This weekend I got to see the preview of “Warm Bodies” at one of the Award Preview Screenings held at the Directors Guild of America. It’s partly a family perk having a husband who works in the Film Industry, and partly his duty to review the technical content of all films gaining theatrical release. Warm Bodies is a novel by author Isaac Marion. The book was described as a “zombie romance” by the Seattle Post Intelligencer.
Now we often receive preview screeners from the studios for all of the major releases, but not so much for those films that are low budget straight to distribution.
Why the DGA Protects the Art of Film
You see, each of the Guilds of America protect the art they’ve so keenly developed and challenged over decades. Whether it’s acting, screenwriting, directing or producing, the guilds are a Unionised way of looking after the film arts. Films that achieve the budget to go to theatrical release will end up being reviewed by the committee of members. For those films that don’t get the print and advertising budget (P&A) to get a major theatrical release, the studios have deemed that the box office attraction will unlikely reap back the costs of P&A.
So the studios submit to the Guilds all the films that they want considered for awards. A film that is deemed of low market value to reap back box office costs, may be technically brilliant, but a good story or picture is not enough in itself to win awards.
Why Horror Rarely Wins Awards
Rarely then, do I get to see a preview screener of a horror film. Usually they are straight to distribution release. Often they fall in the low budget category, and because minimum investment has been made on the production value, it stands to reason that there is less technical style and skill involved to determine the attention of Guild Nominations.
Being a horror fan I leapt at the chance to see Warm Bodies. A horror film preview screener? Wow, that’s not been common lately. No doubt Guillermo del Torro’s latest release MaMa will also get the privalidge.
Down to the Review
At first I thought they were going to take the direction that ‘R’ the zombie character whose story we are listening to; was going to be the only zombie affected by an unusual change. I was pleasantly surprised at the U-turn the story took.
And it played cleverly on so many levels. This a film was technically good on many levels, the acting, camera work, lighting, script, etc, and it was an actual relief from most horror films where I put up with disconcerting camera movements and crappy scripts just because of the need for a horror flick.
Corporate Oligarch We Live In
The reason why it was clever: It was communicating about many things, not just the idea of a ‘cure’ but that in a corporate sense we are ignorant of many things. We alienate things outside our oligarch. We victimize ourselves in order to define the protection we need from the outside world.
Here, in this film, I could see takes related to xenophobic racism being cured by education. They cleverly chose to avoid the topic of religion and not bring that into it at all. Aspects of religion would have made the film less impactful. I actually felt choked most of the way through rooting for the struggling zomby – relating to what many people can personally overcome. These points would have been belittled with any introduction of religious symbolism.
A Fight For Tolerance
Of course you can say that organized religion, in the church or whatever your belief system could have been another parallel in the story. But the film was not seeking to find fault with beliefs systems, more so the notion that we can be cured by education and tolerance. Which is the philosophy behind many religions anyway.
There were beautiful points in the film of walls crumbling, not only was this symbolic, but a stark reminder that walls in our society still exist today.
I hope this film does get some awards for it’s combination of clever scripting, deeper than the usual horror story. This is the kind of storytelling that the Film Guilds of America strive to preserve.
@JulianaReedLA on Twitter is actively involved in script development and assisting those with screenplays ready to commit to film with introductions to accredited colleagues in the film industry. If you are looking for guidance, and new to filmmaking, please reach out to her on Google Plus where she’ll be happy to help.