Filmmaker Profile: L.E. Salas (Director – ‘DEAD MAN WORKING’) – QUEENS WORLD FILM FESTIVAL

In the near future, the recently deceased are mysteriously rising from their graves.  An emerging group of the living dead have people down-right scared.. of losing their jobs. These fresh (and sometimes not so fresh) corpses are not here to eat the living; they have retained their memory of work and need to feed their hunger. With the recent economic crisis and other issues that dominate the news and popular zeitgeist, a new and inexpensive work force has evolved.

They do not need bathroom breaks.
They do not need healthcare.
They do not need food.

DEAD MAN WORKING‘ is a satirical look at the current socio-economic conditions in the United States, where health care, immigration reform and economic policy seem to represent the idea of social Darwinism more so than ever before; from White collar to blue, our workforce has always been represented by the cheapest, most efficient of society.  With the economy already being what it is, imagine its condition if zombies managed to interject themselves into the (already fierce) competition.

We talked to director L.S. Salas about his influences behind the film, the appeal of the undead and wearing the many hats associated with modern indepedendent filmmaking.  ‘Dead Man Working‘ plays in New York City at the 3rd Annual Queens World Film Festival on Friday, March 8, 2013.

Your film ‘Dead Man Working’ reads as a contemporary take on the zombie genre infused with relevant current socio-economic themes.  From where did you draw influence for the film?
My influence for Dead Man Working really did come from two very different sources; one is George A. Romero and the other was Bruce Labruce.  Romero is a genius.  With his on-going “Living Dead” movie anthology, which he’s been working on since the 1960’s, Romero deliberately but at the same time nonchalantly presents the social zeitgeist of dissenting voices.

Bruce Labruce sexualized the living dead in his 2010 independent film L.A. Zombie, about a gay zombie who has f*cks the dead back to life.  I was lucky enough to be on set and it really blew my mind.  I thought, what’s next?  Then it occurred to me how scary it would be if the dead came back to life and were re-integrating themselves into the workforce.   It’s thought provoking and would eventually get political.  So, once I solidified the thought I decided to work on a project about our current economic situation and veiled it under a “B-film.”

The zombies depicted in the film seem to be interchangeable with the roles of many young graduates in the real world.  Is there a specific message you are aiming for with this correlation?
Well, the film is allegorical docufiction.  I wanted the slow-walking zombies to represent a stagnant economy, similar to the one we’ve experienced, I’d say since I graduated college in the early 2000’s.   With that in mind, the zombies represent failed and/or dead economic policies that continue to affect a majority of the U.S. population; young graduates absolutely, but also blue-collar workers and the middle class.

You describe yourself as a “zombie connoisseur”.  What is it about the genre that appeals to you?
I think before I made the film I was a zombie fan.  Now, after all the research into the genre and the countless number of films watched, I do consider myself a zombie connoisseur.  I mean nowhere near the die-hard fans, but enough to defend myself in conversation.  What appeals to me about the genre is that the idea of a zombie is so vast.  They are no longer considered human.  They are empty, leaving them open to interpretation.  Depending on the person writing or directing the film they can be absolutely scary, funny, smart and now even sexual.

Acting as Writer, Director, Editor and Co-Producer on ‘Dead Man Working’, how did you find the balancing act of the different roles?  Which aspect of making this film did you find the most difficult?
Well, I knew I was going to write and direct the film so I was prepared for that and Co-producing always seems to fall into one of the hats I’ll be wearing on one of my productions.  What I wasn’t prepared for was editing the film.  I had an editor lined up for film and when it came time to finish the film, he was no longer in the picture.  Dead Man Working was really an experiment on working and collaborating with new people.  Coming from a very hands-on, get it done mentality, I think the biggest challenge for me was being comfortable with knowing that all the stress of the different stages of production weren’t all falling on one person, especially for a bigger production than my last.

Can you explain a little about your strategy behind marketing the film going forward?  What is your strategy is building the biggest audience for ‘Dead Man Working’?
When I began the project I had a straightforward documentary in mind cut together with a fictional story.  While was working on the script I realized a couple of things.  I decided that I would get my expert interviewees a list of questions about the zombie genre and also supply a hypothetical set of “what if” questions.  By the time I was done with production, I had enough material to make Dead Man Working a topical docufiction, but also a short film that consisted of just the story that is weaved into Dead Man Working, then a straight documentary consisting of the questions I present the interviewees about the zombie genre.   I now have three different projects that I can enter into film festivals and eventually put on one DVD and stream online.

My main focus right now is entering the film(s) into as many film festivals as I can, getting exposure that way, hopefully finding a small distributor for it and building a bigger audience.  Social media has absolutely been a good outlet, but after this festival season I can see myself approaching educational institutions and their various on campus organizations.  It was great exposure during my last documentary and it is so engaging.  I enjoy it.

Buy Tickets for ‘Dead Man Working’HERE

Friday, March 8, 2013
The Queens World Film Festival presents
@ The Secret Theatre
4402 23rd St.
Long Island City, NY

About L.E. Salas
L.E. Salas is a visual artist and filmmaker who was born and raised in Northern New Jersey.  His professional directorial debut, ‘Far from the Island: A Cuban-American Documentary‘, garnered a great deal of attention from independent companies and distributors but mostly form the academe. ‘Far from the Island‘ was screened at colleges and universities such as Duke, UVA, Seton Hall, MISSOU, and Yale. It later went on to be an official selection at the Orlando International Film Festival in 2008.  As a producer, Salas has also collaborated on two Cuban films with producer/director Alberto Gonzalez; ‘Homo Erectus‘, a short comedy and ‘Havana Kidz 2‘, an acclaimed documentary about young Cuban musicians.  Salas’ first directing project was a short entitled ‘Take 5‘, an official selection at the Arlene Grocery’s Picture Show Film Festival in 2005. Prior to ‘Take 5‘, Salas artistically produced and edited ‘63 Years Like Yesterday‘, a feature length, poignant documentary about an elderly couple that grows old with wisdom, humor, and love as the 20th century unfolds through their eyes.  Salas currently works as a production manager at Digital Alley Media in New York City.
Facebook: /DeadManWorking
Twitter: @Deadmentweeting


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