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An Interview with Dan Palmer

Dan: "A wife-beater vest looks more like a limp poncho on me".

Dan Palmer
Interview conducted by John Townsend
1 October 2013

Dan Palmer is a writer and actor who, when apparently not stalking Edgar Wright, has found the time to pen and star in Stalled, an original take on the zombie siege idea. Dan took some time to answer a few of our questions.

You are the writer and star of Stalled; please tell us a little about it?
Stalled is about a down on his luck maintenance man who hasn't been invited to the office Christmas party and finds himself trapped in the ladies' restroom the very moment a nasty outbreak of zombies occurs ..as opposed to a lovely outbreak of zombies.

Your character W.C. is an ordinary, “everyman” type. Was it important to keep him realistic instead of becoming some violent vigilante type?
Well, firstly I'M playing him so I don't think I could pull off a Statham; a wife-beater vest looks more like a limp poncho on me. The beauty of writing for a character I intended to play was that I could shape all the morally dubious things he does early on in the script with the knowledge that I would play it earnestly. So now, instead of folks seeing him as being a bit of a sleazebag they accept him as a dufus with a few problems that he needs to address ..and I think we can all relate to that.

When did you come up with the idea for the setting the film in a toilet?
It was a notion I had as a kid whilst watching Day of the Dead for the first time. During the finale when the dead deluge the compound and the character of Steel finds himself cornered I recall thinking 'Why doesn't he hide in a cupboard or something??'. That idea then haunted me as I realised he would then be stuck in this box surrounded by a sea of zombies. It was the first time a film had caused me to frighten myself with my own ideas, so it stuck with me and eventually bubbled back up into the old beer-soaked grey matter as a neat concept for one of them talkie-films that the kids like.

Dan: "It was the first time a film had caused me to frighten myself with my own ideas".

Comedy horror is notoriously difficult to get right and any British film of this genre is bound to draw comparisons with Shaun Of the Dead. Was this on your mind at all and did the dry, observational humour of Edgar Wright’s film influence some of the writing in Stalled?
As a spotty faced, Nirvana T-shirt wearing kid I used to bug Edgar at college as he was really the only other horror fan there at the time. He shot some of Fistful of Fingers whilst I was there and he put me in it for a 69th of a second. Being around that sense of creativity and watching someone buck the system and shoot a film instead of becoming a runner on a Bond film was obviously a game changer for me. He was, and is, an inspiration, but I would say he is more an inspiration than an influence as Stalled is quite different to Shaun. It probably bears more of a resemblance to Clerks or Before Sunrise. I SO, SO, SO didn't want a Shaun comment on any of our posters and lo and behold the U.S one sheet has just come out with Kim Newman's, very kind, quote; 'A worthy successor to Shaun of the Dead!' I Tweeted it to Edgar with an apology ...no response. Hahaa..

Recent films such as Detention Of The Dead have used the siege setting when making a zombie film and the idea goes back to Romero’s Night Of The Living Dead. What do you think it is about this scenario that filmmakers keep returning to and how have you kept some originality to the story?
When it comes to a zombie film that particular set-up just makes sense. A singular zombie, arguably, is not scary but a mob of them IS. With that in mind placing your protagonists in a confined area lends itself perfectly to the genre, we just took it to the most ridiculous degree! I think that is what makes Stalled original, plus the dynamic between WC and a certain character, that is introduced later in the proceedings, seems to be surprising quite a few audiences.

You’ve worked with Christian James before on Freak Out. Is it important as a writer to have a director you trust and who understands what you were trying to say in the story?
Definitely. Especially with this film and more so as an actor than a writer. It was a fifteen day shoot and I am in almost every shot of the film so if I was working with a director I did not know the short hand would have been non-existent. It helps to have a grab-bag of references and shared experiences in a scenario like that. 'Do it more like Amy the guerilla in Congo!' In addition it helped both Christian and Rich Kerrigan, our producer, because they have their writer slap-bang in the middle of the action, just in case we needed to change anything at the 11th hour.

