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