I recently had the rare experience of seeing an extremely rough first cut of a film – Sound Of Nothing, by director Chris Grega (Rhineland). Very few people get to see these rather private work-in-progress versions of feature films – but perhaps more satisfying is the fact that Grega’s new movie is a zombie flick.
I’ve known Chris Grega for over two decades, and I even toiled on a couple of student short films with him back in our high-school years. We were the lead actors in a student short that mutual friend Tommy Biondo (Scrapbook) directed. However, it wasn’t until Tom Biondo’s death in 1999 that I actually started having one-on-one conversations with Grega. In the years that followed, he became a personal friend, instead of just some dude Tom knew who was really into Kiss and Star Wars.
In the early 2000s, I worked as a special effects artist on a student feature film of Grega’s - mostly just to get to know him better and to show support. In the years that followed, Grega acted in a few features that I produced, and then he played a small role and worked in the art department on my film Deadwood Park (2007). After this, Grega wrote and directed Rhineland, released early last year. I played a supporting role in this movie.
Rhineland is a pretty remarkable achievement – it is set entirely during World War 2, features a large ensemble cast, and even includes impressive battle scenes. Grega and his team had to deal with tanks, jeeps, weapons, uniforms – while working with a total budget that probably equaled the on-set snacks budget for a week of shooting on Band Of Brothers. What Rhineland told me was that Grega was emerging as an impressive producer – a filmmaker who had learned how to milk the most from microscopic indie-film financing.
Grega’s next feature film was Game Of The Year, released late 2011. I didn’t work on this film except minimally in the very last stages of post-production. This well-executed comedy - about a group of nerdy gamers - was the stripped-down, character-driven antithesis of sprawling, production-value-packed Rhineland. While Rhineland sold Grega as a talented producer, Game Of The Year sold him as a writer-director who understood comedy.
As Game Of The Year was hitting the marketplace, Grega was already up to his ears in his next screenplay, Sound Of Nothing, a tale set in the post-apocalyptic landscape of the living dead. The movie was shot last fall and winter.
A week or so ago, Grega called me up, said he had a rough cut of the film, and wanted to show it to me to get my feedback. The two of us screened the movie at his home, and it was indeed very rough. No work had been done on the audio at all, no fine-cutting had been executed, there was temp music from other films layered in, and the cut I saw even contained shots and sequences that Grega plans to remove and reshoot this fall. Still, I could tell what he was going for - and I could see that visually, this film is a major step up from his previous efforts. I was also pleased to note that, while there is certainly some great gore-splattered zombie violence on screen, Grega’s film focuses primarily on story and character, not b-movie gore effects. I also was happy about the straight-faced tone of the picture. It is a zombie movie – not a parody of zombie movies.
I enjoy all kinds of movies, in many genres, from many eras. This includes the horror genre. Therefore it was especially interesting to see Grega sink his teeth into his first horror outing. There is a lot more work for Grega and his team to pour into Sound Of Nothing, so don’t expect to see this film rise from the grave anytime soon. In the meantime, you should check out Grega’s previous movies to see what one truly independent filmmaker is accomplishing way out there on the fringes of the industry… and if you’d like to keep an eye on Grega’s progress as he brings Sound Of Nothing to life, visit often his company website: 88mmfilms.com/
Thanks for reading.
- Eric Stanze