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Detroit has a role in Michigan-made zombie film heading to the big screen

Film's Stars and extras invade Motor City

Coming soon to a theater near you, the Michigan zombie apocalypse. “Sleep, Wake, Forget” is a horror flick with a bit of a twist. It is the brainchild of Michigander Ariel Vida who wrote and directed the project, initially out of her own pocket.

Director Ariel Vida opening a bottle of champagne after wrapping on Sleep, Wake, Forget!

Director Ariel Vida opening a bottle of champagne after wrapping on Sleep, Wake, Forget!

Vida, a Michigan State University grad, started writing the flick three years back when she was in school and is proud it doesn’t have the look or feel of a typical student film project.

The film follows the story of two brothers, following the fall of civilization, who managed to stay alive because of a unique gift – the ability to look into the minds of others. Even with this gift, one of the brothers eventually gets bitten and turns to one of the undead.

During filming, director Ariel Vida and actors Velizar Ionikov and Andrew Way rehearse a scene. — with Ariel Vida, Velizar Ionikov and Andrew Way.

During filming, director Ariel Vida and actors Velizar Ionikov and Andrew Way rehearse a scene. — with Ariel Vida, Velizar Ionikov and Andrew Way.

The interesting part is even after one brother is turned, the other brother can still read the other’s mind and communicate.

Using some of the best production out there, including a Red Scarlet Digital Camera, she painstakingly worked to give the film a high-end look on a modest (in film terms) budget of $50,000. Some of that cash came from the four jobs she held while attending film school. Dedicated and super human are two describers that come to mind. Appropriate considering the theme of her first feature film.

Film's Stars and extras invade Motor City

Now, after securing the last bits of funding to make some final touches through a successful Kickstarter campaign, she is off to the film festival circuit. If all works in their favor, you’ll hopefully see “Sleep, Wake, Forget” at your favorite local movie/popcorn palace.

“We shot the entire film in 31 days last August all over the state and in parts of Ohio,” says Vida. The U.P., Muskegon, Grand Rapids, Ann Arbor, Lansing and even the old Packard Plant here is Detroit were all locations for what Ariel describes as, “a post-apocalyptic narrative film.”

Cast poses wearing Detroit Respect t-shirts

Cast poses wearing Detroit Respect t-shirts

For most of the cast and crew, this was their first feature-length project. One of the film’s stars Velizar (Vel) Ionikov says he got really close to the crew during filming, “Shooting 16 hour days during made us a lot closer. The last day of filming was emotional because of all we went through as a cast and crew.” A Chicago native, Vel is looking forward to doing more film projects and is now a full-time actor.

The road to mass distribution can be a long one according to Vida, but it’s easy to see she and a dedicated production team will not be throwing in the towel any time soon.

“I just love telling stories and connecting with people,” added Vida.

Director Ariel Vida films brothers Liam and Max (Andrew Way and Velizar Ionikov) entering a ruined city (Packard Plant). — with Andrew Way, Velizar Ionikov and Ariel Vida

Director Ariel Vida films brothers Liam and Max (Andrew Way and Velizar Ionikov) entering a ruined city (Packard Plant). — with Andrew Way, Velizar Ionikov and Ariel Vida

During a recent uncommon fashion photo shoot with positive t-shirt makers Detroit Respect, cast, crew and some bigger-than-life extras gathered to take photos in full zombie make-up and regalia.

“It was a blast seeing everybody in make-up and all zombied-out,” said Colin McConnell, Detroit Respect founder.

In addition to all of the promotional work for Sleep, Wake, Forget, Vida is already working on another film, a documentary, and plans to shoot another feature in early 2014. While she could shoot anywhere in the world, she plans to shoot that film right here in Michigan, too.

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