Discovery is a beautiful thing – especially in the world of horror – and at the Fantasia Film Festival, we happened upon The Battery from writer-director Jeremy Gardner. And it’s a film we cannot endorse enough.
A micro-budget (and we mean micro) drama, the film follows two baseball players – Ben and Mickey – as they traverse the New England landscape in the wake of a zombie apocalypse.
Gardner pulls multiple duties on the film as he stars in the tale alongside actor-producer Adam Cronheim. ShockTillYouDrop.com spoke with the duo about the creation of their indie effort. Check out our discussion inside.
The Battery is now available on VOD; if you’re in Los Angeles, you can see the film on the big screen tonight at Cinefamily.
Shock Till You Drop: As someone who grew up in Connecticut, it’s good to see a familiar landscape on screen. Jeremy, are you a New Englander as well and why shoot the film in Connecticut?
Jeremy Gardner: I moved up to Connecticut from Florida to get closer to the city and pursue acting. I wrote this movie and started to convince some of my old buddies and some of my new ones to throw some money at me. I managed to get $600 a piece from them for 5% of the movie and we just did it.
Shock: Script-wise, what gave you the seed for the idea? Why jump into the saturated zombie sub-genre?
Gardner: It started as an audition video for an online horror contest to be cast in Perkins’ 14 – one of those 8 Fims to Die For [from After Dark]. And I made a tape of two guys documenting their day to day existance in the zombie apocalypse. It didn’t turn into anything, but I couldn’t shake the idea of this concept of two guys out there. Because I never had the money, I had all of the time to whittle the story down to its bare elements and honing in on who they were – like them having to play baseball with one another. The zombies were always there and I’ve been a fan but I don’t love a lot of zombies movies. I like them as a concept. When I decided to make the movie, I knew it had to be cheap. My buddy Christian [Stella] is a tech genius, so I knew we could get it done. I knew if I could have two guys in the woods, I could do it cheap and if there was a zombie apocalypse, I would stay away from the cities and towns and go into the woods. So, it all worked together and I wanted to see a zombie movie in which it focuses on how a zombie apocalypse can impact a person’s psyche.
Shock: Adam, you’re wearing a few hats on this project, too – how was the experience?
Adam Cronheim: Yeah, I met Jeremy about a month before we went into production on this. We met through a mutual friend and he sent me the script. I never wanted to do a horror movie, per se. But I understood what the script was and jumped on board right away. As far as joining on as a producer…if I was going to be a part of this project, why not put everything I can into it to make it the best possible project I can. So, I started taking on the paper.
Gardner: I’m glad he did that. I tell people, movies don’t get made unless you have a crew you trust. I think most often these things derail because people are not working on the same thing. From our sound guy, to the editor, to Adam stepping in and doing the grunt work – this is how the movie got made.
Shock: From beginning to end, how long was the process of making this film – because you always hear about some indie films being worked on for years.
Gardner: I would say a month and a half before we were shooting, I was asking for money. I kept putting it off and it got to a point where if I didn’t set a shooting date, I just wasn’t going to do it. I said August 1st and we just did it. It was so poorly planned. My D.P. gave me shit for it all of the time because I didn’t have anything. I didn’t have any props. None of the zombies were cast – which is why most of them are our age. I needed a producer and I found one online who got me the locations like this rundown Girl Scout camp. We shot for 16 days and then it was about a year of post-production all told.
Shock: Talk a bit about finding your onscreen dynamic considering you two had and the challenges that came along with that while juggling production duties…
Cronheim: I think a lot of it was dictating by where we were. There was no one around us, so for me, there was not much a challenge to stay in character and in this world. We didn’t know each other very long before the shoot, so the fact that Ben and Mickey didn’t know each other well played into what we were doing there.
Gardner: I would say, the hardest thing for me – as far as being on camera – I trusted Christian implicitly, so if he said he got the shot, he got the shot. Having to worry about things – we had such a small crew – like worrying about lunch, my performance, what coverage we needed…that’s the problem with performing and directing. There was a monologue at the very end, now you can hear it over the walkie talkie, that monologue was supposed to be delivered on camera, one shot, my Robert Shaw/Indianapolis speech. And it was terrible. I shot it more than one time. But I could not get it right so we had to splice it into the montage.
Shock: The film finds its voice just not through what you guys bring to the characters and the writing and direction, but through the music as well. How did the soundtrack come together?
Gardner: When we first started location scouting, we cut together a video of everything using a Rock Plaza Central song and we put it up on YouTube and I got a message from the lead singer and he said, ‘Looks great, are you going to use the music in the movie, too?’ And I was floored, I didn’t think that was even an option. He was great and worked with us to make sure that happened and put us in touch with the U.S. rights holder. I got drunk one night and e-mailed him and asked if he’d do a cover of “There Ain’t No Grave” for us. That opening cover was done specifically for the film. He introduced us to the band The Parlor and they helped us out and I learned there’s this big thing about indie musicians helping one another out, so we met some other bands. And now I’m getting e-mails from these bands saying their sales are getting better and they’re getting more Twitter followers because the movie’s out and people like the soundtrack. That makes me feel good because they helped us and we’re helping them.
Cronheim: As for Wise Blood – he’s a buddy of mine and I thought his music would create a nice juxtaposition with the footage we were getting in this world. As far as the licensing, we had bigger aspirations and it’s a process to get a hold of record labels – and a lot of bands we have in the movie, I would bring release forms to their shows and track them down. ”I’m the guy who’s been e-mailing you and now I’m here.” So, a lot of it was just hustling to get it done.
Shock: Jeremy, you writing anything new?
Gardner: I’m writing another character-driven take on a genre film. That’s in my wheelhouse, I love that stuff.