got a chance to throw some questions to Fedor Steer, The Writer
/Director of Bff Zombie, A horror comedy film short. And also a
few questions towards our own Edwin Millheim who was Action and
Stunt/Fight Coordinator for the Film. Edwin also engineered a
couple of music pieces for the sound track.
are the bare bones you can tell us about “BFF Zombie” without
giving anything away?
FEDOR STEER: I
think “BFF Zombie” is what you would get when you take a bunch
of cute teenage girls and mix in some angst, jealousy, an
accidental death, and zombies. The main character, Skylar, is
bored living in rural Florida, so deciding who among her friends
should be her BFF is of major importance in the absence of
anything else to do. But the rivalry between her friends for
that status reaches from beyond the grave.
Sydney Rose Walker as "Heather" getting hit by a
sparked your imagination to come up with this story “BFF
FEDOR STEER: I
have a teenage daughter, also named Skylar, who lives in
Newfoundland, Canada. A few years ago, she complained about not
having anything to do in her desolate town of Stephenville. At
that time, I was acting as a zombie/demon in the upcoming
feature film “Sanctuary”, and she mentioned how she loved zombie
films. I suggested she grab a video camera and make her own
zombie film. Ugh, she didn’t know what to film. So I got on
Google Earth, zoomed in on Stephenville, and found a rusty swing
set on the beach, an old abandoned church in a field, and long
stretches of empty road. I got on Facebook and picked out some
names of Skylar’s best friends, and by the next morning I had a
little five-page script for her. Apparently she and her friends
did break out a camera one day but couldn’t stop giggling long
enough to actually put anything on film.
ANDREW: All the
actresses in the film seem to have a certain spark, and the
characters where believable. How long was the audition
process? Was it hard to find the right people for the parts?
Did you have a few that where close, and how did it come down to
who you chose? Give us a run down.
Writer Director Fedor Steer cameos in the film as
From my own acting experience, I have always been annoyed by the
last-minute nature of the auditioning process. I thought it
would be a great idea to give it a whole month. What a
mistake! It dragged on and on, and I had to filter through
hundreds of submissions. We held three days of auditions, plus
a few video submissions. But after all that, the final
decisions were (almost) pretty easy. Five girls stood out far
above the rest. Three of those were no-brainers. Alexa
Ditaranto, Julia Rosenberg, and Ella Wahlestedt simply blew us
away. They were all beautiful, talented, professional, and
The fourth was
tough. It came down to Sydney Rose Walker and one other girl.
Sydney is a natural physical actress with great comic timing.
But she was another blonde, and I was worried it might be too
confusing for the audience to distinguish between two blondes in
the limited time of a short film. The other girl was a gorgeous
red-head with an incredible look, so we gave her a shot. She
did well in the auditions, but in rehearsals she got a case of
the nerves and backed out. But now I can’t imagine anyone doing
a better job than Sydney as our zombie. She brought a giant
spark of life to our un-dead, even through all the makeup.
Alexa Ditaranto as "Skylar" and Ella Wahlestedt
as "Julie" paying respects to a deceased friend.
ANDREW: What, if
any, were the struggles involved in making an independent film
Just what every independent film struggles with… money. The
deal I have with my wife is that my passion for film-making has
to at least break even. If it’s loses money, I need to find
another hobby. I was able to raise some funds from family and
Kickstarter.com. Complete strangers contributed $20 or whatever
in return for their name in the credits and a copy of the DVD.
We also got a big boost when Jim Beck came on board. He’s a
producer out in LA who loved the concept of the film and wanted
to pitch in. Even so, we had to rely on the barter system a
fair bit. For example, Ben Struble joined “BFF Zombie” as our
cinematographer in exchange for my acting in his feature film
ANDREW: You had
people flock to this project to work with you. Why do you think
Early in preproduction, I realized I couldn’t make the film by
myself. Four teenage girls and one guy with a camera would be…
well… creepy. To bring in quality talent, I had to make it a
legitimate production with a full crew. I approached it as
though it were a feature film. I spent a lot of time planning
and organizing and building a detailed website. One of the
first things I did was make the movie poster. I used a
photograph from my daughter’s Facebook page; a picture she took
of herself in the mirror goofing around with a girlfriend (it’s
still the movie poster, in case you were trying to figure out
who it was). When I talked to people, I could then demonstrate
I knew what I was talking about, and I had something to show
them. Once I had a few key people on board, I was introduced to
others and the project built upon itself as they all made
ANDREW: Tell us
about the makeup effects. It was surprisingly elaborate for a
low-budget short film.
