Filmmaker raising funds to shoot zombie comedy movie in Maine

NIght-of-the-Living-DebKyle Rankin’s got a thing for creepy, crawly, brain-eating, bloody, gross things. He’s also got a thing for comedy. The filmmaker, Maine native and University of Maine graduate plans to showcase both those things with the movie he’ll be directing, “Night of the Living Deb,” a zombie comedy written by Andy Selsor that, if all goes as planned, will be filmed in Maine this summer.

In order to do this, Rankin has launched a Kickstarter campaign, to raise the $99,000 needed to film in Maine and edit in California, where Rankin now lives. The campaign, which has just over two weeks left, has as of March 18 raised just over a quarter of the funds needed.

Rankin is best known for his 2003 movie “The Battle of Shaker Heights,” the winning script for the second season of Ben Affleck and Matt Damon’s “Project Greenlight,” and co-directed with his longtime collaborator, fellow UMaine grad Efram Potelle. He and Potelle directed their first film together while in college in the early 90s: “DORM,” a no-budget murder mystery.

“At the time, I managed to sell 75 copies of ‘DORM’ to a now-defunct chain of Maine video stores called Home Vision Video,” said Rankin. “That’s when I realized that making movies could be a viable business.  Looking back, how cool is it that they bought this not-very-good film from a bunch of college students?”

After graduating from UMaine in 2004, Rankin lived in Portland for ten years, making movies and waiting tables. When he and Potelle won “Project Greenlight,” they moved to California and began their professional careers. Rankin’s most recent movie, “Infestation,” premiered at the 2009 Maine International Film Festival in Waterville.

“Night of the Living Deb” is his newest effort, and as Rankin puts it, it’s a romantic comedy set in the midst of a zombie outbreak. Deb, the main character, wakes up in the bed of the handsome Ryan after a one night stand, but Ryan has an estranged fiancee to win back. He shows her the door, which is when the action begins.

“Only as Deb drives away does she notice that their small, coastal city is now swarming with zombies. She has no choice but to fight her way back to Ryan’s apartment, where the mismatched pair begin an adventure of survival and self-discovery, and learn that the only thing scarier than trusting someone with your life, is trusting them with your heart,” said Rankin. “I guess you could call it a zom-rom-com.”

Ryan will be played by Michael Cassidy, seen on the TBS sitcom “Men at Work,” but the character of Deb is still being cast. Actor Ray Wise, seen in other Rankin films, is also set to play a part.

Should the Kickstarter be successful, Rankin and his crew will come to the Portland area in late spring to film for a few weeks; they plan to be back in California by June to edit the movie. Rankin hopes to have a finished product by the end of August.

“It’s always been a dream of mine to come back to Maine and make a feature. It’s such a gorgeous, underutilized state where filmmaking is concerned, filled with talented, un-jaded people,” said Rankin.

Rankin initially hoped to get backing for “Night of the Living Deb” from an independent studio, but most balked at the idea of filming the movie in Maine. Filming in the state was imperative to Rankin, though, so he decided to strike out on his own.

“I pitched the idea of this micro-budget film around to a few small studios and there was some interest, but the next comments were always Why Maine?’ or ‘I don’t think you should shoot there, the tax incentives are terrible,’” said Rankin. “It was then that I realized I needed to raise the money myself so I could make the movie where I wanted. Every Mainer knows, deep down, that the state resonates with a magical, sometimes beautifully surreal feeling… I hope to capture a tiny part of that on film.”

Visit the “Night of the Living Deb” Kickstarter page to donate.

Emily Burnham

About Emily Burnham

Emily Burnham is a Maine native, a UMaine graduate, a proud Bangorian and an arts and lifestyle writer for the Bangor Daily News, where she's worked since 2004. She reports on everything from local bands to local food, from media and the Internet to theater and dance. In her quest for stories, she's seen countless concerts and plays, been lobster fishing, interviewed celebrities, hung out with water buffalo and played in a ukulele orchestra, to name just a few. She's interested in everything -- especially if it happens in Maine. She welcomes any and all feedback or suggestions for stories.