Everyone at Biff Bam Pop knows that I’m crazy about zombies and thanks to my friends from Steampunk Works; I was introduced to Joe Parascand, an actor on the set of The Soulless. Through Joe Parascand, I had the pleasure of interviewing Christopher Eilenstine, Director, Writer and Executive Producer of the new zombie film. ‘The rules have changed’ and Biff Bam Pop! meets a new kind of zombie. Meet me after the jump for the first part of our interview.
Marie Gilbert: Thank you for taking time from your busy schedule to do this interview Christopher. Let’s start with you telling us a little bit about the movie, The Soulless.
Christopher Eilenstine: Well, it’s been in production for over a year now, and we’re about to wrap up the science fiction/ horror hybrid. The Soulless is a post-apocalyptic story about a father and daughter surviving what I’d describe as a zombie apocalypse, actually, it’s more of a GENETIC plague that has wiped out most of humanity.
Marie Gilbert: Okay and when do we expect to see this out?
Christopher Eilenstine: I believe the first film; this is going to be a three film story or multi-film story or a multiple episode TV series and that part one will be in the spring. And then every three or four months later, I’ll be releasing the next segment. Between now and this time next year, I’ll have the complete story released. I’m shooting for Halloween of 2014.
Marie Gilbert: That’s great. I know the last time we spoke; you said something about the Syfy Channel.
Christopher Eilenstine: Yes, I’ll be meeting with them and presenting the materials that I have developing. All of this footage, and the story told so far, is very much a ‘bible’ for a new TV series. That’s how I will be presenting it. There is a multi-year story arc in place for the series, and I’ll be showing them, basically, what the first half of the Season One would be like.
Marie Gilbert: Well, I’m wishing you the best luck, because I can’t wait to see this
Christopher Eilenstine: Thank you, me either. Making The Soulless has been a marvelous creative journey, but I will be very happy to one day sit back and enjoy all of the hard work.
Marie Gilbert: *giggles* Now, can you tell us a little bit about the main characters; first about the humans and then about the zombies.
Christopher Eilenstine: Well, in our film, they’re called Zombes– kind of in the way we described Germans as ‘Nazis’ during World War 2, the main characters in the last half of The Soulless named them Zombes. As a character describes it—giving them a nickname makes them easier to kill.
The two main characters, as seen throughout the films, are David Peterson (Jason Propst) and his daughter, Nicole (Jennifer Teska). Nicole is twelve years old at the beginning of the story, which takes place on “Z” day, when the plague is released and most of humanity is wiped out. Nicole and her father find that they have very special immunities, special abilities; and that the Zombe population does not attack them. They seem to be able to walk amongst the Zombes without fear of being eaten.
In the first half of the story, it’s basically them coming to terms with loneliness, finding out how dependent they are on each other. The story becomes about two people forming strong family bonds—something I feel too many take for granted today. They really learn what it means to be a father and a daughter in a way that few people do anymore. It’s a story of survival; a human drama that takes place after an apocalypse. They do find the occasional survivor and unfortunately, and here I’m not going to say too much, but Nicole does make a friend; and it is that friendship that shapes the rest of her life.
The Soulless is about self-discovery and two people who’ve been changed by this plague in very unique ways. It’s not until the last half of the story, when Nicole is now twenty-four and they find other people, that they start to realize just how special they truly are.
Marie Gilbert: Beside the zombies, are there any humans that they have to be wary of; any enemies?
Christopher Eilenstein: Well, the father is always more concerned about other survivors. People who are scared and desperate are often more of a threat to him and Nicole than the Zombe population seems to be. I must emphasize that this is not the George Romero kind of apocalypse—where you’re going to be chased down the street by mindless, starving corpses. The ‘Zombes’ in The Soulless are very much like lions in the wilds of Africa, which will even eat each other if they’re hungry enough. The Zombe population in my movie will eat whatever it can find: dogs, cats, any kind of animal, of course, they can respond to Normal humans in the same way; as food. Nicole and her father (for reasons revealed later in the film) are viewed by the Zombes as Zombes—or they go, in most cases, completely unnoticed. In our movie, those who have survived the plague relatively unchanged are called the ‘norms.’
Marie Gilbert: How are the zombies in The Soulless different from the zombies we’ve experienced on TV and movies; how are your zombies different?
Christopher Eilenstine: Well there’s rather a major difference in this movie which I’m reluctant to reveal—(spoilers and all) because it’s part of the climax of the movie. But the zombies in The Soulless are not the dead coming back to life, not in the gothic terms we’ve seen in other movies. There’s no popping out of the grave and eating brains in this film. Our Zombes are not like that at all; ours are mutated animal like, humans. Early in the series a scientist named Hans Ryker (Michael Chartier) wants to release a ‘cure all’. Something he believes will prevent disease and relieve people of whatever illnesses they may have; he thinks that he’s going to save the world. Instead, his evil partner, Dr. Cooper (Edward X. Young) changes Ryker’s ‘cure all’ and uses it to reboot humanity. Cooper doesn’t think humanity has a chance of surviving because of our racial, culture and technological differences. He says we’re doomed, so he performs a genetic reboot. This is Z day and he is 98% successful. 98% of the human race is pretty much sent back to the beginning on Z day; and those are our Zombes; those are our ‘zombies’. They are humanity before we became more than an animal, basically, they are our primal beginning.
Marie Gilbert: Oh so the zombies are more prehistoric?
Christopher Eilenstine: Yes, just imagine, however, that you woke up one morning and the world was filled with hungry, hostile, Neanderthals. Damned scary if you ask me. We wouldn’t have a chance. I don’t like to think of them as the living dead, but there is a major twist at the end of the series, and in that regard, I’m reluctant to talk too much about that. I’d like to leave that as a surprise.
Marie Gilbert: That’s okay. I’ll patiently wait. Is the whole world involved in the plague; the whole planet infected?
Christopher Eilenstine: As far as they know, on what they call Z day, which is on August of 2015, the world kind of shuts down for five minutes and when it comes back, the power is gone, all the means of normal technology can’t be accessed. It takes almost twelve years for humanity to reestablish communication with its satellites and computers, and that is when they find out what happened on Z day.
Marie Gilbert: You told us about the main characters, father and daughter, but are there any other characters that we should be looking out for?
Christopher Eilenstine: Well there are two people that they encounter before they’re found and taken to a place called Sanctuary 9 at the last half of the movie, and one is Melissa, a young girl that is surviving on her own for eight months after Z day. Nicole and David take her in and she and Nicole become the very best of friends. Twelve years later they encounter a gentleman called Neville, who is kind of a hermit. Like them, he is immune to zombie attacks, well I shouldn’t say ‘immune’, but he can go outside and not worry about the Zombes attacking him. He even jokes about it calling them “Stupid morons! They think I’m part of the gang!” He’s an older gentleman who passed away (before Z day) for short periods of time due to a bad heart, and he says, “Yeah, I’m not one of the demons because they didn’t want me in heaven.” His view of things seems odd, but, proves more and more revelatory later in the series.
Thank you, Christopher, and all you Zombie Lovers can learn more about The Soulless in Part Two of the interview.