Ombis (2013): Interview With Director Adam Steigert
Currently filming near the CBN offices is the epic sci-fi horror thriller, Ombis, from director Adam Steigert and Deftone Productions Studios.
Steigert just wrapped another all day and night shoot this past Saturday, which saw even more slime monsters, carnage and mayhem construed on the streets of Angola, NY.
The 25-year-old from Hamburg, NY is currently working on his fourth film with Ombis, and this promises to be his best one yet.
Ombis sees a nasty alien virus invade the small town of Metzburgh spreading its deadly plague everywhere, with the Nemesis alien in hot pursuit. Nemesis, whose only goal is to eradicate the Ombis virus, will use any means necessary to destroy his enemy — with the citizens of Metsburgh caught in the middle!
Cosmic Book News EIC Matt McGloin caught up with Adam Steigert to discuss the movie as well as the director's approach to filmmaking and more.
Cosmic Book News: Adam, can you give us a bit of background on yourself and how you came into filmmaking?
I have always wanted to entertain people. That’s been one of the main aspirations in my life. In 2003, I asked my grandparents to buy a Hi-8 camera for me for Christmas and it was all over from there: I was in love with filmmaking. With any movie I make, I try to bring as many people together as I can. Not only am I trying to make a film that people want to watch, but I also really enjoy uniting communities in an attempt to make something that we all can be remembered for. I think that film is a great uniting experience for people.
During high school, I wrote and produced a lot of short films. I was just playing around with different genres, learning to use the equipment and getting a sense of what my style was, what kind of a vision I had with film. When I was looking to go to college, I did a lot of research on a film academy in New York City I wanted to attend. However, I was young and stupid. I fell for a girl and wanted to stay in the area for her, and on top of that, I was always told by family members there was “No future in film.” Go figure that five years later I own and run one of the biggest independent films studios in Buffalo. There can be a lot said for the big fish in a small pond theory. Maybe it worked out for the best that I stayed here. Western New York has a lot to offer aspiring filmmakers from unique locations to the great local talent pool.
Cosmic Book News: You have stated that legendary horror director George Romero and his films are a big influence on you. What about Romero drew you in?
I feel so clichÃ© when I say George Romero inspired me to make films when so many other people have been inspired by him. I can say the typical comment people say when asked about Romero: the subliminal messages he puts in his films really hits home. But I like to take it a step further and say that I really enjoy how he was able to inflict fear into a viewer in his early work. I strive to create the same impact that Night of the Living Dead had on me when I was a young boy: total terror. As I grew up, I focused much of my writings on zombies since that genre of film was something that I really enjoyed and watched a lot of. Someone close to me once said, “Write what you know,” and for many years watching zombie flicks and writing a lot of scripts about zombies, I started to know a lot of the mythology behind them. The respect that I had for the mythology made me want to create my own ultimate zombie film. For years, I studied a lot of Romero’s films. Not only the “Dead” series that he is most famous for but also his other films such as The Crazies, Martin and Creepshow.
Cosmic Book News: Can you talk about your process of creating a film?
Normally when I try and figure out what our next film is going to be, I write a couple of stories. Someone once called me an “Epic Director” because all the stories I write are so huge in scale. When you look at what a budget is for an independent film, I seem to turn heads a lot because I am writing and directing stories that normally would not be able to be done on such a small budget. So I start out by writing these stories which I then turn into screenplays. What seems to happen a lot to me is that I write a screenplay, and when it is finished, I will scrap it and go on to different one. It’s a funny fact about me that this happens and my production manager Eric Haaf always seems to say, “I’ll never take you serious on our next film until I am given a working schedule.” That’s how Ombis came along.
