By Alana Joli Abbott
Why vegan zombies? We asked the creators of Night of the Vegan to give us some behind-the-scenes insider information about the project, their thoughts on zombies, and what they have coming next.
Night of the Vegan started out as a screenplay, and with the movie in production the creators decided to adapt their story as a graphic novel, reaching a wider audience through multiple formats. What’s the recipe for Night of the Vegan? Take one opportunistic politician willing to sacrifice whatever it takes to get ahead, add one scientist who has come up with a hugely improved fertilizer, stir in a mob snitch in Witness Protection, and finish it off with a catastrophic accident that has the dead rising from their graves. The graphic novel (currently funding on Kickstarter) mixes humor and romance with zombies in a redemption arc that I was delighted to adapt into a comic script.
One of the most fun parts of adapting Night of the Vegan from a screenplay to a graphic novel was getting to work with the minds behind the project: Leroy E. Bryant II and Elijah C. Richardson Jr. I sat down (virtually) with the two of them to pick (not eat) their brains about their thoughts on zombies, the graphic novel, and their upcoming projects. Their answers are as a team—as Leroy says, “We’re two people but one unit.”
What is the story of the film script for Night of the Vegan?
We wrote Night Of The Vegan as a backdrop for social acceptance in a developing society that seemed headed towards isolationism. We wanted to develop a unique twist for a tried-and-true genre—hence vegan zombies against an isolated small town, fish out of water, and high stakes situation that will grip the audience. The production of our script into a film was designed to promote an economic development stimulus growth opportunity for the secondary and tertiary homeless individuals to achieve a long-term higher quality of life. Night Of The Vegan will enable selected homeless persons and displaced veterans an opportunity to participate in a groundbreaking filmmaking project that will provide, through working in a creative environment, a foundation to reestablish themselves into the community. Involvement in the film can provide a psychological springboard to restored and renewed sense of purpose, self-esteem and dignity for the hired individuals of the homeless community.
What was the experience of seeing the art for the graphic novel for the first time?
It was amazing, like looking through a ViewMaster Classic Viewer with Reels as a kid. As part of the creative team, there were two objectives: successfully communicating the vision of the graphic novel and capturing that mind’s eye snapshot of the visuals.In both cases, mission accomplished.
Why do you think zombie stories have a lasting appeal?
The zombie genre—and its portrayal of undead, flesh-eating, decaying corpses—has incredibly created, built, and maintained a popularity surge over many decades in the industry. Zombies dominate pop culture and folklore as a creature that is usually either a reawakened corpse with a ravenous appetite or someone bitten by another zombie infected with a “zombie virus.” Zombie movies and TV shows have also been successful marrying two genres: horror and comedy. The fact that the true zombie origins are never clearly explained gives the genre longevity steeped in mystery. Our cross-genre incarnation will continue to draw in, captivate, and immerse the audience in a journey of love, transformation, and redemption with a little lesson that we are all connected and have a common purpose, no matter our backgrounds or circumstances.
What is your favorite zombie movie/novel/comic?
Hard question! Several...1968’s Night of the Living Dead directed by George Romero. Later Dawn of the Dead, especially the remake; Day of the Dead; and 2013’s World War Z. Special effects have improved; zombies appear more gruesome and realistic. Even the comedy/horror genre movies Shaun of the Dead and Zombieland were enjoyable versions.
What is the best piece of advice you've received as a creator?
Maintain an open mind with all parties involved in the creation of the graphic novel. Everyone can add some creative juices to the punch bowl. But never lose the integrity of your personal vision of the process and project.
What projects are coming next from you?
Numerous other film projects in a variety genres of drama, horror, comedy, & action are in the works. TV reality show pilots are all in as well.