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Futures: Andrew Zuchero Explodes Heads, Old School Style, in His Short Sensation ‘The Apocalypse’

Futures: Andrew Zuchero Explodes Heads, Old School Style, in His Short Sensation 'The Apocalypse'

Why He’s On Our Radar: Few shorts at Sundance shocked and elicited as many laughs as Andrew Zuchero’s end of days splatterfest “The Apocalypse.” The short (which you can view below) premiered in Park City as part of the Sundance Digital Screening Room and was featured on their YouTube channel, where it has over 650,000 views and rising. Zuchero will next be taking it to SXSW, where it’s sure to go over extremely well in the rowdy Midnighters section.

More About Him: Zuchero, a New York University grad, has been with Greencard Pictures, the commercial and film production responsible for making “The Apocalypse” a reality, since 2006. Since joining the company, he’s done promos for the likes of Bud, Sony and Intel (all of which you can view here).

What’s Next: “Well right now I’m just working with some of the producers,” Zuchero told Indiewire, from the vast Greencard Pictures office space in lower Manhattan. “Alicia Van Couvering, who produced this, and we are just spit balling as many ideas as
we can. Just churning out idea after idea, and she tells me which ones
are good and which ones are bad. Hopefully in the next month well be
writing two screenplays and then we hedge our bets, pick the one we want
to go with, and make it in 2014.”

How did you dream up the whole concept?

Working in advertising, you’re asked to come up with ideas quite often, so a big part of the job is to just sit around and wait for ideas, which is a ridiculous process. The criteria for what makes an idea good is so specific and it doesn’t really make sense. It’s like how to make beer sexy. And you just sit there and stare at a wall for five hours. I was developing this anxiety that I was going to give myself an aneurysm, so I think that’s where it came from.

Coming up with ideas?

Being forced to come up with ideas. There was actually one moment where we were shooting this Budweiser commercial in Miami, where it was the biggest thing we had ever worked on. It was all of us here, and we were trying so hard to get everything right. It was a big budget and all of the guys in the office were doing different roles, like the DP and the art director and the producers. Everybody was there. And we were building a big water park on the streets of Miami were everyone’s supposed to be having summer fun, and a gigantic boombox rolls in and water slides roll in. Everything was working so well, and then all of the sudden this torrential downpour started. Like a flash flood. It wiped everything away and I was like “fuck, man. This is my career. This is it, it’s over.” I’m really saying this to everybody and the crew is all looking around and I was like, “okay, I’m out of ideas. Does anyone else have any?” Everyone was looking around, and they all wanted to do this so hard that they were all just standing there trying to fix this impossible situation. It was the image of all of my friends sitting around trying to come up with an idea so intently that I thought was really funny.

Have you been following the YouTube comment thread below the video?

Yes, I have a sick fascination with it.

As you should, because a lot of folks seem to believe that the film basically says that dumb people will inherit the earth.

I think that’s just such an insipid kind of meaning. I mean first of all the comment thread on YouTube is just ridiculous. It’s crazy people or fourteen-year-old boys. That’s it. And they’re all terrible for the most part. It’s like being made fun of by junior high students. So it’s fun to listen to and cute. It’s just horrible actually.

But as far as that being the meaning behind the film, that’s not really what my intention was.  I’m trying to do in a longer form, a feature in this style, where something I would imagine happening in a Looney Tunes cartoon happens and people respond to it. Like they would if it actually happened in real life. So there’s a level of crazy ridiculous fantastical weird shit. And then a level of realism, and it’s those two things trying to compete with each other. I think what the ending means for me is that I think it’s really funny if the worst possible thing happens for the human race, it’s just gross and disgusting. But at the same time it opens the door for this tender and caring love story to blossom. I just think that’s fucked up and funny.

It ends rather abruptly. Are you developing a sequel or would you rather just leave the story open-ended?

Do you think it merits one?

Sure, why not?

I’m actually working pretty hard because I feel like the time is now to make something that’s 90 minutes long. So all of the ideas are kind of like that. A crazy thing and a ridiculous premise responded to in a realistic way. But that’s like a joke, you know like a guy walks into a bar. That can’t sustain a feature film. People not coming up with ideas for 90 minutes sounds like the most boring feature film.

I read that Jim Henson inspired the way you went about exploding heads in the short.