Did you always want to be a writer and how did you get started in your career?
When I was very young I wanted to be a three-panel cartoonist. I was a big fan of Bill Watterson and Calvin & Hobbes and Jim Davis and Garfield. This actually plays a small but integral part in Stalled. I think it's a dying art form; if you flick through the papers nowadays most newspaper strips are absolute dreck. But that three beat structure is a movie blue-print at it's most basic and I suppose subconciously that was setting me up to do what I do now. I was always a huge fan of the SNL guys; Aykroyd, Belushi, Murray etc and I was also a Fango kid and that got me thinking about working in film. So, when I left school I applied to film-school and got in, that is where I met Christian. We were the two youngest students there and we weren't particularly treated very well so, when I wasn't pestering Edgar, I would go off with Christian and make silly films that we would never finish. I would like to stress that they were not sex-tapes.

Dan: "It helps to have a grab-bag of references and shared experiences in a scenario like that".

The film is showing at this year’s Grimmfest horror festival. How important are festivals for independent filmmakers?
Very. The lovely Alan Jones picked us for Fright Fest 2013. We sold out our first two screenings so they gave us a third and then we sold that one out. The buzz spread through the festival almost immediately after our first show and it was palpable ..after that the exposure of Stalled has grown and grown. Four star and five star reviews ..Kim Newman's amazing write-up in Screen International. Fantazia in Montreal really helped our first film Freak Out and Fright Fest put a big blood-red spotlight on Stalled, so I would say festivals are invaluable.

Would you say it is more or less difficult to make independent films at the moment? Obviously there is greater access to technology to make the film but the studios seem bent on financing remakes, franchises and the like.
Apparently nowadays you can simply 'pick up a phone and shoot a film in weekend' or so people are saying. Firstly that is extremely offensive to all of our Director of Photography pals and secondly it opens the flood-gates for hours upon hours of unwatchable crap. There is a reason why Found Footage films are so ubiquitous at this moment in time. They weren't so popular when you had to burn through thousands of feet of 35mm film-stock and painstakingly splice every frame. So, I would say that, yes, it is easier to make a film now, but it is still hard work to make it good. In regards to the studios; I haven't had the luxury of being in the position to work for one ..I don't even have an agent!

Which filmmakers or writers have influenced you most in your career?
Johns Hughes, Landis and Carpenter, Joe Dante, Whedon, Kevin Smith, Shane Black, Eric Red, Savage Steve-Holland, Aykroyd, Raimi, Cronenberg, Tarantino, , Craven, Linklater, Tom Holland, James Gunn and Bobcat Goldthwait ..who I had the pleasure of spending some time with at Fright Fest ..now, we did make a sex-tape.

What are your favourite horror films?
Near Dark, Nightmare On Elm Street, Fright Night, American Werewolf, Evil Dead II, Day of the Dead, The Monster Squad, The 'burbs, Jason Lives, Child's Play, Vamp, The Blob remake, Videodrome, The Fog.. Most recently I loved the Maniac remake. I thought it was a stunning piece of work. It was amazing how the aesthetic managed to feel antiseptic and musty at the same time. The score was top-notch. I am impressed by what Elijah Wood is doing right now, instead of lazily cashing in on the level of stardom he has achieved he is, instead, creatively working with his heart on his sleeve and producing some really interesting genre work.

What will we see next from you?
I am working with the actor Chris R Wright, who has a cameo in Stalled, on a beautifully seedy little script for us to both star in. We shall see. From the Stalled team? Well, we are beginning the budget hunt for this dark sci-fi comedy that I am pitching as 'The Machinist' meets 'Happy Gilmore'. Seriously.

"Thank you ever so much for taking part in this interview Dan.
And we wish you the very best of luck in the future."

Don't fall behind, make sure you get help
writing college papers fast.


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