“It’s not all glitz and glamour—the process can take an emotional, mental, and physical toll on you.” Writer/producer Allison Hogue talks frankly about the process of making Dead Winter. “Making a film is hard work, especially when you’re doing it for very little money.”
Dead Winter is a post-apocalyptic story about a young Hispanic woman named Audrey (Yessenia Hernandez), who lives with her grandmother Sophia (Laine Smith) on an isolated mountain farm. Reminiscent of the same world in this year’s blockbuster A Quiet Place, Audrey and Sophia live a solitary existence just barely getting by, but reinventing life without many modern conveniences we take for granted. The third member of their family is going through a gruesome change, something akin to what we saw in Trey Edward Shults’ It Comes at Night.
Hogue, who has directed short films in the past, was determined to produce Dead Winter, leaving the directing duties to another. As an assistant professor of film and digital media at the University of North Georgia, Hogue turned to one of her fellow professors, Jason Winn, whose filmography in short and feature filmmaking is deep. Winn recently completed another horror film, the political slasher Rave Party Massacre.
“After Jason read the script and we talked, I knew we were both on the same page creatively, and the project took off from there.”
Preserving subtext was very important to Winn when he shepherded Rave Party Massacre. This helped make him perfect for Hogue’s introspective short film.
“He brought that script to life better than I or anyone else could have, and we had a great working relationship—truly collaborative and trusting.”
Hogue, who teaches post-production and has great experience with color grading, had to rely on her training and education when crafting the look of the film.
“The entire week leading up to production in February, the weather was perfect. Chilly, dreary, lots of fog. The first day of production? Sunshine and 80 degrees, and it was as if the grass and trees had started to bloom overnight.”
Therefore, while shooting, Hogue knew that she’d have to work extra hard in post-production.
“I think we did a great job with the color grading and some visual effects, hopefully audiences will never know.”
Hogue gets the wintry look of the film, which is marked by soft shades of blue, exactly right. It makes the viewer feel like the world is now in perpetual overcast, reinforcing the dark, depressing thematic elements of the narrative. The script was a long time in development by Hogue.
“I had a basic premise for this kind of story in my head for many years: generations of women try to survive after an apocalypse.” Hogue explains. “After my divorce, though, the story developed a heart, and I finally wrote it down.”
There is a monster in the film, to be sure. But while there’s definitely a zombie flavor to it, Hogue and Winn insisted on referring to the creature as anything but a part of Night of the Living Dead director George A. Romero’s genre of horror. And, to be accurate, when Winn and I spent time with Romero at Sundance one year, he explained that “zombie” wasn’t a term he used originally either.
“Essentially, the monster represents a difficult decision—whether it’s a looming divorce, dealing with toxic relationships, struggling with addiction, etc.” Says Hogue.
Dead Winter is a meditative film, setting it apart from the bombastic action, horror, bloodbaths that week-in-and-week-out inhabit the small screen. Hogue’s personal connection to the material is metaphorical. Her approach, followed by Winn, is subtle giving the audience a chance to unravel the meaning for themselves. Romero would certainly admire the intellectual use of his ideas.
“Audrey and Sophia represent the torturous inner battle you go through when faced with something like that.” Hogue continued. “Do you keep trying? Do you leave? What happens if you leave? What happens if you stay? Unfortunately, difficult decisions always come to a head, and you have to commit one way or the other.”
For more information about Dead Winter visit the film’s website: https://deadwinterfilm.com/
Hogue is currently running a crowd-funding campaign in order to pay for the film’s festival run. Contributions can be made at https://www.seedandspark.com/fund/dead-winter#story