Updated: Jun 10, 2021
Hi my name is Cam Marshall. I was born in Chicago IL but I currently live and work in Cincinnati OH. I'm the writer and director for the short film Holy Zombie. As of today Holy Zombie has won 21 awards from 10 different festivals (see the full list below). Holy Zombie is a faith based movie about a young bachelor who wakes up to find himself turning into a zombie. The zombie effect is worsened by his behavior and the more he gives himself over to his flesh. He must figure out how to reverse this effect and change his behavior before it's too late.
Now you might be thinking what does Zombies have to do with being a Christian? If that's what you're thinking then good because that's why I made this movie. I'm a christian but when I watch christian movies I don’t see the type of content that relates to me and my faith. Unfortunately most christian movies often leave the audience thinking it was too cheesy or too preachy. My goal with making Holy Zombie was to create a faith based movie that I could watch with my friends who don't believe what I believe. Holy Zombie is a movie that reflects my own spiritual walk and the lessons I’ve learned along the way in finding my faith.
MAKING HOLY ZOMBIE
The making of Holy Zombie started with me getting the idea for the script. My inspiration for the script came from two of my favorite music artists. The first place of inspiration came from a christian hip hop artist named Lecrae. Last October Lecrae released a new song called "Zombie". The song is about how Lecrae used to see himself like a flesh eating zombie chasing after women. I instantly related to the song and thought this is a great concept. The second moment of inspiration came when introducing my 9 year-old daughter to the classic Michael Jackson thriller music video. Seeing MJ turn into a werewolf gave me the idea of turning my lead character into a Zombie by how he treats women. My goal for the script was to tell the story with as little dialogue as possible. I wanted to show my story and not tell it to the audience. One thing that bothers me in traditional Christian movies is when people preach the message of the movie as dialogue. Preaching in a conversation isn't realistic to me and I think it hurts the natural storytelling we expect to see in movies.
Once the script was finished I quickly shared it with my two friends Markus (far left), and Marco (far right). I asked Marco to produce the movie and I asked Markus to be the Director of Photography. Getting them to commit to making this movie was huge because they both have a lot of experience in the film industry and this was my directing debut. Since It was my first time directing a movie I knew I needed an experienced crew to help with my lack of experience. We quickly reached our budget of $4,000 and we were off and running to produce my first short film. It took two days of filming in Cincinnati Oh, a month of editing and a month of sound design to finish it. Im proud of my entire cast and crew for coming together to make something we are all proud of in the midst of a pandemic and such challenging times.
CINEMATOGRAPHY COLOR SCHEMES
The first conversation I had with my D.P. was centered around "what do we want the colors to look like"? To go along with the show don't tell philosophy, I decided to lean very heavily on color schemes and music cues to help tell this story. First I had two of my musically gifted friends create songs uniquely for this project with lyrics that tell you what to feel. Second I worked closely with my D.P. to create the colors we wanted in each scene. Below is a quick breakdown of the shots we used and why we chose the colors we did for these key scenes.
In our bedroom scenes you see two different color schemes that make you feel like you’re in two different rooms, even though it’s the same room in both scenes. In the beginning (bottom two photos) I wanted a euphoric feeling of moonlight and pink hallway lighting to give the vibe of our lead actor enjoying his night. It comes off as a party moment between two people who don’t care to know each other. Their only goal is to enjoy their night together physically. As the movie goes on our lead character meets our lead actress. However I didn’t want to have her walk into the room with the same lighting as before and have the audience think her comes another sex secne. Instead we created a second lighting set up with a night time feel and room lamp lighting (top two photos). By making these changes the lighting in the room goes from a euphoric one night stand to a romantic moment alone with a significant other.
Rule #1 for Zombie movies should be that you can’t make a Zombie movie without green color tones. In our bathroom scene I wanted a switch between the rest of the movie to signify something was wrong with our lead character. When I think of Zombies I think green and when I think of green I think of someone who is sick. This green tone helped me and my DP show the transformation that was happening with our lead character as he began turning into a Zombie. Personally the bathroom scene became some of my favorite cinematic shots from this movie and was the first shots I teased on social media.
Without spoiling the ending of the movie I’ll say we wanted to create a very judgemental feeling for our church chapel scene. A lot of times when you aren’t living the lifestyle that is consistent to the bible you might feel like you would rather walk into hell than to walk into a Church. I know that’s how I felt when I would walk into church and be afraid that God or people would judge me. For my church scene I used dark lighting with tents of red to give the church the feeling of walking into a scene from hell. There’s a moment when our Zombie burst into the church and the color change is so dramatic that it creates an OMG moment for the viewer. It’s like we broke from reality and entered into this church hell moment that makes you want to see how this film will end. I wasn’t sure we could pull this scene off the way it was written but I think execution wise the scene was even better than I hoped it could be.
New York Film Awards
Best Narrative Film
Festigious International Film Festival
Best First Time Film Director
Indie Short Fest
Best Special Makeup
Best Romantic Comedy
Best First Time Director
EdiPlay International Film Festival
Best First Time Film Director (male) Honorable Mention
IndieX Film Fest
Best Romantic Short
Best Makeup and Hairstyling
Best Special Makeup
Best Set Design
Best First Time Film Director
Independent Shorts Awards
Best Romantic Silver Award
Best First Time Director Honorable Mention
Los Angeles Film Awards
Best Narrative finalist
Best Director finalist
Cindependent Film Festival
Official selection and one of five movies for May 2021 Cindependent and Chill line-up
When I finished making Holy Zombie I knew I had a movie I loved but I wasn’t sure how people would respond to it. It’s a very unique movie that doesn’t have a true genre. I like to call it a "Christian Thriller" but that doesn’t fit with most Christian content. I understand why Christian content has gotten the "Cheesy" label but I think that can change. I see more and more christian filmmakers wanting to break the mold of what a Christian movie is considered to be. I hope my first faith based project has inspired people to think outside of the box. In my opinion you can tell a story based on the Bible without making people feel judged or coming off as preachers with cameras. That said I have been really surprised by the response Holy Zombie has gotten from both believers and non-believers. The movie has been accepted and praised by more festivals and industry professionals than I ever expected. This moment feels like I’m living my dream but I am still thinking about what’s next? What’s next for me is to keep promoting Holy Zombie every chance I get until I find a streaming platform that’s willing to stream it. If you’re reading this and looking for a movie to stream or can help me get my movie on a streaming platform then please contact me today. The second step is to use the momentum from Holy Zombie to fund my next film. I believe my next script is my best one yet and I am in the beginning stages of pre-production for that project. I plan to use the success of Holy Zombie to attract people to donate to my next project and hopefully raise the money I need for my budget. If you would like to get connected and hear about my next project or see the full version of Holy Zombie once it's public then follow me on social media. Lastly I would like to say thank you to the New York Film Awards for allowing me to write this blog post and use their platform.
FACEBOOK: Cameron Marshall
HOLY ZOMBIE EXTENDED TRAILER