Exclusive Interview with Dead Rising: Watchtower Director Zach Lipovsky

There was a considerable amount of zombie-related news over the past weekend. And it had nothing to do with a certain TV season finale. For fans of action-packed video games and the zombies that inhabit them, Legendary Digital released Dead Rising: Watchtower exclusively on Crackle.com

If you’ve played Capcom’s Dead Rising video game series, you already know it’s unlike any other zombie horror action game out there. Known for its gory, dark humor and crafty weapon building mechanics, Dead Rising was dying to be adapted to film. And under the direction of Zach Lipovsky, Frank West has finally made it out of the console and onto one of the hottest online entertainment streaming services out there, ready for gaming and zombie fans alike to enjoy. There’s no need to subscribe to anything. No need to pirate the movie. You can watch it on your computer, tablet, smartphone, smart TV, streaming player, and yes, even your favorite video game console right now on Crackle.com – FREE!

We were lucky enough to sit down with Zach to talk about what went into bringing this fan favorite game series to life, from finding the right tone to casting the perfect actors to fill the roles and doing right by the ravenous fan base.

Check out the clip below to get a taste of what Zach and I are talking about:

https://youtu.be/hvHCudIlCCY

FOREVER GEEK: Tell us a little about the movie and its connections to the three existing Dead Rising Games. Considering it stars the hero of the first game, Frank West (Rob Riggle), but mainly as a talking head, does this movie act as a sequel of sorts to the video game or is it a straight up adaptation?

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“DEAD RISING: WATCHTOWER” DIRECTOR ZACH LIPOVSKY: Frank West is the hero of Dead Rising 1, he then goes on in the franchise to become a celebrity, known for being a first hand survivor. Kind of like Wolf Blitzer in Iraq. One of the things I love about Dead Rising is that while one city is dealing with a zombie apocalypse, the rest of the country is at home watching it on TV while eating dinner. Frank West in this film serves as the main satire of the whole situation. A color commentator who gives us perspective and some good laughs. He’s really one of the best parts of the film.

FG: What do you find is the benefit to launching this film exclusively through the Crackle network?

ZL: Firstly it’s free, so anyone who is a fan will instantly be able to check it out, as a creator that’s really cool. Also because it’s online there were very little restrictions. No need to worry about ratings board, running time, bad words. If it was the right thing to do for the film, we did it. It was very liberating.

FG: Had you played the Dead Rising game series before taking on the project? Are you a gamer or zombie genre fan?

ZL: I’m a big gamer, but mostly play on my computer. I was familiar with Dead Rising before I got hired, but hadn’t played it myself. I’ve now played all 3 games and become a big fan. The best part was that my mom never let me have a console while I was growing up. We filmed the movie in my home town so I stayed with her. I had the great satisfaction of bringing an xbox home, plugging it into the TV and telling her “There is nothing you can say now! I’m getting paid to play this!” She sat down with dinner and watched me… to her complete horror. It’s a pretty bloody game.

FG: Video game to film adaptations have a reputation for often being not as good as they could be, even at the major blockbuster level. What do you think you’ve done with Dead Rising to avoid the pitfalls other directors have fallen into when adapting popular video games to movies?

ZL: Almost all video game movies really suck. I think the biggest problem is people not understanding what made the source material great. I really became a big fan of the game and made sure every scene expressed the feeling I had while playing it.

Tim Carter, the writer and producer of the film made the analogy to comic books. There was a time when comic book movies sucked too. Again, it was because the people making them weren’t fans of the material. Now you have a generation of people who grew up with comic books, running Marvel, and making good films. I think you will start to see that now with video games. The generation who grew up playing them is just now starting to get control.

FG: Are there any particular video game movies or zombie movies that you like or were influenced by?

ZL: I was really inspired by the game. It has a very fun, crazy energy to it. That’s very different than most zombie stuff these days, which tends to be pretty dark and serious. I’m a big fan of adventure films, so I tried to give it the same type of energy.

FG: There are a lot of elements of the game incorporated into the film, most notably Frank West and the need to build custom weapons from ordinary objects in order to take down huge swaths of zombies. Without spoiling too much, what custom built weapon sequence in particular did you find challenging or enjoy shooting the most?

ZL: In the middle of the film we have a 5 minute one take action scene that revolves around the Sledgesaw. It took all day to get this one shot of Jesse Metcalf carving his way through a hundred zombies. It’s very much based on my experience playing the game. You charge into the street with a bad ass combo weapon, feeling like Rambo… then your weapon breaks… then your second weapon breaks… and then suddenly you find yourself surrounded with no way out, grabbing anything you can to survive. It was really hard to get, but looks great.

FG: And did you lean on using fan-favorite combinations from the games or did you hack together a few new ones of your own especially for the movie?

ZL: I begged Capcom to give me a list of all the really cool combo weapons they didn’t put in the game, so I could put them in the film… they laughed and told me every good idea they had was already in the games.

So we went on a field trip to the hardware store and started imagining all sorts of terrible ways to kill people. I must say, the gardening isle is a particularly scary place. We came up with a few new iconic ones I hope people enjoy.

FG: You’ve got a great cast of familiar faces from Rob Riggle (The Daily Show, 21 Jump Street) to Jesse Metcalfe (John Tucker Must Die, Desperate Housewives), and Dennis Haysbert (“24”, The Unit), as well as Virginia Madsen (Sideways), Keegan Connor Tracy (Bates Motel, Once Upon a Time) and Meghan Ory (Once Upon a Time). What was your experience working with some of them in what might have been their first step into the zombie/horror genre?

ZL: Everyone was having a blast. Virginia Madsen is an Oscar nominated actress, she never gets to run down a street with a broomchete and slice zombies in half. She kept saying “My son is going to lose his mind when he sees this”. Jesse was extremely excited. He wanted to show the world he could be an action hero and really put his body into it. He did most of his own stunts, we sent him home groaning like an old man most days. It really shows in the film.

FG: Obviously with a comedy gorilla like Rob Riggle, humor is a big part of the film. Was it important to keep a balance between the humor and the horror elements of the final product?

ZL: My favorite kind of movies are the ones that mix up genre. Indiana jones is scary, funny, romantic, meaningful and full of action. That’s what I tried to do here. You need both hilarious crazy things, and characters you care about. I was a little nervous that the chemistry of all those moods wouldn’t mix, but in the end it really worked out well.

FG: Are there any topics or genres you’re hoping to tackle in upcoming projects?

ZL: I have a very cool contained thriller time travel film called Chrononaut that I want to get made. I’m also moving on to a psychological thriller written by Graeme Manson, the creator of Orphan Black, that is one of the best scripts I’ve ever read.

FG: If this is well received, do you hope to revisit the Dead Rising universe in future projects?

ZL: I hope so, the great thing about Dead Rising is that each new outbreak is a new city, a new story, new characters. You can keep re-inventing the world. I hope we get to revisit it.

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