Director brings community together over mutual love for zombies

ZombieTHUMBPlaza Theatre was packed on Sept. 22 as hundreds of horror fans, volunteers, cast and crew lined up for the premier of Calgary director K.J. Kleefeld’s romantic horror-comedy film, The Dead Mile.

The line for the film, stretched down Kensington Road, an arch of socialites exhibiting congratulations, hugs and boisterous laughter. Some dressed in bloody clothes and gory latex, a tribute to the Calgary Zombie Walk that inspired the film. Kleefeld, who also wrote the screenplay, said he wanted to make this movie a homage to the city he adores.

“I really wanted to make a movie that featured Calgary as a character in itself,” Kleefeld said. “It’s a great place to live. The sense of community here is nothing like anywhere I’ve ever lived, and I’ve lived in Los Angeles, Paris and London.”

The fascinating part of the movie isn’t the limping zombie mob, realistic ZombieIMAGE1The line-up for The Dead Mile was a blitz of excited fans and reunited cast and crew. Kleefeld said he couldn’t be happier with the turnout and the reaction to the film he’s lived and breathed for last two years.

Photo by Jodi Eganblood, dismembered body parts, or even the relaxed local atmosphere.

The charm this film carries comes from 324 volunteers who enthusiastically joined in on every facet of the film’s conception, creation and execution.

Executive producer of The Dead Mile, Saro Biegler, said the film was pulled off thanks to the hundreds of volunteers.

“We couldn’t have made this film anywhere else,” Biegler added, with a broad and infectious grin on his face.

The film started out with a modest budget of only $40,000, which, Kleefeld said wasn’t going to be enough for what he originally envisioned.

“We put ourselves out there and asked for volunteers and thankfully Calgary has a loyal zombie fan base,” said Kleefeld, who originally hoped for a $250,000 budget.

When James Saito, a local writer and zombie fanatic, heard that there was a zombie movie being made in his city, he jumped at the chance to be involved.

ZombieIMAGE2Writer and director K.J. Kleefeld was inspired by the 2010 zombie walk, and, with that inspiration, created a cast of individuals that he said became family.

Photo by Jodi EganSaito, having seen approximately 500 zombie movies in his career as a writer and blogger, said he was excited to portray one of his beloved monsters on film, and in the process met and connected with local zombie lovers like him.

“I’m around a bunch of fans, I met people, gained some good friends and the turnout was amazing.”

But Saito didn’t originally volunteer for the socializing opportunities, or even the Calgary Flames jersey he wore for his small part as an infected zombie.

“I liked the script, it’s a real organic zombie film. I loved the story because it has a romantic aspect to it,” he said.

The finished product is what motivated Saito to keep promoting the film through social media outlets, and in his professional writing.

“Seeing the finished product is what makes standing outside in the cold in a Flames jersey all worth it.”

Calgary’s enthusiastic reaction to the film’s creation shocked Kleefeld, although he says he expected that the city and the community wouldn’t disappoint him.

“The community here is so friendly and tight knit,” Kleefeld said. “It’s awesome that we could pull together to do something great.”


Krystle Mintonye, a make-up artist based out of Los Angeles, said that being a part of this film was one of the best times she’s ever had.

“We were all one big family,” Mintonye said. “Making friends like this is the best part of this movie, everyone was so awesome!”

The film quickly switched from being a modest project to a fully-blown event that local Calgarians could not only get involved with, but also create relationships and make long-lasting memories.

Make-up artist and special effects assistant Ashley Marie Godick said that although this was her first movie, she was instantly comforted by the friendly atmosphere of the movie set.

Godick and Montonye agree about finding a family atmosphere on set.

“Everybody took care of each other, we all went out and mingled afterwards, it was amazing,” Godick said.

Kleefeld said Calgary has many aspiring filmmakers and creative locals and they deserve to be acknowledged in the film production, and more movies like his need to draw attention to Calgary as a leader in independent films.

Despite the film’s completion, Kleefeld said his work is far from complete.

“It’s not over yet, there’s still marketing and getting it out to the people who want to watch it and making sure they have access to it.”

The Dead Mile is only screened where viewers demand. For a chance to watch the film, demand it in your own neighbourhood. Additional screenings are planned for the 2012 Calgary Zombie Walk on Oct. 13. 

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