September 11, 2013

A Plague So Pleasant, Filmed in Athens, Wows Dragon Con Crowd

When three Athens residents set out to make their first feature-length indie movie, they dropped everything they were doing to make it happen.

After two years, with a budget of just $3,000, Benjamin Roberds, Jordan Reyes and Tylar Carver finished A Plague So Pleasant, a fresh take on the zombie apocalypse that was filmed in Athens over a two-year period. (It's streaming for free here.)

Flagpole caught up with the intrepid trio last weekend at the Dragon Con film festival.

The film takes place in a post-apocalyptic world where zombies and humans coexist peacefully. After the outbreak occurred, it is discovered that zombies only attack when provoked, so the government makes it a felony to shoot a zombie. (Sorry, Second Amendment advocates.)

Some of the zombies exist in quarantine zones, where their former loved ones can—and in the case of one main character, do—visit them. Beyond your typical zombie apocalypse themes, the film sends a deeper message on letting go of loved ones. 

A lot of the zombie action takes place all around downtown Athens and uses over 100 Athens residents who volunteered to play zombies. 

Roberds and Reyes have been making movies for quite some time, but they say this has been their greatest accomplishment so far.

"We've known each other since we were 11 years old," Roberds says. "We've been making movies since we met."

After saving up some money, both Roberds and Reyes quit their day jobs at the International House of Pancakes to embark on their passion project. 

Roberds says they were “unemployed for about six months” when they did the majority of the filming. They eventually started running on financial fumes and had to rejoin the ranks of the underemployed to finish up the remaining shoots, as well as the editing.

What really added an element of zombie realism to the film was enlisting the help of Carver as their makeup artist.

Carver, who was 17 at the time they began making the film, taught herself how to do zombie makeup through hours of instructional YouTube videos. Because the group was financially limited, she says she looked up the "cheapest things possible" with which to simulate rotting flesh.

Her fictitious skin must’ve felt at least somewhat real to the zombie volunteers, who constantly picked at it until it had to be reapplied. Carver says she’s grateful for the volunteers, but that reapplying the makeup multiple times became tedious.

In addition to the filming at the University of Georgia's dairy farm and downtown Athens, they used the house of a friend who didn't realize what an endeavor it would be. The team literally went through everything, including the kitchen sink, to make this movie.

"After a while he was like, 'OK, guys, I thought this was going to be like a two-week sort of thing, but it's been two years,'" says Reyes. "One time, we accidentally blew up his sink."

At the Dragon Con film festival, the movie didn't get the best time slot at 1 a.m. Sunday. However, that didn't stop about 50 or so zombie lovers from coming out to see A Plague So Pleasant—or giving a lively round of applause.

“We got a good applause at the end,” Roberds says. “It was a good showing. I’m happy about it.”

While just getting into the Dragon Con film festival can be a challenge, A Plague So Pleasant was also nominated for best feature film.

“We were one of three films nominated for best feature,” says Roberds. “We lost against a film with a $3 million budget.”

To be on the same playing field as a film that had a budget 1,000 times greater than yours is no easy feat, and that should tell you all you need to know about the quality of this film.

Overall, it's fair to say the movie is impressive, given its low budget. The crew showed resourcefulness in pulling it all together. If you've ever wondered what it would be like to see a zombie apocalypse in downtown Athens, check it out.