The Zombie played by Sydney Rose Walker pulling
Julia Rosenberg as "Allie" Through a car window
FEDOR STEER: I
had originally met Jessie Harris, our talented special-effects
makeup artist, on the set of “Sanctuary”. I knew she could do
quality work, and I wanted her in Naples for “BFF Zombie”.
Getting her here from Orlando ate up a large chunk of our
budget. It was worth it. What she created was unbelievable.
But she couldn’t stay for the last day. Fortunately, Joseph
Shaw (our Assistant Director and Production Designer) showed off
another one of his many talents and worked as her understudy.
He brought in Jason Vanderhoeven to help as well. All I can say
is that I’m glad it all worked outs so well.
interesting component to the makeup story. What Jessie created
was much more elaborate than what I envisioned. And much better
than what I envisioned. And much more time consuming than what
I envisioned. After all my careful planning, the two hours it
took to apply makeup each day blew apart my meticulous schedule,
particularly on the last day. We didn’t wrap until 4am and by
the time all the equipment was put away, the sun was up and the
zombies were back in school.
ANDREW: Tell us
about the music sound track; both the songs and the engineered
music score. The audience at the film’s premiere in the Fort
Myers Beach Film Festival seemed surprised at the high
production value of what was thought of as a local independent
"Julie" hears something in the dark
Really all I did was ask some of my talented musician friends if
they had any original songs they could contribute. I
specifically asked for quirky songs that would offset the
otherwise macabre nature of zombies. Lisette St. Louis from
Toronto and John Milosich from New York both came through.
Lisette was actually quite a celebrity when she lived in
Taiwan. She had a national television show and you’d see her
face plastered on the sides of buses. She now travels and
performs with a group known as “The Bettys”. John sang at our
wedding in Thailand. How cool is that? He sometimes plays with
his band “The JoshDrews” and is also a professional actor. He
is currently touring nationally with a stage production of
we discovered that Sydney’s dad is the agent for Miami musician
Sarah Packiam. He suggested a few songs from her CD and they
were a perfect fit. He was able to secure permission from
Sarah, her co-writers, and Sony Music so that we were able to
include them in “BFF Zombie”. You can find her music on iTunes
Sydney Rose Walker getting transformed into a
Zombie By Jessie Harris in the make up chair
And finally, in
post-production, we needed underlying tracks for the suspenseful
moments of the film… music that conveyed spookiness and all
things zombie-like. Edwin Millheim, our stunt-coordinator,
caught me completely off-guard when he revealed that he is not
just all brawn and martial arts, but also a music engineer with
his Meridian Designs Freelance Group. Within a few days he
created exactly what we needed, customized to fit the precise
timing of the scenes, frame by frame.
ANDREW: Tell us
about some of the action and stunts. Was there ever a time you
did not know if you could get something from page to performance
and onto the screen?
FEDOR STEER: I
had no idea how we were going to get some of the action onto the
screen. Again I drew from the talented people I met on
“Sanctuary” when I asked Edwin to join us. He is a
stunt-coordinator extraordinaire and knows all the tricks. We
had rehearsals weeks before we filmed and that allowed our
actresses to visualize what would happen on set. We rehearsed
more the day of the shoot, before wardrobe and makeup. And when
it came time to do it in front of the camera, it all went
smoothly and safely. I think some of the parents of the girls
were a little nervous, but they saw that Edwin knew what he was
talking about, that we were serious, and that we took
precautions to prevent accidents. But I also think the girls
had fun with the stunts and so a challenge we had was to hold
them back a bit so they wouldn’t hurt themselves.
