The Makings of a Zombie Outbreak: “My So-Called Apocalypse”

Santafe.com - September 12, 2011

Homegrown zombie flick finds a growing national audience

What if.....the apocalypse happened on your birthday?
What if...your favorite haunts were overrun by zombies?

Even worse, what if....the zombie apocalypse kept you from enjoying your traditional, celebratory margarita?

For Julia Goldberg and Andrew Primm these are more than just humorous questions to ponder, they’re the spark of inspiration. “It was a running joke,” says Goldberg, the former editor of the Santa Fe Reporter. “Andy and I have had this conversation over cocktails for ten years now about a story in which it’s the apocalypse and it’s my birthday and I can’t get a margarita.”

They sensed the opportunity for a creative project, and partnered with Eliot Fisher, a local new media whiz, to start expanding the idea. It was Fisher who first heard about a filmmaking contest being sponsored by MIX Santa Fe.

“I banged out a quick script for the pilot,” Goldberg says. “We shot the trailer in one day,” adds Primm, a professional videographer and musician. “I think our budget on that one was 30bucks for stock footage of an exploding planet.”

Their investment paid off--the trailer won the contest, hands down, and received a $1300 grant from MIX to make a 30-minute film. They were awarded a big cardboard check at a MIX event held at Koi in October of last year, and shortly thereafter, Goldberg started writing the full script. Then, with an April screening deadline in mind, production began on “My So-Called Apocalypse,” starring Goldberg and Primm as themselves.

“We spent the first few months of 2011 setting everything up, filming and editing,” recalls Goldberg. “It was all pretty much down to the last minute!”

The three filmmakers scouted locations, setting up shoots at The Cowgirl, Second Street Brewery in the Railyard, the Santa Fe Reporter offices, and, perhaps most notably, City Hall. They put out a call on Facebook for zombies, and Goldberg personally asked Mayor Coss to join the ranks of the undead.

“We’d had him on the cover of the Reporter as a zombie in 2008, so of course we wanted him in the movie,” says Goldberg. City Councilors Chris Calvert and Carmichael Dominguez also stepped up to the zombie dressing table.“They were great sports,” says Goldberg. “They chased me down the hallway of City Hall....it was hard not to laugh, it was really funny.” “It was a really slow chase,” adds Primm, smiling.

For Goldberg, the experience was refreshing. “The fact that public officials would be willing to do something like that was a good reminder of how nice it is to live in a city of this size,” she says.

In addition to invading City Hall, the filmmakers took over The Cowgirl after hours--including the stretch of Guadalupe Street out front. “It was amazing,” says Primm, “we had to get a lot of people to do stuff, and it was life-changing to realize that you can actually ask people to do things and they will. We blocked off streets, we got permits and emergency personnel....we got zombies to show up....it was amazing, just amazing.”

“Let’s see if we can do it again when I’m not the editor of a newspaper!” counters Goldberg.

But it wasn’t just her professional clout that lent success to the creation of the film. In a pinch, she found that she could be very persuasive. “One night we had two back-to-back shoots--one was at The Cowgirl and one at Second Street in the Railyard, and we were trying to line up extras,” Goldberg recalls. “We’d done some outreach but Andy was at the Cowgirl and nobody was showing up there. I was at Second Street and Andy was getting a little frayed, and he said ‘I don’t know, just find people.’”

In desperation, Goldberg turned to people dining at Second Street and said they simply couldn’t leave. “I said ‘you’re either a zombie or a zombie fighter,’ and they would say ‘oh no, I have to go...’ and I’d just say ‘sorry, you’re not leaving.’” Goldberg smiles with the memory, then adds, “I asked them, ‘are you going to remember a good night’s sleep or as you going to remember the night you were in a zombie movie?’” In no time, they had their extras, and filming could proceed.

After filming wrapped, and Primm edited everything together with a killer soundtrack, “My So-Called Apocalypse,” which is subtitled “30 minutes is all it will take for zombies to destroy Santa Fe,” premiered to a full house at The Screen. The debut almost perfectly coincided with Goldberg’s departure from her position at The Reporter. “Now I’m teaching, consulting and working on a book,” she says of her career shift, adding, “and working very hard to not work full-time.”

She’s also, thanks to some good news in August, watching her film move into the larger world. This Friday, September 16, “My So-Called Apocalypse” will screen at the 2011 Atlanta Horror Film Festival in the comedy short film division. “We knew that the film would appeal to Santa Feans--there are so many allusions to inside jokes--but to get it into the Atlanta Film Festival....” she pauses to reflect for a moment, before concluding, “it’s hard to tell how something made locally will translate. It may be that it does translate. That the localism is universal enough.”

Certainly, there’s a universal fascination for zombies and apocalyptic storylines—both are reprised, together and separately, in all manner of media. Perhaps there’s a universal quality as well to those very questions that lit the flame for Santa Fe’s own zombie apocalypse.

What if the zombie apocalypse arrived on your birthday? Considering the fact that the DVD (“with fun extras!”) is set to be released in a matter of weeks, and that the film has been submitted to several other film festivals (“we’re still waiting to hear back on the others”), this idea actually isn’t as far-fetched as it may seem.