Patterson digs deep to uncover inner zombie in film

By Christina Burke
Features Editor

In March of 2011, Coppell High School history teacher Andrew Patterson developed the idea of writing and producing a zombie movie. Fast forward to today, and the film is in its post-production stage, nearly ready for the world to see.

“I was driving to work a couple years ago, and it just kind of jumped in [my head] like ‘bam’- zombie film,” Patterson said.

Everybody has their crazy ideas, but taking them to the next level and actually accomplishing something unique requires a whole lot of ambition. For Patterson, a childhood fantasy turned into a reality.

Patterson has managed to turn his idea of a zombie film into a full on production titled Let There be Zombies, which is set to be released to nationwide film festivals in early 2013.

“I’m not hugely into zombies or anything, but they are cool,” Patterson said. “I thought a lot of people would want to get involved, help out and dress up like zombies, so it would be a fun project, but at the same time, we could utilize everybody and take it to a level that is a serious, low-budget professional film.”

The 10-year-old boy who made a G.I. Joe movie with his neighborhood friends came alive inside of Patterson as he began to develop plans to turn his idea of a zombie film into a reality.

According to Patterson, beginning to write and plan the story line while trying to make it both funny and interesting was one of the most challenging parts of the production. Oddly enough, the story line ended up being drawn from teaching experience at CHS.

“The main character is a wimpy teacher who can’t even control her own students in the classroom,” Patterson said. “We get to know this teacher there; we know that she is wimpy, and then the zombie apocalypse happens, and she needs to learn how to become a leader in the zombie apocalypse.”

Through the contact of friends and a series of casting calls, the cast and crew for the production were gathered hoping for the best turn out possible. The filming location was chosen as an open area in Denton with large barns and an abundance of land. However, the production was put on hold with budget troubles. After fretting that his production might go down the drain, Patterson got a call that saved the whole production.

“Out of the blue, this guy named Dallas calls me, and he happens to be the director of a semi-pro marching drum and bugle corps,” Patterson said. “He offered for his band to be zombies in the film in return for help next year making a video for their production. After rounding up about 50 zombies, the numbers grew to about 150.”

This boost in numbers put the film back in full production, and for the first time, Patterson began to realize the potential of this project. With determination, he began reaching out to friends, fellow teachers and students to fill the roles of many different parts in order to accomplish something bigger than the original idea. In some cases, those who got involved were benefitted in more ways than just helping Patterson’s vision.

History teacher Brian Rohloff and Patterson have known each other since their very own days of high school at CHS. Rohloff, who had a previous career as a musician, was asked by Patterson to create the music for the movie.

“I am doing the score for the film; composing all of the ambient soundscapes behind the scenes and any other music that is involved with the movie,” Rohloff said. “I am looking at some of the scenes and trying to decide what music fits where.”

The opportunity to create the audio tracks for a movie is not an opportunity that comes around very often. Patterson’s movie gave Rohloff the chance to further explore his musical talents in new ways that he has only dreamed about.

“This is something that ever since I quit performing music that I have always wanted to do. I never saw myself getting on stage again, as much fun as it was, and as many awesome experiences as I had,” Rohloff said. “I am more interested in the behind the scenes type stuff and doing more composition things with film, TV and commercials and things like that; that is what I really want to get involved with. This has been an opportunity for me to get my feet wet and try to learn how to do it, and it has been amazing.”

Even some lucky students were presented the opportunity to help Patterson accomplish this production. Junior Scottie Sheridan, a former student of Patterson, served by committing to a role as a zombie prom queen.

“It was such a great experience, and I met a lot of great people and friends through it,” Sheridan said. “Since there were teachers and students from Coppell there, it was really easy to get comfortable with the group, and we really bonded. I would encourage students to be apart of any opportunity like this [in the future]; I had so much fun being a part of it.”

For a production that began as a short film, Let There be Zombies has come a long way from its original plans, bringing many people together and helping many near accomplish impossible goals along the way.

“I’m pretty psyched about a lot of the different things I have gotten to do in my life, but this was one of the top for sure,” Patterson said. “It became such a big production that it was stressful because I wanted to do a good job. I had never been so stressed in my life, but I had never been having so much fun in my life. It was a life goal, and we shared it together; it was people reaching for something.”