Jessie Harris and Joseph Shaw working their
Makeup Magic on Sydney Rose Walker
zombie is not like the traditional zombies we have seen in other
films. This Zombie retains a lot of memories and human emotion,
mainly revenge and jealousy. Did you write it that way, or was
that something that came more to light in the excellent
performance by Sydney Rose Walker?
FEDOR STEER: I
wrote it that way, but it wasn’t my original intention. It was
supposed to simply be that the zombie comes back and kills a few
people, ha, ha. But the story evolved after a few rewrites.
The motivation of the characters became a more important element
and ultimately the source of humor in the film, especially at
the end. The relationship in the film, between the zombie and
Skylar came out beautifully in the performances of Sydney and
Alexa. Hope and despair, love and hate… it’s all there between
the blood splatters.
ANDREW: Will we
see more films from you? What's next for BFF Zombie? More film
fests? How can our readers get a copy of the film?
“BFF Zombie” will be going to more film festivals over the
coming year and you’ll find updates about that on our Facebook
page. But you can watch “BFF Zombie” right now by going to the
website at bffzombie.lifeplay.org. Watching it will cost you a
dollar, but that dollar (and any from the purchase of the DVD,
complete with hilarious outtakes) goes towards sending the film
to festivals and our next project. We’ve already started
preproduction on the feature film “LifePlay”. “Like” our
Facebook page and sometime in the near future we’ll post
information on how you can get your name in the closing credits
continues with Edwin Millheim now….Now far be it from us to not
ask Edwin a few questions, after all he is in our own back yard,
well sort of as the United States Editor for Impulse Gamer. He
is also an actor, and does fight stunts and action coordinating.
Edwin Millheim Stunt/action Coordinator walking
Sydney Rose Walker and Ella Wahlestedt through a stunt fight,
while Director Of Photography Ben Struble sets up for the camera
ANDREW: Tell us
about your latest project?
Well, I do acting and stage combat for live shows and when I can
film projects as well. We not long ago finished up BFF Zombie,
and it is now making the Film Festival rounds and press stuff.
At this time I am training several new actors for a live show
that will be in January 2013. It’s some sword swinging, along
with shield and spear fighting. So it’s been a heck of a ride so
far getting prepared. Some times when it’s complex you take a
long while to get it just right.
ANDREW: What are
some of the stunts that you have helped choreograph in this
Well for BFF Zombie, we had a tackle, along with someone getting
grabbed at the back of the head and being bashed into the ground
and then a car hit, and also being yanked out of a car. We also
had set up one where one actress would be stomping on another’s
legs, we designed it and used that in a long shot, for some
close up shot the Effects department made these really cool fake
legs so the actress could stomp on those for the close ups, with
the edits between the two shots it looks really painful.
Zombies… is it more difficult creating stunts with make-up?
Well once again the make up for the Zombie in this was
elaborate and durable. It was a long process to put on, but was
worth it in the end. Jessie Harris, Joseph Shaw and Jason
Vanderhoeven did some great make up on this movie. There where
pieces of prosthetics placed on so the actress was able to move
very well. It made working the stunts easier. I never had to
worry about anything coming apart in any of the more demanding
was the most difficult aspect of this project?
Holding the reins on the actresses. They really threw themselves
into everything. They are very enthusiastic actresses. You know
you do this for 20 + years and you know if you do not pull it
off just this certain way something can happen. So, you kind of
have the actors you’re working with hold back a little. But
being creative people and so devoted to the acting craft, when
the cameras start going they are in the moment. I noticed that
on the Sanctuary shoot as well. It’s like watching your kid ride
a bike for the first time. They are doing everything you told
them to, but you’re still mentally biting your nails. The
really serious actors that are into their craft, they are like
creative sponges. You work with them and they get it. The
choreography ends up being a dance of sorts and they get it.
Julia Rosenberg "Allie" about to get crushed.
ANDREW: What are
some of the dangers you encounter?
