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Zombies? In Piedmont? A Local Filmmaker's View

Adam Liss, an '04 grad of PHS and second-generation Piedmont filmmaker, is hoping to raise funds to finish his current project: a documentary on the zombie apocalypse phenonmenon.

Where zombies gather, documentary filmmaker Adam Liss isn't far behind.

The 2004 Piedmont High School graduate is exploring the zombie apocalypse phenomenon in a new film — working title, The Zombie Documentary — and hoping to raise funds through KickStarter to finish the project. With only five days to go, Liss still needs to raise nearly $18,000 — a tiny amount for a feature-length film, but even shoestring projects have bills to pay.

Why zombies? Well, the "walking dead" are everywhere these days — in films, on TV, in video games, iPhone apps, children's toys and even fitness classes — and especially in conversation.

It's a popular pastime to talk about what you would do in the case of a zombie outbreak, or "apocalypse," Liss says.

"Zombies have a cool factor,'" adds Jaime Sena, Liss's partner in the film project."People like to say 'yeah, I believe in zombies.' You'd be surprised how many people get excited about it.

"It's half just a watchful exercise, and half — well, about as remote as winning the lottery." 

In the film, Liss and Sena hope to explore the roots of and reasons for zombie popularity. Their working theory is that zombies function as metaphors for things people worry about in a particular era. 

Night of the Living Dead, a 1950s zombie movie, was an allegory for racism, Sena says, while in later decades the fears included consumerism and global catastrophe. These days, the underlying fear seems to be societal collapse, the filmmakers think.

Largely, people talk about preparing for a zombie outbreak in the same ways that survivalists approach the aftermath of other disasters, they say. 

"it's a frontier fantasy, attempting to avoid being helpless in a worst case scenario," says Sena. She notes that the havoc wreaked by Superstorm Sandy on the East Coast has increased interest in preparedness even more.

Liss adds, "It's almost like a video game — what would you do if there's no rule, no law — how are you going to survive?"

Liss, 26, grew up in Piedmont (Beach Elementary School, Piedmont Middle School, Piedmont High) and his parents still live here. His mother, Bonnie Burt, has made a number of films documenting Jewish life; his father, Mark Liss, is an attorney.

Liss made some minor forays into film while at PHS — he recalls a video he shot for a French class — and then majored in English, with a concentration in film, at Colorado College. He and Sena met when both were working for fora.tv. He's currently living in Oakland's Old Town.

Learn more about the film at the Zombie Documentary website. You may contribute to the project at KickStarter.

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