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Gavin's Underground

Atom The Amazing Zombie Killer

by Gavin Sheehan
- Posted // 2012-11-13 - There's a new indie film coming our way, and when we say indie, we're delving deep into the minds of people who know indie. A group of filmmakers out of Colorado with experience making films for Troma have put together their own film in the same blood, guts and gore-filled style called Atom The Amazing Zombie Killer, which focuses on a bowling pro turned homicidal savior when zombies take over his his little town, leaving it up to him to save the world as he knows it.
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Today, I'm chatting with the film's director, Richard Taylor, about his career in film and working with the people at Troma, putting this film together and taking it around the country, and a few other topics prior to the film's SLC screening this Saturday at Brewvies Cinema Pub. (All pictures courtesy of Taylor.)

Richard Taylor
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Gavin: Hey, Richard. First thing, tell us a little bit about yourself.

Richard: Hey, there! Well, a little about myself is probably all you're going to want to know, because you never want to give too much information in these interviews. Like saying “ I have an itch at the bottom of my foot that I can’t seem to scratch, I listen to the Beatles while dancing naked in my kitchen baking raisin bread every morning, and my social security number is ...” 'cause then you just sound like you're rambling and you just want to know a little about me so ... let’s just say “My name is Richard Taylor and I am a filmmaker from Denver, Colorado.”
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Gavin: How did you first take an interest in film, and what were some of your favorites growing up?

Richard: While in school, I met a young man named Zack Beins who became my BFF and partner, forming the production company Bizjack Flemco. We had a friendship like you could never imagine because we didn't have this Facebook, YouTube and Tumblr to get in the way. We would actually have to hang out in person. All we would do is watch movies -- lots of movies! After watching so many movies, we decided that we should try and make one, so we grabbed a camera and did just that. Kinda cliché but that is really what got me into film -- it was Zack! Some favorites growing up were The Brave Little Toaster, Pee Wee’s Big Adventure, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, The Toxic Avenger, Orgazmo, Evil Dead, Dead Alive and I Spit On Your Grave.

Gavin: You attended the Community College of Aurora. What made you decide to study film there, and what was the program like?

Richard: Yes, I did go to the Community College in Aurora; I went there because they had a really awesome film program. I spent about two years going to school there and then quit to work on Troma’s movie Poultrygiest: Night of the Chicken Dead, where I learned more about making a movie than I ever would have at film school.
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Gavin: During those years, you started up Bizjack Flemco Productions for your own short films. What made you decide to start up a production company so early?

Richard: Well, it wasn't really a production company at that time, more just a funny name that we put in front of our very first shorts. Now, we can really call ourselves a production company! We have made over 20 short films including The Misled Romance of Cannibal Girl and Incest Boy, music videos for Denver bands The Asbestos Tampons, Zombie Hate Brigade and Extra Kool, and most recently, we finally finished our first feature film, Atom.

Gavin: What was it like for you to create your own works under that brand and put them out on the Net just as video sites were taking off?

Richard: Making stuff for the Internet is great! There are no rules and I can do whatever I want, whenever I want. Of course, I can never be as popular as the Panda who sneezes or "Gangnam Style," but my stuff is out there and that is all that matters.
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Gavin: How did the opportunity to work for Troma Entertainment come about?

Richard: Well, Zack and I have always been huge Troma fans. We would watch Troma movies all the time when we were younger, and Lloyd Kaufman would always be on the special features talking about how you can make your own damned movies and giving young filmmakers tips and tricks. There was a contest to make a fan film for The Toxic Avenger 21st Anniversary DVD, and Zack and I made a video where I played the Toxie theme song on my accordion. I guess Troma really liked it because they put it on the DVD. I remember we bought the DVD not knowing we were on it. When we saw ourselves, we jumped up and down and were ecstatic! When we learned they were looking for help on Poultrygeist, we mentioned we were the ones on the Toxie 21st DVD and they said “Oh, right on! You guys should be the Blood Boys.” So, Zack and I were the ones who made all the blood and guts on Poultrygeist. What we learned really helped us step up Atom.

Gavin: When it comes to Troma films, there's really not a school for it, so how was it for you to incorporate the Troma style of filming and gore into what you learned in college?

Richard: I remember our school hated everything Zack and I did. They would make fun of Troma and what we thought were good films. Once we got closer to Troma and started to work with them, including helping with Tromadance in Park City for three years, our film teachers would come to us and say, “Hey, I have this great idea for a zombie movie -- do you think Troma would be interested?” Haha! College really only helped us with technical stuff like working lights, cameras and editing. We also met some amazing people like Tim Johnson, and David Mikalson, who really shaped the way Atom turned out.
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Gavin: What was it like for you working on Poultrygeist during that time and learning from Lloyd Kaufman?

