“It was kind of this communal snowball in a weird way where I was pulling all these voices together.”
Following the screening of Vixen Velvet’s Zombie Massacre at this year’s Sydney Underground Film Festival, Festival and film Director Stefan Popescu sat down to chat about the very low budget genre-smorgasbord. Set and filmed in a small town in Canada, porn veteran Vixen Velvet, in the middle of her latest project, sets out to secretly shoot a zombie flick to kick-start a mainstream film career, only for an actual zombie armada to stampede the town. A project where locals were more than happy to fill in as the undead horde, Popescu explains just how integral the backdrop was to the film.
“There are so many creatives in that town that kind of fed into it; it’s hard to even call it just my film, the whole town came on board,” said Popescu, who gave the actors significant latitude with their roles, allowing them to workshop and organically develop their material in different scenes.
“I got some ideas together and let the actors themselves help out and develop it a bit,” explained Popescu. “I didn’t have the luxury of being too controlling over the film purely because of time, it was actually a really good lesson for me, I realized that letting everyone feed into it and just sort of guiding things was a lot better.”
Filmed over 14 days, even the local fire department got on board.
“When I asked they said yes straight away and I was really surprised,” said Popescu. “They kind of said to me we haven’t had a fire in six months and it’s a little demoralising.”
“They set two cars on fire for me, they put lots of little fires around the landscape plus a couple of big explosions, it was really cool, the whole fire department was there and they were using it as an exercise for training. They even gave me the location to do it, it was in their fire-yard.”
Screening at Festivals in Australia and internationally, due to budgetary restrictions Popescu acted in the film himself, fulfilling the role of a hybrid Director/Cinematographer/in-situ documentarian who witnessed the zombie plague along with Vixen Velvet.
“That whole film within the film thing came about because we didn’t really have any good equipment so I had to use the really crappy HD camera that they had in that town,” said Popescu.
“I had to write it in to make it plausible that it was such crappy quality, so I wrote in the character of the documentarian. Then I got a whole bunch of found-footage films, there’s a lot of them that I really dislike and I wanted to make it believable that some guy was possibly filming this – I don’t know to what extent it is but I was kind of happy with the outcome, it didn’t feel as contrived as some of the other found footage films even though it was shaky as hell.”
“It was made on very little, I can’t tell you exactly how little but it was really little,” explained Popescu. “We spent actually far more in post-production.”
“I only ever thought it was going to go to streaming and that’s why I didn’t mind the shakiness but what did come out of it, the story ended up being really tight… it ended up getting distributed as well which is fantastic and I don’t mind it existing in its raw form because it was what it was.”