The secret origin of this video for “The Living Dead” from Canadian dubstep duo Zeds Dead is the kind of story that never happens.
“I actually shot all the footage seven years ago,” director Andrew Renzi told me during an interview this week. Renzi is friends with actor Peter Greene, who played the role of Zed in Quentin Tarantino’s classic Pulp Fiction.
“We just decided to go and shoot something together for one night in Coney Island,” said Renzi. However the director didn’t know what he wanted to do with the footage and “sat on it for a really long time.”
In the seven years since that night Renzi has been busy. After studying playwriting and screenwriting at Brown University Renzi hooked up with the team at Borderline Films (Martha Marcy May Marlene, Simon Killer) where he learned the ropes of film producing on Antonio Campos’ feature debut Afterschool. Work for Wes Anderson’s production company, writing assignments for Mickey Rourke, and the premiere of his own short The Fort at this year’s Sundance.
A friend told him about the dubstep duo, who took their name from the famous line of dialog in Tarantino’s film. Renzi reached out to the band.
“I know their manager at first was like ‘This sounds cool, but who the hell are you? And what is it that you have?’ I think they probably thought at first that I had taken a cell phone video of Peter at a party or something like that and was like ‘Whoa let’s make a video.’
What Renzi had, as evidenced by the video itself, was the perfect seed for an 80’s horror movie pastiche that riffs on the iconic Tarantino dialogue, Dario Argento’s sense of style, and VHS era aesthetics. It just so happened that the duo had the perfect song for such a mix: a track called “The Living Dead” featuring vocalist Omar LinX. It is hard to believe that the finished product wasn’t conceived of and executed as a single piece.
“It was really a backwards process,” said Renzi. “I basically wrote up the concept and started refining the concept based on the limitations of my footage. I did all the special effects with my editor and kind of worked from there.”
Renzi told us that the footage represented his introduction to filmmaking. “I think that it was really fun to reopen something that made me cringe.
“Peter and I decided to go out and do it, but I had fifteen takes of five shots. I literally had nothing to work with because in my mind back then I had to do the same take fifteen times in order to get it exactly right. Without thinking of the possibility of needing other footage. I probably spent half the time doing the exact same thing over and over.”
Renzi continues to write and produce, but is getting deeper into the role of directing. He credits the support of the “filmmaking family” he has in New York City for keeping him afloat in the choppy waters of independent film.
“No matter what we’re up to right now, we all know that we have our own projects going, and we’re all going to support each other in those projects. If we have to go do a commercial or if we have to go do a music video we’re gonna do that becasue it keeps us fresh and it keeps up behind the camera. But it’s all to serve this larger passion for the feature film medium.”
Renzi’s grander passion may be features, but this video for Zeds Dead shows that the director knows how to create a vibrant world with a limited pool of footage and some clever editing effects. Which means it would be a shame not to get more short form work out of him.