L4D universe.

 The challenge in the short even, was to try and start them off in one place and end them in another emotionally.  L4D easily has the potential to be a full length feature, but the writer and team need to make sure they nail the character’s emotional journey.  Everyone understands the bullets and the blood.  Action is easy in this universe.  Caring about these people, and seeing them as real people and not just action heroes, is where the hard work comes in.  That’s where the success or failure will come with any adaptation.   There are clear examples of this misstep already out there, I won’t say which ones they are, but the real gamers all know, and we all say the same thing walking out of the theater, “Why couldn’t they just…”
Just how does one find the funds for an endeavor such as this?
Daniele Bellucci:  The first problem with any sort of project like this to have enough money to produce it. All the people involved are working for free, and all of them have their own jobs and priorities as well. This means that is really hard to find a day where everyone  I need is available to be on set.  We started the project in April ’09, and if I have had even only one continuous month to shoot, the movie would have been already finished!   Funding this movie is one of the challenges we are facing for a lot of reasons.  For a long time we were worried about what Valve could think if we had started asking for money, but after showing a few previews we put a donation button on the splinder blog. We didn’t get much to start with so we financed the movie with our own money. I also started a funding campaign on indie gogo, which I think will be a useful way to get donations. It ends on December 31st, so we’ll see!

Of all the Left 4 Dead Universe, what were you looking forward to write the most?Francis - zombie

Bryan Schulz:  My personal favorite bit? It might not be something that’s 100% in the game, but I love the Zoey-Bill dynamic.  I see them having this bond,  a father-daughter type connection.  Bill is always there and will always be there.  He can be strong when she is weak.  But at times she can be the optimist when everyone else is seeing nothing but negatives.  Zoey is young and she’s needs this family dynamic more than any of the others.  They really complete each other and will enable the other to survive.  I always felt that without Zoey and maybe the other 2, Bill wouldn’t have anything left to fight for and might just throw in the towel and call it day.

What is the most rewarding part of this project for you?

Daniele Bellucci:  There are lot of reasons for working on this project. First and foremost,  is turning into real life, something that existed only on paper or as pictures; this, to me is an incredible thing. I feel a similar sensation at the end of a shooting day, when I go back home, feeling really tired, but knowing that we have  done something great. These are the “moral” rewardsI can obtain from these kind of projects. Then, having seen all the fans loving and keeping up with this project I also consider it as an opportunity for my professional path.

This is a great chance to show my worth as a director or editor, and the same opportunity exists for everyone who works on this project to get noticed in his or her own professional field. I think the efforts are justified.
Bryan Schulz:  This project was simply a labor of love for me.  My hope is that people see all the hard work that has been put in by this team and they enjoy themselves as they watch it.  Expectations would be hard to meet even if we were backed by a major studio, had millions at our disposal, and the top talent from around the world.  All we are is a bunch of fans that wanted to tell a story with these characters we came to love by playing this amazing game Value put together.  It’s really as simple as that.  I’ve seen only as much as you all have, but even from those rough-cut  trailers, I’ve been blown away with what they have been able to achieve and am very proud of the entire team.

And finally, any parting words? 

Boomer! zombieDaniele Bellucci:  The movie will be about 40 minutes long, but I can’t actually estimate a release date. To other film makers, I can only say to follow what you like to do, till the end, even when things are at their worst. Continue to be creative. Don’t stop, because people will always need entertainment. To Valve, who posted our Pre-Outbreak File #A on the Left 4 Dead official facebook page: We were very happy to see that!

Bryan Schulz:  I don’t have much to say to the others that might be making their own movie except for good luck.  Any labor of love, such as these fan films, is worth-while in my eyes.  I do have something to say to the movie going audience as a whole.  Ive been behind the curtain and have seen how movies get made.  If we want to stop some of the garbage that gets made today, stop going to see it.  Bashing it later online, giving poor reviews, or what have you, it’s all too late at that point.  They already got your money.  You all have a vote as to what gets made.  It’s very simple.  Vote with your money and vote for the good stuff!


If you want to learn more about Left 4 Dead: The Movie, like their Facebook Page Visit their blog , or donate to their cause!

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Comments (4)

I didn't even know about this. Great interview!

Yeah, what Robb said. That was a fantastic interview!

I'm More concerned about the special infecteds Like HUNTER, SMOKER, BOOMER, TANK, AND WITCH.

Are They gonna be in a movie as well??

By the way great interview. I really can't wait for the movie to come out! 🙂

Omgee!! This is my favorite video game, I have always played as Zoey when I play. And I've always wondered if they were going to make a movie, It looks awesome. But when does it come out??

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