Richard: Working with Lloyd was really surreal. It’s not very likely that you will ever get to work side by side with one of your heroes, let alone call them a friend. He is very tough guy to work with, and he taught us that if you are not serious about your art then pack your bags and go home. He knows what he is doing; he's been doing it for over 30 years and still has time to give advice and to give guys like me a chance. If he can do it, then anyone can! The guy is a real inspiration. He even gave Zack and I the opportunity to write a little essay in his new book, Sell Your Own Damn Movie!

Gavin: When did the idea come about for Atom The Amazing Zombie Killer?

Richard: In college. We were going to make it a short film, but I kept saying that we should make a feature film next. I remember saying, "All we have to do is add a love story to what we already have and we would have a feature film!" Ha! It really sat around for a while until we told our friend and partner Tim Johnson the idea, and he really adapted our original “fart-and-dick-joke script” into a screenplay.
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Gavin: What was it like for you writing it and showing it to fellow filmers, and what made you decide to go forward with production?

Richard: We spent a year with the script. We never showed it to anybody. There were three of us writing so we wrote it up and were all very entertained by the script and really felt strong about it, so we went forward into production. Orson Wells made his first feature film Citizen Kane by the time he was 25, so I really wanted to make a feature film before I was 25. The film took four years to make, however, so by the time we were finished I was 28. But I was 25 when we started so it still counts. Ha!

Gavin: What was it like putting your cast and crew together, and who did you bring on board to work with?

Richard: Back when we were casting, we were using a thing called “MySpace”; it was very easy to find actors and crew. We even got in touch with The Radioactive Chicken Heads, a band from Califronia, who would eventually do our AMAZINGLY CATCHY theme song! We found a very funny drag queen by the name of Babette Bombshell to be in the film. Lloyd Kafman even agreed to be in the film, playing Atom’s Grandpa. Everybody else in the movie were our friends and some family, but that is to be expected from an independent film, I think. Myself, Zack and Tim are even in the film ... a lot! Haha.
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Gavin: How long did it take you to film and edit it, and what difficulties did you encounter along the way?

Richard: Four LOOOOOOOOOOOOOOONG years! We lost locations, actors, money, and our minds. Just everything that might go wrong, DID. We only filmed on the weekends because we still had to work our day jobs to help pay for the film, so scheduling the film was a nightmare. We had never filmed with the camera that we were using so we were also learning how to use that the whole time we were filming. I think by the last shot of the film we finally learned how to use the damned thing correctly. But it was tough. We should have given up, but we didn’t. We knew we had an AMAZING movie on our hands!

Gavin: Considering the style it's filmed in, where it is Troma-esq and slightly campy, did you think the film might turn people off from watching it, or were you focused on that being the appeal?

Richard: We were definitely going for “Camp” and if you don’t like B-movies then I don’t think you will get all of the jokes and references we put in the film. It is definitely made for those who love comedy/horror films! But we have shown the film now to eight audiences (the SLC show will be the ninth) and people tell me, “That was such a good movie! I mean, other than the blood, guts, fart jokes, and puke, it was a really great movie!” So, I think everyone will like the film if they just go in wanting to have a good time.
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Gavin: What were the initial impressions from friends when you showed it to them, as well as from fellow Troma people?

Richard: The film has been getting great reviews. We have been promoting the film as "the first zombie movie NOT to feature zombies." When you watch the movie and finally realize what we mean by that, you will have that “ohhhhhh” moment and you will either love the idea or hate it. Luckily, people have really loved it, and the reviews have been nothing but positive. Troma fans say that we made the greatest love letter to Troma that we could have. They love all the Troma references that we hid, and, of course, Lloyd is in there, and Babette Bombshell, who is the star of Troma’s next film, Return to Nuke 'Em High.

Gavin: You've been playing select screenings, including one coming up at Brewvies here in SLC. How has it been touring the film around?

Richard: We premiered the movie on March 20, 2012, at the Star Fest Convention here in Denver. The SLC screening will be the ninth screening of the film! And a very special one because we used to hold Tromadance at Brewvies a few years back. Tromadance and Brewvies is the very first exposure to the public that I had with my films. I met so many amazing people who inspired me to keep making films, so it is an honor to bring my very first feature film to SLC!
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Gavin: What's the word on distribution? Will we see a small indie release or straight to DVD?

Richard: No word yet. A DVD will see the light of day once we can get more buzz going on the film. We're just playing the film anywhere we can right now. We want people to come out and see the movie, in person! I want to see them seeing the movie. Laughter and applause is what I made the movie for, and I cant get enough of it! So, come on out and watch Atom at Brewvies, Saturday, Nov. 17 at MIDNIGHT. I’ll be there!

Gavin: Aside from the film, is there anything you'd like to promote or plug?

Richard: As far as promoting, we really don't have anything else going on right now other than the film at Brewvies. Oh, and also “LIKE” Atom on Facebook, and check our official website. And if you'd like to keep up with our future projects, "Like" Bizjack Flemco on Facebook, as well!


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