Yeah, totally. With all of the exploding head stuff, there are no computer-generated effects. We didn’t do anything in 3D. I was reading this piece in Wired earlier today and they were talking about how JJ Abrams was going to make the new “Star Wars” movies and there was a list of criteria that all of these comedians and filmmakers were saying they wanted to see in the new movies. It was basically how not to make it as shitty as the last. A lot of people were talking about no Midichlorian bullshit, and no CG, and Abrams’ writing partner on “Lost,” Carlton Cuse, had a really good one. He said that he wants to see flaws, like everywhere. I want you to make as much stuff real as possible. The magic in the original “Star Wars” was when you could see Yoda’s ears twitching when they weren’t supposed to be and when you saw how rough and actually tiny a section of the Death Star was when you saw all of the Jedi’s flying over it. It’s that kind of stuff that brought magic too it.

Maybe I’m the crazy one, but when you watch movies today it all sort of looks like a video game to me. It’s like Andy Serkis’ Gollum and Brad Pitt aging backwards, it’s this uncanny valley place. Humans were built to determine what other humans look like. It’s like the thing we can do best out of anything. So if you’re creating something that isn’t real, it makes me really uncomfortable and I’ll call bullshit quick.

So everything you saw was shot practically. The half-faces are done with this system called “motion control,” which basically turns your tripod into a computer where if you move that camera around, it records that movement and when you press play and it does it again. So what that means is that you can shoot multiple takes and put different things in that frame. It’s how Spike Jonze made two Nicolas Cages talk to each other and Robert Zemeckis cut off Lt. Dan’s legs. You’re doing something real; it’s just sort of cut and paste. So in the apartment we’d do one take with an actor screaming and falling on the ground, another with an actor with actual special effects makeup that does the second half of it. We shot an air cannon with blood and guts in it, and throw in wigs and hats and shit like that. Then it’s just cutting them all and piecing them together, and it creates something completely bona-fide. There’s also just more glory in doing it for real. It’s like when Kubrick builds that huge Ferris Wheel so that guy can run around, and puppeteering Yoda. It’s like we destroyed a living room, and that means something.

And now to go on a completely different tangent, could you just tell me a bit about yourself? How you moved up through the ranks and ended up at Greencard?

I grew up outside of Philadelphia. Small town that was really idyllic and just a lot of fields. It was sort of like “Lord of the Flies” or “To Kill a Mockingbird.” But now it’s all just Wa-wa’s or CVS’s. It’s all just destroyed. It’s terrible. There was this hiking trail that we used to go up, by this beautiful, applish landscape. But now you go up and it’s just strip malls. But anyways, I went to NYU right across the street. Tisch in 2002. Graduated in 2006 and moved across the street. Started making commercials with my buds and that’s it.

That’s it.

(laughs) Really easy.

How did you meet your buds, now at Greencard?

The DP on this was the DP from freshman year. Same with one of the producers on it. Everybody just kind of knew each other, we didn’t really know anyone else here so we were pretty insular. We were the good community folks and we all just kind of followed each other.

How would you describe your aesthetic? Do you guys all have a similar mantra that you like to stick to?

The generation that we all are still remembers what it is like to play outside before “Super Mario 3” came out. And we were still in love with Jim Henson. We represent this one small group, well we all do between the ages of 25 and 35, where you’re going to be in love with doing things yourself and making things that look real and not necessarily relying on computer design. So I guess if there is a similarity among us, it’s that we are the last group that’s still in love with the reality of it. Maybe that’s not true and maybe that’s bullshit, I don’t know though. I’m worried we’re the last generation to get sick at 3D movies.

So you’re not a fan of the 3D form I’m guessing?

It just fucks me up. I was reading this article earlier today about Google Glasses?

Google Glasses?

You put them on and there’s a little screen that projects in the upper part of your glasses and connects you to the Internet. So you can walk around and like look at a building and it loads up maps. It’s a real thing, like there’s no second guessing it. It’s happening and it’s going to happen in the next year. It’s crazy.

What kind of a career do you see for yourself?

I want to make three good feature films. Just ones that I think are good and that probably takes a lot. Just three good ones, well two is fine. And then find a beautiful girl and get a farm before I’m 65.

So we can only expect three feature films and then you’ll just hibernate?

No, I’m going to have to make a bunch before any of them are any good.

Oh, I don’t believe that.

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