Originally I was writing a werewolf film, and then I put that aside and did a complete 180 and now I’m doing an alien film. But when I finally pick which film we are going to do, I send the story out to an editor and then it travels to a few writers I have worked with over the years who add more to the story. It goes back and forth like that for awhile until everyone is satisfied with the story. And then when the screenplay goes into production, there are always little things that end up getting changed. In Ombis, it was originally supposed to be a steel plant that closed all those years ago that sent the town of Metzburgh into a tailspin. Because we were able to get the grain mills in the City of Buffalo for use as a location, that aspect of the script had to be changed at the last minute from steel mills to grain mills. Also some of the language had to be toned down from the original script because we decided that we are going for a PG-13 feel with Ombis, and you can’t drop a bunch of F-bombs in that kind of a movie.
Cosmic Book News: Where did the idea originate for Ombis? And what exactly is an "Ombis?"
Ombis is my fourth feature film and the first one directed solely by myself. The idea originated from the great alien invasion films of the 1950’s. One of the films that stood out from that era was “The Blob.” For obvious reasons, I was not able to get the rights to “The Blob” in order to produce a straight up re-make (or re-imagining as it now seems to be called), so I wanted to find a way to have my own take on the alien-invasion genre. I wanted to blend a science fiction film and a horror film together with some slime thrown in for good measure.
The Ombis itself is a bacteria that is a bio-weapon from an alien world which, for reasons unknown, crash lands in this quiet village called Metzburgh. The Ombis goes thru several stages throughout the film. Stage one is a gas which infects the body mutating the DNA code of a human and creating a green slime-like substance that coats the body. Stage two is Ombis breaking down a human body. Stage three is the Ombis slime completely consuming the body, and stage four is the Ombis replicating the human form and reanimating.
Cosmic Book News: What can we expect to see in the film, where are you in production and when is it going to be released?
What the viewer can expect is a really cool alien film with a strong storyline which will make you fall in love with the characters created. I promise the viewers will be amazed by the locations that we were able to film at and the scale of the production. You won’t see what we are doing in Ombis in many other independent films, especially locally. We are on the final eight shooting dates of the production. Our local release for the film will tentatively be in October of 2013. We plan to finish editing the film by January of 2013, and then try to find the right distribution deal before our local release. With pre-production taken into account, we have already put in over a years worth of work on Ombis. It seems like a long time to before the film is released but I assure you it will be worth the wait.
Ombis is a huge film with hundreds of extras, around forty people on crew and approximately thirty-two principal characters. My skills have changed dramatically on Ombis since I use to direct all my features with a co-director, and I have had to make the change to being the only one in the driver’s seat as it were. Ombis is the first solo directorial gig I have done and literally I am working on it every single day. Even when we are not shooting, there are everyday issues which I have to address and that can really wear a person down. I have a lot of great crew members that have taken a lot of the stress off of me. But, at the end of the day, I still have to be the guy that makes the final decisions on just about everything.
So I have learned better time management skills and how to keep about a dozen balls in the air at the same time. This is the largest film in the company’s history, and we are using a lot of unique locations, and I have had to adjust my directing style to those locations. We are also using different shooting techniques than we have used in the past such as using a lift that can raise the camera 30 feet in the air. Having the camera that high makes it interesting getting some of the shots since the angle is something that is not used every day and you have to think in a different manner when setting up the scene.
Cosmic Book News: Your movies consist of these large scale casts of extras, with literally hundreds and hundreds showing up to take part. The main streets of various towns are even shut down for production. Can you tell us about your production staff and filming in Angola, NY?
Angola is an amazing village with the ideal look to what the character of Metzburgh (fictional village) has. We used Angola to shoot the biggest scene in The Final Night and Day and a ton of people showed up to be extras so it was a no brainer to go back there. It would be impossible to manage as many extras as we had as well as choreograph and direct a scene by myself. When we shut down the village of Angola this time, I had five assistant directors who all had their own assistants in order to manage the extras. That was the idea I came up with to try and keep everything organized. My production manager kept me in shape to be on time with the slated wrap time for the night. Everyone on my staff brings something unique to the table and I could not make this film without every one of them. I have worked with some of them on my previous features, but others are first-timers with DefTone. It took five years of making films to find the best crew but it was worth the time spent because it shows on set. A little known fact is that one of the main reasons that we made the Black Guy on a Rampage series was to see how well the new crew worked together in preparation for Ombis.
