Barbra Dillon, Fanboy Comics Managing Editor: You are both currently in production on the film The Pain Killers, which tells the story of a drug meant to cure a zombie virus which instead gives post-apocalyptic survivors superpowers. For our readers who may be unfamiliar, can you tell us more about the story behind the film?
T. David Carangan: I was watching The Walking Dead with my (then) twelve-year-old nephew, and he was intermittently reading an X-Men comic book while watching the show with me. I totally forgot the scene, but it was when the heroes where trapped with zombies everywhere (I think it was Season 1, Episode 2) when my nephew blurted out that if he had Iceman's superpowers, he could just freeze the zombies. I thought to myself, "Hmmmmm . . . superheroes vs. zombies. Interesting." I got on my computer and started hammering out a draft to what would later on become The Pain Killers.
I pitched it to my writing partner, Kimberly Anglemyer, and got her on board. I am more an action junkie, and the thing I love about Kim's writing is that she imbues humanity in her characters. It was the perfect writing team.
Kimberly Anglemyer: David and I met in a directing class at Los Angeles City College and began writing together shortly afterwards. It didn’t take a lot of convincing to get me on board with The Pain Killers. I loved the premise the moment he pitched it to me! How could I resist?
BD: This film combines two fan favorites: zombies and superheroes! With so many films, comics, and TV shows featuring these characters recently, how does The Pain Killers stand apart?
TDC: The origin of the zombies in The Pain Killers is not voodoo/magic or biohazard experiments gone wrong. It is a fungal-like parasite that is extraterrestrial in origin. The fungus latches onto the spinal cord and takes over the host body. So, with this premise we were afforded to not go with established "zombie canon." Our zombies are fast, super strong (because their bodies are continually pumped with adrenaline), and they can smell even a single drop of blood from miles away . . . like sharks.
The superheroes on the other hand ARE already infected with the zombie virus. They already have the fungal-like parasites in their systems. The only thing keeping them from turning into zombies is the experimental serum that also gives them powers, BUT the more they use their powers, the quicker they burn through the serum, so they have to be inoculated again. The problem is, the serum is very hard to come by.
It's a no win situation.
KA: The characters in The Pain Killers are compelling, because they're not your typical superheroes. They're not running around in capes, they're just normal people caught up in an extraordinary circumstance. They also come from widely varying backgrounds, so there's some drama between the characters, as well. One of the biggest draws, to me, are the female characters. They’re not your typical oversexed stereotypes. They’re tough and resourceful, not victims.
BD: The cast and crew of The Pain Killers consist of some amazingly talented creators and performers. Can you tell us about the process of working with the creative team and the contributions of these individuals?
KA: Where do I start? They are all incredible!
Among our cast members is Sy Richardson (Reverend Samuel), who’s been in movies such as Repo Man and Sid and Nancy, as well as the television shows ER and Rizzoli & Isles. Then, there’s Wil Haynes (Malachai) who’s a director in his own right. When T. David saw his short film, Breaking Cover, he decided to cast him immediately. Kevin Chambers (Jin-Jung) initially signed on to coordinate our stunt work, but it soon became apparent that no one else could play the role, so we cast him.
As for our crew, Matthew Dennie is taking on the roles of Cinematographer, Producer, and Visual Effects Supervisor. He and Michael Diaz are the two responsible for all the visual effects you see in the trailer, which is well over 200 hours of work. Fabio Barreto is our fourth Producer. He is responsible for our budget and keeps us on track. Erik Dicksen is our composer. That fabulous score you hear on our trailer? That’s all him.
With all the amazing people on the team, I could go on all day! We are very fortunate to be surrounded by such talent, and we are grateful for each and every one of them.
BD: Like many independent creators, you initiated a Kickstarter campaign to fund the project. What encouraged you to use this specific fundraising method, and how has Kickstarter enabled you to provide further promotion of the film?
