AP NEWS

Rome-grown zombie movie premieres June 10

June 1, 2017 GMT

When a small group of survivors stagger into the crossfires of a territorial war between a ruthless clan of villains and a criminal family of gangsters, the zombie apocalypse just got bloodier.

All of the gritty, hilarious and even heart-wrenching post-apocalyptic fervor can be seen in the short film “Gangsters and Zombies”, which is slated to hold its world premiere on Saturday, June 10th at Makervillage at 8 p.m.

The premiere costs $10 to attend and the event includes a showing of the 30 minute film, a Q&A panel discussion and meet and greet with the cast and crew, photo-ops, light h’orderves, networking opportunities and a raffle with prizes such as “Gangsters and Zombies” DVDs and signed cast posters.

The movie, which was shot entirely locally and features a cast and crew of Romans, is the pilot film in a series with two more installments currently in pre-production. The filming of the next two episodes will take place in Rome later this year.

“Gangsters and Zombies” will also show at the 2017 Rome International Film Festival, and is being submitted to more film festivals across the country.

The film’s writer, director and executive producer Sean Smith is a native of New York and currently lives in Los Angeles. Smith’s connection to Rome is through his mother, Gail Deschamps who is the director of the Rome Shakespeare Festival, and it was Smith’s trip to Northwest Georgia that inspired “Gangsters and Zombies”.

“I was standing on a property at Bale Street in Rome, and I thought, ‘This would be a great back lot for a zombie movie.’ I couldn’t shake the idea and when I went back to LA, I wrote the script.”

Smith began assembling a small film crew, and in June, once the 2016 Rome Shakespeare Festival wrapped up its run on the Town Green, immediately began putting together his cast.

“I was working crew for RSF and I noticed the talent of the local actors,” Smith said. “I was secretly handpicking my cast. I was blown away by the talent of the local actors here.”

Smith held auditions and ended up casting nearly all Rome-area actors and extras, as well as two Atlanta-area actors.

As the film’s big bad, he cast Atlanta actor Jonathan Realz who has been featured in season 7 of The Walking Dead. Realz said he tried to make his character as loathable as possible.

“To really love the good guys, you need someone to hate,” Realz said. “I knew I was going in the right direction with the character when Sean would come to me after a take and say, ‘Man, that was messed up.’”

The gallons of fake blood, foul language, over-the-top fight scenes and slapstick humor blend together for the making of a cult classic. Eliot Rutledge, a lead actor, producer and editor of the film, said this is a movie’s unique premise will have audiences on the edges of their seats when they’re not dying from laughter.

“With dozens of TV shows coming out left and right, it’s difficult to come up with something fresh, but we did just that,” Rutledge said. “We promise to bring a lot of laughs, amazing action and the horror of the zombie apocalypse that has become so popular in recent decades, while also delivering a fresh twist to the genre. Our movie doesn’t pull any punches; it’s literally New York gangsters in a zombie apocalypse.”

It’s important to support these local, independent film efforts, said Realz, especially since the film industry is saturating the south. When people think of the southern film industry, they automatically think of Atlanta, but great films can be made all over Georgia.

“Independent film projects are the future,” Realz said. “There’s a potential for art everywhere. Getting stuff going in your community isn’t about this project or that project, it’s about pushing art out there and showing others they can make something, too.”

Smith says the support he’s gotten from city officials and other enthusiastic locals lends him to say he won’t be changing locations any time soon.

“I could never have shot this movie without the support I received from the people of Rome; there are too many to list. I’ve gotten really great feedback from industry people in New York and Los Angeles. We will definitely be adding to the “Gangsters and Zombies” canon this year.”

For information on casting calls, film showings, movie updates, and more, follow the “Gangsters and Zombies” facebook page.