YOU MAY HAVE missed it, but the world ended two Wednesdays ago. On the 6th of April an infection begins to spread, cutting the UK off from the rest of the world and leaving a certain few fighting to survive; at least, this is where we find ourselves at the beginning of Project Z, the new multiplatform, interactive game from directors/producers/social media chiefs Rebecca James and Kim Gath. A few days before its release, ASM – which counts as one of the platforms itself – sat down with the zombie herders themselves….
Students work for free (actually at a £9000 loss when you think about it) but Project Z, in its staging, has an impressively high production value, more so that it’s just the two of them.
KIM: It was quite early on when we decided what we were going to do. I do the flowcharts for the story and the directing, and Rebecca did the website and the online promotion.
REBECCA: We’ve made a good team because Kim’s more interested in production and I’m more interested in promotion and social media.
What is Project Z?
KIM: Project Z is a choose-your-own story adventure, filmed entirely on GoPros. Our two main characters are Zeina (Zeina Dahlan) and Gaz (Gareth Horton); you choose who you want to be at the beginning, and you’re given choices in each of their stories; whether you should enter a room or not, which survivors to go with. Some endings are “kill” endings, so you basically have to work your way through a zombie apocalypse in Aberystwyth.
There has to be a reason to survive, right? Something more, something that’s worth all of this?
— Gareth Hart (@gaztakesphotos1) April 18, 2016
You’ve picked a good town to stage it. Aber is quiet enough as it is.
REBECCA: And filming at 4am helps.
KIM: We film at night and in the woods so people wandering the streets hasn’t usually been an issue. We haven’t used department equipment because we wanted a realistic feel in the filming and lighting.
Who are Zeina and Gaz, and what happens to them when the outbreak begins?
REBECCA: We stuck with the basic idea; they’re uni students, Gaz is an amateur photographer who shares pictures on his Twitter, until the 6th of April, but then he picks it up again after. He’s carrying on after the apocalypse.
Zeina’s also a student and sticks with Gaz, and she’s decided to do vlogs to deal with the loneliness of not being with her family, but you can see as she puts out more of them that she’s getting more and more affected by what’s happening around her.
Casting the character of Gaz was easy; “He has to do everything I say anyway,” Kim explains, “Cause he’s my boyfriend.” How many times did she have to watch him die? “A lot. I punched him in the nose, and Rebecca punched herself.” That’s commitment. “But we let the actors know that they should commit. Not fistfights, but if you’re gonna take someone to the floor, take them down. And everyone was comfortable with that.”
REBECCA: Zeina’s a good friend of mine and we’ve been really lucky with her as well.
What can people expect from the different characters? Is it your hope that people will go back and play again?
KIM: Definitely, yeah. And there’s a lot of “kill” endings, so chances are people will need to go back and try again. Zeina and Gaz’s storylines are completely different in places; different settings, different scenarios. We’re hoping that people will try them all out.
Are there moments where we see the same scene from different perspectives?
KIM: Their first scene is exactly the same. Zombies break in and have to escape – well, it’s my living room –
It’s not a student production if there’s not a living room scene.
– and they have to choose left or right, and whichever you pick, the other character goes the other way.
REBECCA: On the website, a scene will play out and then there’ll be 20 seconds where you’re given the choice of which way to go or what to do. Go left, go right, kill him, don’t kill him, and then once the choice has been made the video for that choice will play.
KIM: And if it’s a “kill” ending, you have the chance to go back. If you choose to kill someone that might reflect badly, and you might get killed yourself, but that can happen if you pick a “good” option as well. Sometimes you’ll need to do bad things to survive.
REBECCA: We got inspiration from Goosebumps and choose-your-own-adventure books – players will have to go back and try again in a different way to get through to the end.
KIM: Another reason we did it that way is because if there were two good options, the story would keep branching out, so we had to keep it tight and precise so we could get it done in a week.
How much footage is there in total?
REBECCA: About 30 to 40 videos from both storylines, and a handful of vlogs that’ll finish before the actual launch.
Very important question; slow zombies, or fast zombies?
REBECCA: Very animalistic. I think people have had fun being fast and snarling zombies, we’ve been really lucky with that.
KIM: All the actors have said they’ve had fun because, who doesn’t love being a zombie? We’ve done a lot of stage fighting and running.
REBECCA: Something different from your essays, isn’t it? And the survivors all had fun, too.
KIM: So many people were up for coming to the 4am shoot, and helping out with the zombie makeup. It was quite easy to direct when it was around ten actors, and towards the end we had around 30 actors and extras. It got difficult to shut them up, but as the night went on I got more and more commanding. But everyone was really good, snapping into character and running.
What’s it like to direct the vlogs and the actors with GoPros, as if they’re making the videos themselves?
KIM: The whole of the production was improv. The actors were given an objective and a destination – like “Zeina lives, and goes here” – but everything in between was improvised. If the other survivors get taken out, they’re dead.
REBECCA: Zeina and Gaz were very confident with that. They worked really well with the GoPros on their heads; it gave them a lot of freedom and made it feel natural.
What was the weirdest thing that’s happened while getting a shot?
KIM: A lot of climbing through windows!
REBECCA: We were rehearsing in the street, discussing the scene with actors, who all had golf clubs and cricket bats, and this man walked past, stopped and looked absolutely terrified. I don’t know why we didn’t say anything, but he just sped past us.
Did anyone actually get hit with the golf clubs?
KIM: Let’s say there have been a few accidents, lots of bruises on everyone.
REBECCA: We do a lot for our art.
Finally – what more can people expect when they play the game?
KIM: A lot of action.
REBECCA: A lot of interesting plot twists.
KIM: A lot of people they know as zombies in the background, a lot of kicking ass –
REBECCA: In Aberystwyth!