Cosmic Book News: We see there are some great cameo appearances by the likes of Tim Shaw and the recently announced scream queen, Lynn Lowry. Can you tell us what you have in store for them?
Without giving too much away, I’ll touch briefly on this. Tim Shaw’s cameo is very small but for the people that know him, it will get a good laugh. Lynn Lowry’s scene, however, is very important to the ending of the film. It’s a small cameo but people will really enjoy her scene before the credits roll! Let me tease you even more by saying some more cameos from other cult actors may be showing up in Ombis.
Cosmic Book News: Regarding the cast, Richard Satterwhite is the lead as Sheriff Thomas Bracket. Previously, you wrote a specific role for him in your epic zombie flick, The Final Night and Day. What can you tell us about bringing Satterwhite onboard for Ombis?
The Final Night and Day in my mind was a good attempt to make a good zombie film based on a lot of the iconic books and films currently out there. Richard Satterwhite’s character in Final Night and Day was my favorite because he was the only guy in the film that held everything together. [Spoiler Alert] Richard’s character meets his demise and then the film is left open to a new storyline of “who will be in charge?” Richard brought so much to the film that I wasn’t able to explore in Final Night and Day since he was killed off so soon in that film.
After FND came out, I stepped back and thought maybe with his strength as an actor he could play a lead character in my next film. That’s the good thing about Richard: he really thinks as the character would in the story. If something in the script is not working and doesn’t feel organic and natural, Richard turns to me to say “Uh no. Let’s do it this way...” He is a well seasoned actor with the ability to create a strong performance. Richard Satterwhite plays Sherriff Thomas Brackett in Ombis and takes you on a journey that has such emotion and character that you will be able to see a huge difference from Richard Satterwhite in The Final Night and Day and what he does in Ombis.
Cosmic Book News: Speaking of the cast, which is derived from a pool of local talent, who would you say are the stand outs/stars?
There are a lot of great actors/ actress and it’s hard to point a finger on who stands out the most. For me, one of the people that have turned my head the most is the child actress Aryn Fitzgerald who plays the role of Haley in the film. She is thirteen with tons of personality. There is a scene in Ombis (which has become my favorite) that features Haley and Sheriff Bracket. The chemistry between the two is outstanding. They both play off one another with emotions that make it a memorial moment in the film. Let me add that the viewers will also get a good laugh out of that conversation.
Cosmic Book News: And we can expect the first trailer for Ombis soon as well?
End of July (2012). I have started working on it. With production being so close to being done, it has been difficult to find time to work on it but I guarantee it will be different then the normal trailers our studio has put out in the previous years.
Cosmic Book News: Seeing how you are becoming the more experienced director, can you offer any advice to up and coming filmmakers?
I would say directing a film isn’t as easy as you may think. The bigger the production, the more prepared you have to be. If you are writing and directing, write what you know, and write for the locations you know you’ll be able to get. Always write some kind of contract for the location, extras, cast, and crew. Surround yourself with good people that you can trust because you will not be able to do everything yourself.
Cosmic Book News: What's next after Ombis?
DefTone was hired to do a small project in September 2012 called “Release the Soul” which was written by Jason John Beebe (who plays the Mark, one of the leads in Ombis). I also will start preparing for my next feature which will be the werewolf script I began last year. In addition, I would like to re-explore the Black Guy on a Rampage series for a possible sequel which will help improve my skills more.
Cosmic Book News: Anything else you would like to add?
Because I have done so many zombies in my time I want everyone to just make sure you understand when you see Ombis you are not getting another zombie film. Like we say on set: Mutants, not Zombies!
Cosmic Book News: Sounds great! Thanks for your time, Adam.