Well I have not worked with Pyrotechnics for a while. I once
had a small pyro charge rigged to my arm for a live show. It was
a small charge and you do all the precautions, it all worked out
of course, but you know I just hate working with fire. It’s
already potential for danger in everything you do for action and
stunt fights. As I always say, our job is to look dangerous not
be dangerous. Our place is to look over the choreography and
consider what can potentially happen and take steps that it does
not. No sense adding real danger. Have some safety built into
ANDREW: Tell us
about some of your injuries?
Oh boy, don’t jinx me. I have never gotten hurt doing this in
all this time. I had a couple of ouches. I did a fall and had a
tooth cap pop off. I hit the ground and felt it pop out and saw
it sailing through the air. During practice I once had my fight
partner’s sword point find a home in my thigh muscle. Since it
punched muscle it hurt so much I yelled out a few choice things,
just in the pain of the moment. We adjusted the move angles and
it did not happen again.
are some tips you would give independent film makers in terms of
First and foremost, no film is worth getting hurt over. If your
actors cannot do a certain thing, change it make it safer. Doing
film you have a lot more leeway because you can also do camera
angles to make something like a punch look closer than it
actually is. If you are writing something like a heavier stunt
or some action that involves weapons or firearms. Consider using
fake firearms and doing the effects in post-production. If you
are not used to or know how to do something like stunt fights,
make sure you get someone who knows how to do it, and rehearse ,
rehearse and rehearse some more. Slow motion at first, bring it
up to quarter once they have it, then performance speed. If you
are going to use blank firing weapons, I would strongly suggest
you have a qualified armorer on set. Every year in independent
and even student film there are injuries and deaths from use of
blank firing weapons.
there a place where people interested in stunts can go to learn?
Actually yes, I think places like Sydney Stage Combat School
comes to mind. Some folks there worked with and on some really
good choreography for things like Star Wars, Troy, and
Spartacus. They take safety and working that safety into even
the simplest movements very seriously and it shows. I’m big on
safety so I am a fan. Folks on the United States side can check
with folks from Society of American Fight Directors, or if you
see a live show and you really liked a performance, see if you
can catch the actor after the show and ask them about it. We
always love to pass on the knowledge. You can also find out
about the national stage combat workshops coming up here:
Alexa Ditaranto "Skylar" in shock
ANDREW: How did
you become involved in the stunt industry?
I have been practicing kungfu and teaching it as well for some
time. Two students at the time over 20 years ago, asked me to
choreograph something for them for an audition for a live action
stage combat show. I never did anything like it and I enjoyed
the challenge and the audience reactions too. I liked it, and I
was also asked to do the show. I got bit by the acting and
action bug and I have been doing it ever since. My daughter
Shael, grew up around this too. I remember distinctly my wife
bringing her to live shows and her sitting in her stroller close
to the front, explosions going off, swords swinging all around.
After this one show I come over to her just to see how she is
doing and I ask if she wants to come out there and swing swords
with Daddy one day. She nods her head enthusiastically and says
yes. Few years later she had her first action sequence. I think
she was like six or seven. She runs through a huge battle and
has one move. She walks over a character and the guy says “Hello
little girl” she turns and stomps on his stomach and runs
through the rest of the battle.
Edwin Millheim Stunt/action Coordinator Setting up the next part
of a stunt fight with Julia Rosenberg on the ground and Sydney Rose Walker in
full Zombie makeup. Joseph Shaw man of many hats on set looks on
ANDREW: What are
some of the pitfalls?
Not really a pit fall, but you have to know when to rest and
give your muscles time to recoup. Getting ready for this latest
show I have really been pushing it, not only am I doing two
fights, but I am training everyone else too….my muscles are
screaming at me. So you take a couple days of not doing
anything. You have to get some rest, if you over do that can be
The Audience is one thing. You see the smiles, and the reactions
of the crowd and you created a memory for them, you illicit an
emotional response. The other is as a kid you always wanted to
be the pirate, the daring sword fighter, or other action hero.
With this I get to be a part of it all the time.
Impulse Gamers. You can check out more on BFF Zombie here: