A zombie apocalypse threatens the sleepy town of Little Haven - at Christmas - forcing Anna and her friends to fight, slash and sing their way to survival, facing the undead in a desperate race to reach their loved ones. But they soon discover that no one is safe in this new world, and with civilization falling apart around them, the only people they can truly rely on are each other.
This quirky take to the zombie/musical genre was based on the 2010 BAFTA-nominated short. Mr. John McPhail( Where Do We Go From Here?, Up There) directed the feature while the late Mr. Ryan McHenry and Mr. Alan McDonald wrote the screenplay. So, please take this time to get know Mr. Alan McDonald, the superb co-screenwriter of Anna and the Apocalypse and his writing experience.
1. In one sentence could you say what Anna and the Apocalypse is all about?
It's about that moment growing up when suddenly all the things you thought would be around forever aren't there anymore - and who you become next.
2. What is the genesis of Anna and the Apocalypse?
Anna started as a short film devised by my friend and co-writer Ryan McHenry, who was watching High School Musical with his girlfriend and found himself wishing zombies would come in and eat everyone.
3. How was the short film of Anna and the Apocalypse noticed by BAFTA to get a nomination?
It received a BAFTA New Talent award and nominations after being submitted for consideration in the early years of feature development.
4. How long did it take you to write the first draft of Anna and the Apocalypse?
Ryan did the very first draft of the feature by himself, and it was mostly just a rough expansion of the short film. Together, we then wrote the first full draft, which took around 6-8 weeks. Both of us had day jobs at the time so we used to do ten pages and then send to the other guy for polishes. He would then do the subsequent ten and we'd repeat that until done!
5. On average, how many draft scripts do you find yourself writing until you are happy and satisfied with the final script to Anna and the Apocalypse?
Well, it wasn't just up to me! Ryan and I wrote around 3 or 4 drafts together, then after we sadly lost him I wrote around 4 or 5 solo. That doesn't include as least as many polishes or revision drafts based upon the notes of various involved parties. It takes many, many drafts of a script before you get to shoot. I'd estimate the shooting script was something around draft twenty.
6. What was your experience like working with Mr. John McPhail and the Apocalypse?
John was extremely supportive and generous all the way through the process. He was very keen to have me close throughout pre-production and again on set, and he brought a lot of really strong ideas about the heart of the story and the horror aspects we could emphasize. John is a real horror guy, whereas I'm more of teen movie and musical guy. It meshed well!
7. If you could describe Ryan McHenry using three words, it would be… and please discuss briefly how he influenced Anna and the Apocalypse in general?
Funny, loyal, talented
The entire concept was Ryan's. I brought my love of teen movies, Buffy and musicals in general to the mix. He was a huge Edgar Wright fan who was very keen to put his own stamp on the horror and cult British film landscape. We always wanted to make a film we would have loved to go see at the cinema, which also represented the way genre intersected with our own lives in Scotland. The idea was we would make Hollywood-style stories in our own voice. So Ryan is still in the DNA of the final film, even though he sadly didn't get to make it himself, because that intention is still clear within the final movie.
8. Could you give a fun fact about Ella Hunt and Malcolm Cumming?
Ella did a funny impression of Thor for a little in-character Avengers parody we shot, and the way she groaned while lifting the hammer still makes me laugh to this day. It was fabulously odd.
Malcolm was still at drama school when he auditioned for the film and was wearing a Ghostbusters sweater in his audition video that immediately made him look like the character. It was surprisingly hard to find someone who could wear that ridiculous jumper and still be sweet!
9. What do you want viewers to remember about Anna and the Apocalypse?
That it made them laugh and cry. That's all we ever wanted.
10. What’s your favorite song to sing in Karaoke? Why?
Losing My Religion by REM. I'm a huge REM fan and the song is perfect within my very limited singing range!
11. What is the scariest thing you have ever done for fun?
I hiked up a mountain in the dark for New Year's Day back when I lived in South Korea, shortly after University. No safety rails, ice everywhere and we could barely see a thing. But the view when the sun came up on January 1st was amazing.
12. What was the last story (fiction or non-fiction) you read?
Children of Time by Adrian Tchaikovsky. An ASTONISHING sci-fi novel about evolution and the things we consider to be human.
13. Which screenwriter or film influenced Anna and the Apocalypse?
There's a fair bit of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Shaun of the Dead in there.
14. What was the most important lesson you had to learn that has had a positive effect on Anna and the Apocalypse? How did that lesson happen?
Not to be afraid of a bit of hope and heart, even in the darkness. That what's makes a story resonate. And, sadly, I had to learn it after I lost Ryan to cancer and was left writing the script alone. It took a little while to find the heart again - and that was with the help of our producers, Naysun Alae-Carew and Nic Crum, and Script Executive, Gillian Christie. They really supported me through a very difficult process.
15. How do Anna and the Apocalypse primarily differentiate or distinguish itself from other zombie or musical movies?
It's Christmas! Actually, we tried very hard to hit the main beats of both genres. Sometimes that opens us up to accusations that we maybe played it too safe and did too many things you might expect, but it's hard to meet the requirements of three different genres (zombie, musical, coming-of-age) and still throw in a curveball that doesn't bring the whole thing down. I think the characters we kill and when we kill them still takes people by surprise, which is nice. It's darker than many musicals and more hopeful than many horrors, as well.
16. Is there any chance for a sequel or spin-off to Anna and the Apocalypse?
Nothing to announce but never say never! We're all very fond of those characters and that story.
17. Last question, if you are to dance to three songs to survive a zombie apocalypse which ones would you choose?
Oh dear. I think my wife would just choose not to survive rather than rely upon my dance skills!
Many thanks to Mr. Alan McDonald for answering my questions. You should definitely check out Anna and the Apocalypse. You won't be disappointed. Anna and the Apocalypse, the unique-take to the zombie/musical genre, is now available on amazon, YouTube, vudu, and google play.