There are some people in the world who are just natural-born storytellers. Take Bill McLean, for example, a Monmouth-based actor and screenwriter who has plenty of tales to tell. From his experiences filming with Mel Gibson and Ray Winstone in “Edge of Darkness” to his stage debut in a unique production of “American Werewolf in London” at the Gaslight Theater in Hallowell, McLean is a geyser of anecdotes, telling each one with the same fervor and excitement.
Then there’s the story of how his latest film, “How to Kill a Zombie,” premiering Friday, May 9 at the Dead at the Drive-In Film Festival in Saco, came together.
“I was sitting in my living room, working on something, I can’t remember what,” McLean said in a recent interview. “My son Ben comes in, he was 18 at the time, and he says, ‘Dad, I got this short story I want you to read.’ I didn’t know he was writing. He wants to be an actor. So I took his short story and read it. It was funny. I liked the idea. He goes, ‘what do you think dad, is this going to make a good book?’ I say, ‘I don’t know, but I know it’ll make a great film.”
So McLean began working with his son on the script, pounding out eight pages that night, and another eight pages the next. McLean’s wife, Tiffany, grew curious about her husband and son’s new project, so they let her read some of the script. She laughed out loud, and immediately wanted in. And that’s how “How to Kill a Zombie” became a family affair.
Starring Bill and Ben, and directed and co-written by Tiffany, “How to Kill a Zombie” isn’t so much a traditional zombie film with blood and guts flying at the screen, as it is an action-comedy that happens to have zombies in it.
The film is about a father and son, Mack and Jesse (Bill and Ben McLean), who are constantly at odds with each other. Mack, whose wife died in childbirth, doesn’t understand how to raise a child, so instead he trains Jesse like a soldier. But Jesse wants to grow up and get respect his own way, butting heads with his father at every turn. Then the zombie apocalypse breaks out, and the two are forced to work together to get through it.
“It’s got enough zombies to keep the zombie lovers happy,” McLean said. “And where ‘Shaun of the Dead’ can get pretty graphic word-wise, this film is more family friendly. There’s plenty of stuff in there for adults, but kids can watch it too and not be shocked.”
Once “How to Kill a Zombie” was more or less finished, McLean got a call from his friend and colleague Kevin DiBacco, who wanted to represent the film to distributors.
“Twenty four hours after I sent him the information, we had three offers from three separate distribution companies to buy the film,” McLean said. “Kevin said he’d never seen them react that fast. So, basically that tells us we’ve got a really good film.
Shortly thereafter, McLean signed a deal for distribution with Maxim Media International, and after exhausting the local film festival circuit, McLean has an action plan to get “How to Kill a Zombie” into Flagship Cinemas throughout Maine. He did the same with his previous film, “Scoot McGruder,” and McLean assures audiences that “How to Kill a Zombie” is 10 times the film “McGruder” was.
“We went for high production value,” said McLean. “We used the best cameras we could get, and we literally got the best actors you could get. You won’t know any of these actors, but I don’t care. They were the best of the best. And we picked from 165 actors who came to the audition.”
And the zombies?
“They look real, and they look scary.”
“How to Kill a Zombie” premieres in a double-feature with “The Hanover House” at the Dead at the Drive-In film festival May 9-10 at the Saco Drive-In. The film will also be shown at the Sanford International Film Festival, May 31-June 1, and Emerge June 13-14.