Meza Brothers reveal all the secrets of the third episode.
The 12th of March was a normal Monday like many others and I had just finished watching the 3rd episode of Ash vs Evil Dead. While I was amazed at the thrilling fast-action paced episode, I was a little bit pissed about the Nielsen ratings from the previous week and about rumors of cancellation of my favourite TV show. I was going to sleep when suddenly I received a message from my friend Andrea Turel Caccese.
“Hey Ema! The Meza Brothers, directors of the 3rd episode, are on Reddit talking with fans. If I were you, I would ask them for an interview!
Exactly. The Meza brothers, directors of the 3rd episode and also great fans of the franchise, were on REDDIT asking fans for feedback about their episode.
So, challenge accepted, and I asked them to do an interview. Incredible – but true – they accepted and here were are, ready to reveal all the secrets of the “Apparently Dead” episode.
But first of all, a short introduction. I invite you to visit the Meza Brothers official website as it contains many interesting information about their careers. Andres and Diego Meza-Valdes are two brothers that created a bunch of horror shorts and have participated in film festivals winning awards for their efforts. Their movie “Boniato” was a nominee at the Sundance Film Festival in 2016 in the Short Film Grand Jury category. At the Viques International Film Festival they won in the Best Horror Short Film category.
So, here we go with the interview.
NAQB: You stated on REDDIT that you are Evil Dead huge fans. How did you fall in love with the franchise?
The Meza Brothers: We started out falling in love with Army of Darkness first. When the movie came out in 1992, we convinced our mother to let us see it at a very young age because the original poster looked like a comedy more than anything else, but we knew that it was much more than that. We were immediately struck by the mixture of slapstick comedy and dark action and how dynamic the movie was visually. As soon as Ash waved his boomstick around to unsuspecting villagers after an epic fight in a monster pit we knew it was an all-timer for us. From there we transitioned our love over to Evil Dead 2 as teenagers, and it surprised us how much more horror played a bigger role in that movie, with less of a focus in the comedy. Plus, as budding filmmakers, all the behind-the-scenes stories of the making of the movie (shooting in a school gym, blowing cigarette smoke around to simulate a foggy interior) inspired us to think we too can make something that cool. We would film our version of Evil Dead 2 in our backyard using some of those methods (not the cigarettes) – and obviously to a lesser result. Then came Evil Dead in college, where we were surprised to find some of our fellow students hadn’t even heard of the Evil Dead franchise. Shocked, we forced our film school to allow us access to the campus cinema to do midnight screenings, and the first one we did was Evil Dead. We wanted to prove to our filmmaker friends anything can be done – even with a shoestring budget. Something all aspiring students in film school should look up to – of course no one showed up – but at least we had the chance to see the original Evil Dead on the big screen.
NAQB: Have you a favourite moment or movie of the trilogy?
The Meza Brothers: There are too many moments in each of these movies to pick out a specific one.
NAQB: What was it like directing Bruce & the other cast members?
The Meza Brothers: Bruce was always a hero to us. Even aside from Evil Dead, we were gigantic fans of his mid-90’s show Brisco County Jr. We would watch that religiously, even arguing with friends at the time that Bruce would make the perfect replacement for Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones. We even named our dog after his horse on the show, Comet. Flash forward to now and we are directing one of our heroes. In one particular moment, we had completely rearranged the coffin fight scene from what it was in the script. Originally, it was written for most of the action to happen in the viewing room. Both Ash and Candy would get flung around the room in the scuffle, and eventually the fight would end in the coffin, where Bruce would yank Candy’s head off with a fireplace poker he found. We felt that the fight needed something else, something fans (us) haven’t seen. So we rewrote it to take place inside the coffin the whole time, playing on the claustrophobia of having a deadite attack you in close quarters. Additionally, we added the funeral photo frame gag as a way of Ash disposing of Candy. We had always looked at Ash as the “Jackie Chan of horror” using anything around him to get rid of the threat – even if its not always the most practical tool. Whatever gets the job done. We were nervous, but anxious to show Bruce our storyboards. Who knows how he’d react. He looks through the pages of boards, looks back up at us, laughs and says “that shit is funny right there!”. From then on we knew if we brought creative and original ideas to the table we had Bruce on our side.
