Imagine Leah Adler Spielberg telling her son, who is working on the movie "Duel," that it's time to put away the camera and go to bed. "Steven, I'm telling you for the last time..." Actually, when filming Duel, Steven Spielberg was closer to 25 than 12, the age at which Emily Hagins directed her first film, "Pathogen."
"Zombie Girl: The Movie" is an award-winning documentary about a tween who loved movies--so much so that she wanted to direct her own. With her mother, Megan, handling the boom microphone (a mike duct-taped onto the end of a paint roller extension) and helping with transportation and other important film-making chores, such as shopping for and making props, and applying stage makeup to the actors, Hagins managed to make her movie. Dad Jerry appears as a researcher in the film and had a few film-making tasks for which he was responsible. Hagins even received a $1000 grant, which was of more interest to Mom, who had been financing, than to Emily.
"Zombie Girl: The Movie" features interviews with the Hagins family, as well as the cast and crew of "Pathogen," and Emily's mentors. Her big break was director Peter Jackson (Lord of the Rings) writing to a friend in Austin (where the Hagins live), telling him to assist the girl.
In between scenes of production, we see family members carving pumpkins, cooking and making music together. Megan and Emily have a few disagreements, most over "artistic vision," and Megan must walk the tightrope stretched between responsible mom and film tech.
Emily Hagins wrote "Pathogen" when she was ten years old. When filming began, she was twelve. She and her cast scheduled filming around homework, school holidays and events, and family activities. The bulk of filming occurred on weekends and during school vacations. Inevitably, shooting fell behind and the project took much longer to complete than was expected.
"Zombie Girl: The Movie follows" Emily through early stages of film-making to opening night; the Alamo Drafthouse, where the film was screened, sold out. In a funny scene the director greeted her audience and introduced her film with aplomb, making it clear that she didn't really want to talk about continuity.
Throughout "Zombie Girl: The Movie", adults involved in film-making and criticism discuss the technological changes that have allowed teenagers to become filmmakers, including their positive and negative aspects. Also included on the DVD are a number of extras, including interviews and the entire feature-length film, "Pathogen" (this is the first film I've seen where the "making of" was the feature and the film was a "bonus"). For info on all of Emily's movies, visit cheesynuggets.com.
Bottom Line: Would I buy/rent/stream "Zombie Girl: The Movie?" Buy! There's a certain teenage Chloë I need to send a copy to--she wants to be a filmmaker, too. (Zombie Girl: The Movie on DVD hits the streets November 9.)