Initially created by a small filmmaking company known as Mexican Standoff in 2009, the production has been underway for over five years and is almost coming to completion.
We caught up with the film’s director, Daniele Bellucci to ask him some questions about the movie.
Let’s start with an introduction: Who are you?
I’m Daniele Bellucci, an Italian filmmaker, and I had the idea some years ago to realize a project for a Left 4 Dead Fan Movie. I was a college student in Cinematography when the idea came out, now I’m working as a freelance director both for commercial and fictional projects. Around the idea of L4D Movie, I managed to put together a group of people to create an independent moviemaking group.
For those who don’t know, what is Mexican Standoff Studios?
Mexican Standoff is a group of filmmakers that was established during the production of Left 4 Dead – The Movie with the aim of creating entertaining things for the web.
When did the idea for the movie come, and why did you want to make a movie based on a video game?
Honestly, in the beginning we were in two, friends and colleagues, who shared the passion for moviemaking. We were students and wanted to try out our skills in a big project, not only a short as we usually did before. And the original idea was to make a zombie movie as homage to the genre. Left 4 Dead had just been released and we thought that making a movie about it would have represented the highest and more intriguing challenge for us, and a fun experience of course.
A promotional poster for Left 4 Dead – The Movie
Are Valve involved, in any way?
At one point we tried to contact Valve, both for having a sort of blessing from them avoiding problems due to copyright issues and to ask if they were interested to enter the project someway. Valve never answered us, so no, they are not involved.
We’ve seen a few short teasers for the film over the past few years. How long have you been working on it?
We have been working on it for a while now. The truth is that we faced tons of problems during the making of this project. For example, nowadays only 1 of the survivors is the same actor we had in the beginning. During these years the other 3 left due to personal reasons, so we had to find other survivors and in some case re-shoot some scenes, this took us lot of time. Then we chose to shoot most of the movie in one unique location to avoid bureaucracy problems that afflicts us as very small moviemaking group, the problem is that this location only let us to shoot during summer, and this is another reason that took us lot of time to complete the shootings.
This is a non-profit project, which means there was no budget until we launched a couple of Indiegogo campaigns, that transformed it in a very low budget project. We knew this in the beginning, and we were prepared to bring it to the end even without money, but this obviously need time considering that all the people involved, both amateur and professionals, worked for free, and they have their own jobs and lives.
What people do not understand is that in these conditions, it is very hard to organize shootings with all the people involved. This is the main reason why it took 4 years to complete about 25 days of shootings.
Could you give us an overview of the story? Does it take place during the events of Left 4 Dead, before or after? Or is this a standalone adventure for The Survivors?
We kept that a secret till now. Just wait till the release to know the story. I can only say it is not related to the events of the video games or comic. We wanted to do it as an original new campaign based on the video game.
Will we see any of the Special Infected?
Our main priority was to stay close to the game as much as possible, so yes, all the Special Infected from the first video game will be in the movie!
CGI model of a Tank zombie in ZBrush
You’ve had several campaigns running on Indiegogo with various results. How much of the budget for the film, would you estimate, have been provided by crowd funding and donations? Was crowd funding ever not an option?
We decided to start Indiegogo campaigns when we realized that it was taking so long to be completed, hoping that some money would have speed up the process. Unfortunately, campaigns didn’t go as we expected. Actually they brought the project less than $3,000. This can be considered still a no-budget amount, for a project like this.
How did the casting process go about? Were there auditions or did you know beforehand who’d play who?
We were looking for actors that looked as similar to the survivors from the game, and we found a few of them. Of course we’ve had small auditions, but fitting The Survivors was our priority.
Speaking of the cast, how many people have been working on the film since you started?
Considering all the people involved since the beginning, I think that 25-40 people were involved. Then someone would leave, someone would enter, so the number of active people working on it is about 25.
Backstage with the main cast
What has been one of the greatest things about making Left 4 Dead – The Movie?
Personally, the greatest thing that has happened to us during these years is that several people worldwide offered their skills in various fields to help the production. And we embrace them. For example, screenplay was written by an American guy, L.A. based. The sound editing will be done by a Hungarian guy, and even the first music composer was Canadian. We really enjoyed this international interaction, and I hope it could be the base even for next projects. As you can read in the contact page of our official site, we’re constantly looking for talented people who want to join the Mexican Standoff crew.
Then, of course, the strong support we’ve received from fans on the web, both economic and moral, we all hope to not disappoint anyone with the final product.
What has been the biggest challenge for the team?
Beside the technical challenges to make a good product even with no or very few means, as I said before, the greatest challenge has been having all people on set when we needed them. This was not always possible.
The movie is going to be available with English audio, as well as Italian. Is it going to be dubbed or are you, dare I suggest, shooting every shot with dialogue twice?
The movie will be dubbed in English. The Italian audio is not yet confirmed, it depends from various aspects. Sounds strange since we are Italian, but we decided in the beginning to set everything in English so this is our priority. In both cases there will be dubbing, since actors played both in Italian and English. We are sure that the studio we’re in contact with for dubbing (or ADR as you better know it) will do a great job.
You’re done with the shooting. What’s next, apart from editing?
We have to do several things now, editing, compositing, 3D and various VFX, as well as Sound Editing, create an original soundtrack and dubbing. It’s still much work, but the good news is that we don’t depend from many people anymore. We are a few postproduction guys and can work on the movie quite daily. So post-production will take less time than the shootings to be completed, for sure.
And finally, do you have any other major projects planned for the near future?
Yes. We have a couple of ideas in mind and we’ll start working on them the day after L4D movie will be released. I hope that L4D will bring us means and resources to do things as we wish, for our and everyone entertainment. Next project will be even bigger than Left 4 Dead, but only if we can put together all what we need to make a good job. Left 4 Dead movie started as a game, then became more than it and we’ll honor it till the end. Next projects will start in a totally different way than L4D, and I know that people will love them.
We give Danielle our thanks for taking the time to answer our questions.