What was your filmmaking background before making Portrait of a Zombie?
BING: I grew up in a working class neighborhood in Dublin, Ireland. I'd like to tell you I was running around my backyard shooting toy soldiers on a 16mm camera, but my family would not have been able to afford a video or film camera at that time. Movies were a window out of my world and my imagination was fueled by films from filmmakers like Hitchcock, Spielberg, Scorsese, Carpenter, Friedkin, Capra, Coppola, and Donner.
Working at a local video store at age 16 gave me free access to other filmmakers like Renoir, Truffaut, and Cassavetes. It was the movie War Games that got me interested in Technology and Computers. After technical college, I moved to the United States in 1999 and started working as an information technology engineer at the World Trade Center. I never thought making movies was something I could do. It was too far outside my zone as a kid from Dublin.
The fall of the World Trade Center which, I managed to escape due to jetlag and blind luck, changed my perspective on life and made me want to pursue something more creative and fulfilling. My entry into filmmaking started with a technical fascination with cameras themselves and what they were capable of, and it was only later that I let my creative guard down and I realized then that I'd been making movies my whole life, I just called it day dreaming. My confidence as a storyteller increased with every project. Over the past 9 years, I have been creating shorts, music videos, documentary, and narrative projects. Portrait of a Zombie is my second full feature film.Where did the idea come from?
BING: Portrait of a Zombie is a mix of aspects of my own life growing up in Dublin and about how far Irish families will go to protect their children given really harsh circumstances. I admired George A. Romero's social commentary in his Zombie films and I hoped to reflect some of what families in Ireland are facing including economic and social stigma in my film.
What was the writing process like?
BING: The writing process was very swift. I started with an outline of what I wanted and over a period of about 6 weeks wrote the film with my wife, Laura Morand Bailey, who has been my writing and producing partner on all my projects.
How did you fund the film?
BING: Working in the technology field has allowed me to fund all my projects to date, which does not come without sacrifices. You have to give up every comfort imaginable to get the kind of money even low and micro budget films require to do them justice. I am no stranger to living on the Ramen noodles diet for 6 months so I can feed my cast and crew during production and afford a better camera system at the same time.
BING: After consulting with my cinematographer, Clayton Haskell, we decided to use the Red One camera with 35mm Lenses. The images it produces are organic, striking, filmic, and not video-like or too sharp like some HD cameras can be. If these are the kind of images I can create I'm not going to complain over the odd camera crash or reboot.
The only thing I would change about the Red Camera would be to make it lighter. The whole film was pretty much shot handheld. The system weighs in about 20 lbs+ when you add accessories. The last thing you want is to put your cinematographer's back out or give them shoulder damage from prolonged use. Thankfully Clayton was a trooper. I believe the next versions of the camera, "Epic & Scarlet," will go a long way towards making it lighter. I'm hoping to use these on my next project.
What was the biggest lesson you took away from shooting the movie?
BING: I think the biggest lesson is always write and direct what you know and use what you have access to if you want to create authentic stories. Don't wait for anyone's permission to make a movie. The film production went very smoothly because of the lessons I had learned on previous projects through making mistakes and having failures. Doing your homework on pre production can really save your neck during shooting and post production.
What are the advantages (and disadvantages) of being your own editor?
BING: The advantages are obviously cost. Anyone with fairly standard equipment can now edit a film cheaply. If you understand the technology, you can create a film for very little and with the Internet you have access to a wide array of technical resources. If you want to learn editing software or post-production effects or sound applications, it can be done on sites like lynda.com for $25 a month. The process and knowledge of how to do this is no longer expensive or a mystery. Telling a story through editing on the other hand is either something you have a feel for or something you don't.The disadvantage is you may be too close to the material or unable to figure out solutions to story problems on your own. Sometimes a fresh pair of eyes is what you really need. It really does depend on the director. Some directors want to be involved in every aspect of their films and some want to drop their footage off with an editor and see what he or she comes back with. I've done it both ways and I'm comfortable with either depending on the project. I've worked with many fine editors and learned a great deal from them.
Finally, what did you learn from making the film that you can take to other projects?
BING: I learned that we are very quickly coming to a place were almost anything is possible with low cost technology. If you can dream it and visualize it, you can create it. You do not need multi-million dollar budgets or access to large studios to tell good stories and image quality is no longer a barrier to good movie making.Check out the film’s websites: http://www.portraitofazombie.com and facebook.com/portraitofazombie