Q&A with Max Groah on “Bong of the Living Dead”

  • Photo by Meghan Ralston
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From the January 3, 2013 edition

Max Groah is bringing hoards of zombies to Columbus. Well, Groah isn’t doing all the work himself. He’s a member of local film company Backward Slate Productions, which will be filming a feature-length zombie movie this February, titled “Bong of the Living Dead.” You’d expect this to be a horror-comedy meets stoner movie, which is somewhat true, but Groah said the movie is harder to define.

Groah credited Backward Slate’s success to the group effort that goes into every project — whether it’s music videos for local bands, entries into the 48 Hour Film Project, a project he’s recently completed that has changed his lifestyle or the viral video Sad Kermit.

What I’m most proud of about this project is the script. You can write a movie that’s plot-based and shove some characters in there. Or you can write a script that’s character-based and put them in what’s a normal, standard plot. A zombie movie kind of has a certain format, so we throw in stoners. It’s a really strong character piece that people will identify with, not just for the love of zombies — everyone wants zombies to take over deep down — but also the likable characters.

It’s an unsaid thing in “Bong of the Living Dead” where pot actually slows the zombies down. They’re “28 Days Later,” “Return of the Living Dead” crazy zombies until they hit a cloud of weed. Then they turn into the lumbering, slow zombies. So the stoners have an easy time … until their supplies and pot start running out. Then the zombies start getting more intense. Their internal conflicts and struggles start rising to the surface; maybe as a result of their sobriety, maybe as a result of the zombies.

We had a great turnout for the auditions, about 20 online submissions and 130 people. We’re still in the casting process, but we sure as hell found a lot of zombies. We’re going to have hundreds of zombies.

At the heart of Backward Slate we’re storytellers and entertainers. We’ve always been the audience favorite, not the critic’s choice.

I just finished a feature-length documentary that I was the producer of, but really the subject of. My director of photography for “Bong of the Living Dead” is a vegan. I told him I think I need to go vegan for a week just to figure it out. It ended up being a month and he documented the entire month. I liked it and I didn’t go back. We called it “Out of My Vegan Mind.”

I didn’t even know who Sad Kermit was. My friend [and Backward Slate collaborator] Darell Day was just listening to the songs on repeat. Later, we were at a meeting with Dan Hagquist and Gretchen King [from Phantods] for the “Lone Highway” music video and randomly Sad Kermit came up. Dan said he was Sad Kermit. It blew our minds. It was so weird. We had to do a music video.