The rest of the cast members were also great to work with. Being that we were similar in age with all of the other actors, we set out to have more informal hang outs with them to get to know them a little better. We met with Ray Santiago at a great little bar he recommended, and drank the night away with him and his co-star Hemky Madera, who plays Brujo on the show. Similar with Dana Delorenzo and Lindsay Farris – we had an unforgettable night with those folks sharing war stories over drinks and pizza. It was great to chat with these guys as people outside of set, to really understand who they are and what makes them tick, and see if they have any insider information on their characters or the trajectory of the show that we could use to inform our decisions as directors. We found out Dana was a phenomenal writer, she always had amazing suggestions for scenes or little line tweaks that make the scene way better (she added the “snuff film” line in the chapel when the Ghostbeaters reuinite with Ash). Arielle [Carver-O’Neill] was also great – and shared in our proud nerdiness of Marvel movies and video games. We ended up hanging out with her at our AirBNB, watching fair slingshot videos to bet who was the one on the ride who was going to pass out first. it became a game we played regularly. She is so much fun and a great friend.
NAQB: In this episode Ghostbeaters visit the cabin site… without the cabin. As fans how did you feel about directing an episode in this “sacred” location in this particular “setting”? And as directors?
The Meza Brothers: As a fan, the way that scene was prepped was a dream come true. In it, we knew there was going to be an opportunity to tip our hat to the fans since we’d be revisiting the cabin site we’re all familiar with and love. Walking into the prop department, the awesome team had all the iconic props layed out on a blanket on the floor. We literally just walked around and picked what we wanted. We saw the grandfather clock and we yelled “That one!”. Saw the curvy lamp and said “Definitely this”. It was a fanboys dream.
NAQB: I loved the scene in which the demonic force hit and swept away Dalton. It is a cool homage to the Evil Dead 2 scene in which the kandarian demon throws Ash through the woods. How did you realized this scene/effect?
The Meza Brothers: As the night was getting long and the sun was coming up (all the wood scenes were shot late into the night in the bitter cold of New Zealand, and we even got rained out a couple times) we knew we had to get our shots of the evil force POV. With 15 minutes left in our shooting schedule and obviously very little time left, one of the amazing crew members quickly grabbed the camera and ran into the dark woods by himself. It was a crazy visual to see a tired crew member run into the dark abyss of seriously creepy woods. Without him we would have never gotten the shot needed to serve as the background for the effect. Later on in production, we hoisted Lindsay on wires in the air in one of the studios and had him react to the evil force. From there, post-production magic took care of the rest. it was very simple at the time, and even easier now with the advancements in technology, but we wanted to homage the original evil force scene that you are mentioning. We even had it on set, showing the crew members what we wanted. We are happy fans have picked up on the reference.
NAQB: What was your favorite scene to direct?
The Meza Brothers: The cop out, easy answer would be to say that all of them were our favorite, but they really were. We are huge fans of the horror genre and fans of the franchise – so we were soaking in every moment. On set, every time there was a gore effect in play, there we would be, literally jumping up and down by the monitors with excitement. Even in the moments that were insanely stressful (and they always are) we would turn to eachother and say “Can you believe we are here?”
If we have to pick out specific moments there were two. One was the funeral scene where Ash exits the coffin in front of all the unsuspecting guests. That day we had 50 very patient extras and Bruce was firing on all cylinders. There was so much to that scene that had to be cut, a lot of great comedic moments. We had hit our stride as directors with Bruce, and we were bouncing ideas off of each other back and forth, creating new dynamics to the scene that didn’t show up on the page. Bruce is a consummate professional and always hit his marks, lines and his timing – every time. But that day, he was a little loose and having some fun improving with us. That scene also featured the Ghostbeaters with Ash for the first time in the episode, so as fans of the show from the very beginning, it was awesome to see all of them together on screen, and to be able to work with the Ghostbeaters was definitely a pinch-me moment.
And then the scene with Arielle inside Cheryl’s bedroom. We are particularly proud of that Crimson and Clover scene because we developed that from scratch. We knew Brandy as a character needed to have a real moment where she connects with Ash, not so much as the deadite slaying madman the town knows him to be, but as a person – and her father. We had talked to Arielle about that specific scene from the moment we landed on set. She did a fantastic job.
NAQB: How much time does it take you to direct an episode? Did you have a tight schedule?
The Meza Brothers: This was our first go round doing television but from what I am told it is always tight and hectic. There is a lot to shoot and vey little time. Especially for a show like this that requires so much more than a television show typically requires. There are plenty of visual effects, gore gags, fight sequences. A lot to do but truly all the credit goes to the amazing crew they have out there. They are the true gatekeepers of Ash vs Evil Dead. They are the (bloody) heartbeat of the show. Without their talent and hard work the show wouldnt be what it is. Being as inexperienced as we were was completely concealed by the amazing crew guiding us and protecting us.
Thanks to the amazing Meza Brothers and I hope you have enjoyed the interview.