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Halloween Special: A Zombie-busting anniversary

Zombie Busters Halloween

Well, another Halloween fast approaches, and it’s always been my favourite holiday. Let’s face it, whenever the ghosts and ghouls come out to play, it makes just about everything more entertaining. Stuck in traffic? Look, there’s a masked guy wielding a machete. Caught at the red light? Look, a toothless crack whore with track marks. Oh… the parade’s across town, you’re just lost in a bad neighbourhood? Screw it, pretend and enjoy! They’re only dangerous if you’re looking to buy. Do. Not. Buy. Now where was I? Right, Halloween. As the years have passed, I’ve added some more meaning to the day: this year’s our second wedding anniversary round mine. What are our plans, you ask? Maybe a road trip, a cruise, a flight to tropical paradise? C’mon, it’s the Furtneys you’re talking about. We’re debuting on national cable TV as zombie fighting couple, John & Debbie, on the Sportsman Channel’s new hybrid holiday series, Zombie Busters: Outlive The Undead, where we beat ‘em back & blast ‘em down…or do we? And don’t ask about the after-party, because that’s private and we’re not telling. I recently caught up with the show’s hard-working creator/director, Scot Kuchta, to ask a few questions and get the low-down on how it all came to be. So, without further ado…

Welcome to This Is Horror, Scot. The UK crowd likes their blood deep red and you just spilled a few gallons on national TV here in the States, so you fit right in. Can you tell us a bit about your background, your work, and how you came to the Sportsman Channel?

SK: Yes, there was some blood spilled in Dallas Texas for sure!  Lets see, I grew up in a rural part of the west and as long as I can remember I have been a creative person… I had no idea what I wanted to do. I’m forty-three years old, so I did not have the mass of toys that are available to kids today, so I had to use my imagination! With that said, I chose to go to college for Broadcast Journalism, graduated and went right into radio in a major city. I did the radio exec thing for years creating radio marketing and just got tired of it. So, given the fact I grew up in fly-fishing country, I had grown up fly-fishing and grew tired of the media that was out there in fly-fishing, I quit my high paid job, packed my truck and spent a year photographing flyfishing. That brought attention from the magazines, which brought attention from the TV shows and I guess the rest, you could say, is history. The first time I was on TV as an ‘innovator’ of fly-fishing found me directing the crew to make it look better. I was hired two weeks later as a field producer, now here I am with my own production company for the last fifteen years, creating ground breaking programmes because I am willing to step out of the comfort zone—hell, I don’t even know what comfort is these days!

So, you just invaded a sporting news channel with flesh-eating zombies. How’s it going over? How did the idea for an undead apocalypse during Halloween week come about? Was there any skepticism or resistance from the brass, any pre-requisites to shooting what you wanted, or were you given free rein?

SK: Are you kidding? The show went over well actually. The idea came from the network in that they wanted to go out of the box for Halloween. That’s about all they knew. They did say zombies would be cool, so, I spent a few weeks wrapping my head around it and gave them two concepts. The one we ended up doing was laughed at, and I was told it could not be done. So, I scripted the second one. Halfway through it, they liked what the first pitch was and I had to restart with sixty days to go. Have you ever worked with TV brass? My god, it was a leg fight right until the end, and I mean the end; down to the final delivery hour of the show! But again, I went out of the comfort zone and in the end everybody loved it!

There was quite a cast of characters that night, both in front of and behind the camera, and you also ran a second crew from what I understand. How did those casts and crews come together? Can you introduce us to some of the standouts that you’d either collaborated with previously, or met for the first time?

SK: Here is the funny thing…we were not even set to shoot this show in Dallas! The crew that was there was my crew from other shoots, tactical military and police shows that I do. So, long story short, I had a crew I had never worked with before set in Oklahoma, I knew the editor and that was it. She set up a crew, locations, etc. I mean we had it on lock – houses, cars, streets, fought for permits to fire guns etc. Two weeks before shoot day, the network handed down changes and the crew freaked out and backed out on me. So, I had to beat the phones for my Dallas crew to rally, wrap their heads around it, lock-in dates, get police on hand, insurance etc, it sucked. In the end, we pulled it off and I am very proud of my crew. These guys have been around me with Navy SEALs, Spec Ops, ICE, and other agencies during shoots, so they know what I want. The news reporters, anchors, and actors were the ones I had met for the first time and everybody did a bang out job! In fact, of the four nights of shooting and four scenarios, that night ended up being the best in our opinion!

I was under the impression that I’d be playing one of the zombie horde –  something I’m somewhat familiar with, so I showed up looking like hell warmed over – but when we arrived that night, you shoved an M-16 in my hand and put me on the good guys team. I usually get asked to play heavies or rogues, but blasting ‘em down was pretty fun. How’d I do?

SK: You kicked ass! I mean you two were so believable it was perfect! I liked you in that role, you did an awesome job, and I look forward to part two next year where your role will pick up from where we left off!

I’m gonna hold you to that, Scot. One question: Can I have an eye-patch next time? Just a little nod to one of my favorite film anti-heroes. So, now that you’ve raised – and reburied – the dead, have you been bitten (pun intended) by the horror bug? Any plans to wade into the blood and guts again and call action in the future?

SK: Ya know, funny thing is, I have never been a filmmaker. Hell, my whole life has been outdoors adventure and mind blowing productions based on real life, but it has been in the back of my mind since this shoot. “Hmmmm, a film short. Ya know, like twenty minutes of zombie stuff – hmmmm…” So yes, I have sort of been bitten by the bug. And trust me, I have a few ideas rolling around in my head right now.

Well, if the show is any indication of how much damage you can do, we can’t wait. Thanks for talking, Scot. And on behalf of gore merchants everywhere, welcome to the darkside. For the rest of ya, dig one of our several cool ZB trailers above. And if you miss the premiere, you can still catch the bloodshed through Halloween. Remember, trick-or-treaters: go hungry or go home. Those damn walkers were a nightmare at catering.

BC FURTNEY

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