He has a love of zombie movies and wanted to bring that to life.
And now, 2007 graduate, and current resident, Michael Sutter is preparing to send his first film to the Garden State Film Festival in Asbury Park.
“I am looking forward to being a part of an event where I will have the opportunity to meet filmmakers and view their work, share ideas and hopefully begin new relationships as friends and collaborators,” he said. “I am also looking forward to introducing the film to a new audience.”
The festival will be held Thursday through Sunday, and Sutter’s 20-minute short film is called “Zombie Day.”
“We are extremely excited about being accepted into the Garden State Film Festival, and hope that people will enjoy the film,” Sutter said.
The festival itself celebrates the independent film genre, and allows for local and independent filmmakers to exhibit their work. It features more than 130 films in a variety of categories.
Sutter said he made the film with two partners, David Lobach and Dylan Catherina, and they wanted the opportunity to show it to as many people as possible.
“We put a lot of hard work into the movie, and the bottom line is getting into the festival means more people will see it, which is really exciting for us,” Sutter said.
The film, Sutter said, follows a boy and his grandfather, who notice that a town has been invaded by zombies and the only people who are aware are the children and senior citizens because everyone else is too busy to pay attention.
“[They] both notice the zombies and find that no one will listen to them,” he said. “Though they are at awkward points in their relationship when the film begins, their adventure brings them together.”
Sutter said he had wanted to make a film about a boy and his grandfather, and he was able to include in that his love of zombie movies.
“[I wanted to] incorporate fond memories of going on walks with my own grandfather,” he said. “Usually people roll their eyes when they hear you’ve made a zombie movie, but my partners [and] myself were very intent on also making a movie that people care about and have an emotional reaction to.”
“So our goal became to make a zombie movie where the audience cried at the end,” he added.
Sutter said they were influenced in part by “The Monster Squad,” an 80s film about children fighting the Universal Monsters.
“Our movie definitely replicates it in terms of tone, whereas even though it was a movie about children, there was still swearing and violence, which always made those characters feel more real, and the stakes feel higher,” he said.
Sutter attended Ithaca College after graduating from BRHS, and received a bachelor of fine arts degree in film, photography and visual arts. While he was in school, he said, he spent a summer in Los Angeles working on productions, and has also served as a production assistant on the film “The Princess and the Pony,” which is on Netflix.
In addition, Sutter said, he worked as a grip on thesis films at the American Film Institute, and had the opportunity to attend both the Creative Arts Emmy Awards and the American Music Awards. Following his graduation from Ithaca, he also worked on reality shows for MTV and The Weather Channel, and was a videographer for Brandemix, an advertising company in Manhattan.
But his love of filmmaking, Sutter said, came from a real love of storytelling, beginning with telling ghost stories around a campfire.
“It’s still all about storytelling for me, and I believe film is the best storytelling medium we have at our disposal,” he said.
Sutter said he was first intrigued by films when he saw “Jurassic Park” and “The Usual Suspects,” which captured his attention at possibly too young of an age to have seen them.
“I began to figure out that the lighting and the way the camera moved was my favorite part of the movies I was watching, and highly contributed to the emotional impact of any film,” he said. “So I decided to focus my efforts on cinematography.”
Sutter said he is looking to continue his work as freelancer in the lighting and camera departments of short and feature films, all while looking to become a professional cinematographer and move to Los Angeles to pursue that dream.
But for now, Sutter said, he is focusing on the Garden State Film Festival. The film, he said, will be shown among two other zombie movies in a screening Saturday at 12:45 p.m. at Asbury Park City Council Chambers.
Sutter said he is just proud to be part of the festival.
“We put a lot of hard work into the movie,” he said. “The bottom line is getting into the festival means more people will see it, which is really exciting for us.”
For more information about the festival, and to buy tickets, visit the website.
To view the trailer for Sutter’s film, click here.