7 Questions with Eric Dietz, the director of Never Stop Running
1. Are you an Arkansas Native? If so where are you from? If not, How did you get here?
No I am not a native of Arkansas. I am actually from Ashland, Virginia, right outside of Richmond. My family and I moved to Arkansas back in the summer of 1998, I was 12 years old. Dad works in radio broadcasting and so his job moved us here. So I grew up here through middle school, high school, college, and of course now I work here.
2. What is the inspiration for your film?
The biggest inspiration for my film would have to be video games, specifically the first person shooter games like the Left 4 Dead series, Bioshock, and Call of Duty. I wanted to do a zombie film that would not only immerse the viewer but also tell the story of an outbreak from a different point of view (no pun intended.) There are films like Cloverfield and Quarantine that are “Found Footage” movies from the camera’s point of view and not one person. Another film, Doom (which was based on a video game), had a short sequence that was from the first person point of view of one character, but it was all done with a green screen. I wanted to make a film from the first person point of view of one character from beginning to end, with a camera shooting in the physical world and shot in a way to hide the cuts in the film.
3. Can you give us a brief synopsis of your film?
Never Stop Running is the first person point of view experience of a zombie outbreak through the eyes of a high school senior named Daniel. Daniel, his girlfriend Isabelle, and his two other friends Dex and Stacy crash their car because they were dodging a man who was in the middle of the road. Daniel investigates only to discover some plant thing growing from the inside the man’s body. Danielle is attacked. Scared and confused Daniel runs to warn his friends about the encounter, but does not reveal he is bitten. Strange noises are heard in the woods and Daniel and his friends run for their lives. It is only the beginning for a night that might be their last.
4. What were the biggest challenges and successes you faced on set?
There were several big challenges. The biggest challenge was filming from a true point of view perspective. I built a custom helmet rig for my Canon 7D camera to capture the look and feel of a true first person point of view. The camera helmet rig weighed several pounds and I only had the 3-inch LCD screen to look through. However, the pay off was my hands were free so I could run around with a flashlight and a gun and when my head turned, the camera would turn, giving it a natural feel instead of a steady cam or shoulder rig. Running around at night with one flashlight, low visibility, and pounds of video equipment on my head was a challenge, but it paid off.
The second biggest challenge was visual FX shots. Les Galusha is an amazing make up artist and was able to bring these plant zombies to life and Kristy Pruit was able to help make our characters look like they survived a car wrecks. However we had no physical way for blood splatters, muzzle flashes, or to blow off zombie heads. It was all because of our talented visual FX artist, Altus Hays, that we were able to get those shots. We had no green screen, background plates, or markers on our actors for Hays to track or use as a reference point for any post work. That was a major gamble in itself. The saying “Fix It In Post” was the mantra for the weekend and it worked out just fine.
5. What is the festival strategy for your film?
The strategy for the film is to enter as many horror and experimental film festivals as possible this year. Post-production work for Never Stop Running was completed by Halloween 2010, so it missed all the horror film festivals last year.
6. Does your film have a Arkansas/Southern theme?
The only real Arkansas theme is how we are lucky to have a beautiful natural state and as human beings on this planet, we need to take care of the environment more. The green plants growing out of the zombies is best explained as an experiment gone wrong by Dr. Neil. His experiments were about finding ways of revitalizing the rainforest in areas with dead soil or areas uninhabitable by normal plants. Dr. Neil develops a seed that can grow in any environment with water and constantly spreads seeds. The plants that grow in these zombies take over the host and continue to spread the seeds to grow more plants. It’s sort of karma against our science and technology that has destroyed so much of the natural world.
7. What changes have you seen in the local film community in the five years since the LRFF was launched?
As the Little Rock Film Festival has grown over the years, filmmaking awareness has evolved too. Slowly but surely, filmmaking has become and still is becoming a big business in Arkansas. The filmmaking tax incentive has been a huge change for out of state and big instate productions. Locally, with Facebook and events like the Arkansas Filmmakers Forum, writers, directors, actors, and all other types of film collaborators have been able to join forces and produce great film projects. Filmmaking in Arkansas has developed, become very organized, and now developing very professionally and I believe it is here to stay.