TDC: When we started coming up with a budget for the film, we realized that what we wanted to deliver to the audience and the fans is not in keeping with the money we had in hand (laughs). We're going to have a tunnel chase scene with walls collapsing, blow up a church, and need a ton of visual effects and zombie make-up and prosthetics that will require a lot of time and money.
Kickstarter seems to be the logical go-to place for like-minded people to support each other both financially and morally. One thing I noticed about Kickstarter, though, is that Hollywood filmmakers have started using it as a means to get their projects funded, thereby circumventing the studios. We (the people behind The Pain Killers) are small fry, independent filmmakers who really have a good project. It's hard to compete with the makers of so-and-so <insert big box-office movie here> who also have a Kickstarter campaign, but we're giving it the proverbial old college try. I'm not sour graping by the way. More like, "lamenting."
KA: We were featured as a staff pick by Kickstarter on day 2 of the campaign, and that has helped to reach a wider audience. But, it’s still difficult to be heard among the many projects on the site. That’s why we‘re so excited to talk to Fanboy Comics! We know your readers will love our story!
BD: For our readers who may be interested in donating to The Pain Killers, are there any specific donation perks that may pique our readers’ interest?
KA: We have lots of rewards! We are offering digital downloads of the film, a copy of the soundtrack, limited edition t-shirts, and photographic prints by our friend, David Israel. We even have a biohazard suit like the one used in the trailer! It makes a great Halloween costume!!
BD: Los Angeles-based fans will be excited to learn that there will be a movie fundraiser event on August 4, 2012, in downtown LA. What can you tell us about the event and who will be able to attend?
KA: It’s going to be a Zombie-licious party! We will have DJ Albert Polay spinning for us, and we are featuring raffle prizes, drink specials, and live entertainment! And, it’s just ten bucks! You can pay cash at the door, or get your name on the guest list by donating $10 or more on Kickstarter!
Here’s the link to our Facebook Event Page:
BD: Being that we focus on all things “geek” at Fanboy Comics, would you care to geek out with us about your favorite films?
TDC: I'm not sure when the term "Fanboy" came about, but I'm sure I was a fanboy before the word was coined. I know you're asking about movies and aside from the standard "geek" stuff like Prometheus, The Dark Knight Rises, The Avengers, etc. I try not to watch too much sci-fi, though, because I have this paranoia that it might bleed into my writing accidentally. It hasn't happened yet, but you can't be too careful.
I also love Futurama, anime, and my all-time love, comic books. I'm one of those people who would go to a comic book shop on Wednesdays to get my pull list of comics.
KA: I’m a huge fan of Joss Whedon’s Serenity and Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight series, as well as TV shows like Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead.
BD: What is the most important piece of advice that you can offer to independent filmmakers who aspire to create their own projects?
KA: I think pre-production is key. Not only do you have to start off with a great story, but you also have to hire a talented cast and crew. Film is a collaborative medium. It helps to work with people you like and that share your vision.
TDC: My advice is to not follow other people's advice. Don't go with the herd mentality and just go with your instincts.
BD: On that same note, which creators have inspired your work?
KA: I love the visual styles of Darren Aronofsky, Terry Gilliam, Tim Burton, and Christopher Nolan. I also love the writing styles of Aaron Sorkin and Quentin Tarantino. Basically, anyone that can’t be copied!
TDC: I love Quintin Tarantino's work, because he is so subversive. I'm also a big Ang Lee fan. The characters in his films are very real and relatable. A friend of mine who saw some of my work for the first time commented that I'm a mixture of Tarantino, Lee, Frank Darabont, and Justin Lin. I thought that was awesome of him, but he could well be b'sing (laughs).
BD: Lastly, what would you like to tell fans who want to learn more about The Pain Killers?
KA: We have a fabulous story that we are dying to tell. If you want to see it become a reality, you can help us out by donating to our Kickstarter campaign and sharing the link with your friends. You won’t be disappointed. I promise.
You can also learn more about The Pain Killers by visiting the film's Facebook page.