Hilton Ariel Ruiz – Zombie With a Shotgun
By: Ruth Hill
First of all, let it be known that I am not typically a “zombie” person. That’s right. I do not watch that genre. In fact, I tend to avoid it. So why on earth would I be promoting a project about zombies? Well, as with everything, I approach the arts with an open mind and because of my zeal for promoting indie films I noticed this project called “Zombie With a Shotgun.” As I investigated this project in greater detail, I discovered that this was not a customary zombie film. So, now I was intrigued. And once I made the decision to support this film, I became quite interested in the person behind this entire project–Hilton Ariel Ruiz. I was elated that he set aside some moments recently to chat with me about his singular project.
What inspired you to get involved with the entertainment industry as a profession?
When I was growing up in the 1980’s, we were like the “Brady Bunch” family with six kids and I was the youngest. One of my favorite things was going to the movies every weekend. When I was around thirteen or fourteen years old, I got my first camcorder and I loved using it to make videos. In high school, I had the opportunity to take a film and cinema studies class, but I wasn’t sure I really wanted to take that course. I had such a great teacher though who just made everything come alive and I was shown a different side of filming. I knew then that this was what I wanted to do. In college, I took Photography and that teacher was another one who really inspired us and gave us lots of opportunities to explore. I really owe a lot to the teachers who have given so much of themselves and truly instilled in me their love of filming, photography and more.
So how did the idea of “Zombie With a Shotgun” come about? What was your inspiration?
I really liked the idea of zombies. It is kind of catchy and quirky. Add the shotgun part, which people often stop and wonder “What is that?” or “What is it about?” There are so many zombie films and shows out there, but the problem is that they are basically the same. It’s always about the end of the world, zombies fighting the humans and the stories get boring really fast. I wanted to do something different.
“Zombie With a Shotgun” is my own interpretation of zombies, a different take on them. One of our catch phrases is “Zombies are humans, too.” In this case, the main character, Aaron, has a disease that may or may not turn him into a zombie. But he’s a human. And he is struggling with a disease that may take over his body or claim his life. And I think we all can relate. We have loved ones who are sick and all too often, we’re helpless. We can’t stop the illness from taking over. This film is going to touch all areas and show how strong love is. In fact, it is a love story–something very rare or nonexistent when it comes to zombies. In the case of Aaron, he is a human affected by the zombie virus. So, he has human intelligence–again something zombie films don’t really ever show.
This idea began with a web series and it became very popular. Not only did it feature good-looking people, but the storyline was different from the other zombie stories. As our fan base grew (we only did five episodes), people became quite interested in this whole idea. Since we wanted to keep the momentum going, we decided to consider various possibilities. We are turning this series into a graphic novel. I found a great artist, Simone Guglielmini, who draws the popular Near Death comics and he and I had the same ideas when it came to drawing the characters. It was like this was the perfect marriage of talent and vision that we needed. The graphic novel should be out later this summer. This project has been something I have worked on for four years, but it is a passion of mine. It’s not about the dollar signs–it’s about the art.
Why have you chosen to go the route of crowdfunding? What are the good parts? The bad parts?
Our fans were really pushing for a feature film, as they wanted to know the rest of the story. Because we feel so passionate about this project, Kickstarter was the way to go. We (everyone involved in the project) want to be our own boss and not have someone else tell us what we have to change or to do it their way. In the beginning, it was a little difficult to get our ideas going, but once we had the artwork it quickly helped us go in the right direction.
Honestly, the bad part of crowdfunding is that just because you have fans, doesn’t mean that everyone will agree to support your project. And you have to promote like crazy. I have been blessed enough to get plenty of notice by the press. Promotion is key.
I happened to find you as a result of actor Kyle Hester and since he is a part of this work, how did you connect with him?
When I was thinking about Kickstarter, I really wasn’t sure I wanted to go that way. I had been considering all my options. And then I happened to “meet” Kyle and he has such a big voice on social media and in the industry–he is amazing. He had already successfully crowdfunded a project in The Chair and he seemed to know what he was doing. We connected on Twitter and chatted and we just clicked. I got the feeling that this was a guy I could roll with. I was very serious about it. I felt that if I were going to succeed or fail, Kyle was the guy to do it with. And Kyle thought we could do it, too. So Kyle came on board, not only as a producer, but he is playing one of the roles (Sheriff Hank Ray), too.
What else can you tell us about the eventual production of the film?
Our Kickstarter campaign is currently going on and we have until May 27 to raise $50,000 or we get nothing. That is the way these campaigns work–all or nothing. We are off to a good start and this project really is catching fire on social media. We have some amazing perks, including one where people who have always wanted to be a zombie in a film can get their opportunity to do just that.
Should we be fully funded, we are wasting no time. In the beginning, I wanted to make the film in New York, since that is my home, but after talking with Kyle it makes more sense to film it in L.A. So, we plan to start shooting in the middle of summer and be done by the end of the summer. Our expected release date is in 2017.
After chatting with Hilton, I have to say that I was thoroughly impressed with his pragmatic, humble approach to everything concerning his current project, as well as his role in the entertainment community as a whole. He is extremely enthusiastic about getting the word out about his project. Hilton is a warm, friendly, tranquil sort of guy, but within him thrives a soul that will do whatever is necessary to see his genuine vision realized. When you give towards his project (and yes, I already have given), you are assured that your funds will be used appropriately and you can get some awe-inspiring perks along the way. Be sure to check out all the links below and do whatever you can to help this monumental film be made. The culmination is guaranteed to be something that even non-zombie fans (like me) will relish!
Main Kickstarter link: