It’s alive!: ‘Zombie Western’ filmmakers show N.C. is still attractive to auteurs, but some say it’s an uphill battle to earn a living making movies in the state
By Sam Boykin Light was fading fast and Ryan Gary had a big problem. He needed more zombies. The 15 or so he had, dressed in dirty tatters with dead, gray skin and gaping wounds, were all well and good, but he needed more lumbering undead to really give the scene the right jolt of horror. Lucky for Gary, he was able to recruit some of the locals to fill in as zombie extras, and cameras rolled as a mob of flesh-eating monsters attacked the gun-toting hero. It was all just another day at the office for Gary, the 23-year-old writer and director of “Hell’s Crossing,” a “zombie Western” produced by a group of Charlotte filmmakers. “Hell’s Crossing,” which premiers in Charlotte Aug. 12, is Gary’s directorial debut, but he’s hoping it will be the first of many as he tries to break into the movie business. And he has no plans to move to Hollywood or New York to make his mark, but instead wants to stay in Charlotte. But some folks, including several longtime Charlotte filmmakers, warn that’s easier said than done. While Charlotte has a long history of film and TV production, many complain that the city doesn’t do enough to support local talent, focusing instead on big-budget production companies that blow into town for a few months and then jet back to Los Angeles or New York. And the reality is that Charlotteans clamoring to be in show business often have to work other jobs to make ends meet. Still, that still doesn’t stop young upstarts like Gary from giving it a shot.