“When I was growing up, even as soon as kindergarten or first grade, I listened to old-time radio shows,” admits series co-creator Shane Salk. “When I was around first grade an uncle of mine sent me cassettes of Gunsmoke. I loved them so much that got more and more of them. There’s a place for this again. Everyone drives around, they all have iPods and whatever.”
That love of a nearly extinct format helped launch the series, one of the most intriguing ongoing stories in the zombie genre. With excellent production values, solid acting and a gripping storyline, We’re Alive easily enters the top tier of independent zombie entertainment. The premise is classic — a small group of survivors, including a few military men and a random assortment of civilians, hole up in an abandoned apartment building after the sudden appearance of zombies and subsequent breakdown of civilization. The genesis of the idea is familiar to just about anyone with a more than passing interest in the zombie genre.
“Having a military background, I really have a survivalist mentality for situations,” explains Kc Wayland, the series co-creator. “It’s kind of funny, because I think all guys joke about the place they live and how zombie proof it is and I think having a love for the genre and that kind of mentality combined to make the series.”
The third piece of the puzzle was realizing that the story of We’re Alive was simply too big to fit in a movie. The decision to make it an ongoing series has allowed Wayland and Salk to stretch out and tell the story they wanted to tell without the limitations of a three-act, ninety-minute film.
“The problem I have with a lot of these things is they’re only an hour or two long,” Wayland says. “When you dive into a survival situation, by the time you get to what they would have to do survive, you’ve either reduced it to a montage or the movie is over.”
“Part of the reason we made the series is we really wanted to do the character development you can only do in a series in a zombie [story],” he continues. “So many times in the zombie film, you know a character twenty minutes and they’re dead; There’s no attachment then. In a series like Lost, when they kill off a major character there’s devastation.”
The basic setup for the series may be familiar to fans of the undead, but the zombies themselves are not. Discovering just what the zombies are and what they can do is part of the fun of the series, but one thing is certain — these are not your father’s zombies
“When we started this, we wanted to create our own zombies,” Salk says. “We haven’t got into it yet, but we have worked out what the cause of the zombies is.”
“The mechanics of our world are unique. There are some people who say, ‘if it’s not Romero it’s not anything,’ which is wrong,” Wayland adds.
“One of the things we do that I don’t see a lot, is [the characters] don’t know a lot about the creatures. [Our main character] Michael won’t call them zombies, because that’s a thing from TV,” Salk continues. “He knows we can’t assume that we know anything about them. Kc and I try to figure out what we would be able to figure out from being there in [the story’s] world.”
The series is in its tenth episode of a planned twelve for season one. Then the series will go on hiatus until August, when season two kicks off. The plan is to produce three seasons of twelve episodes each and yes, before you ask, there’s a definite endpoint planned for the series.
“We do have ending, I will say first and foremost,” Wayland says. “We have a whole board of ideas and we have a linear line and know how to get from the beginning to the end. Part of it is how we get to that point. It’s like a big rig, you don’t just turn it on a dime and end it. You have to turn it slow to get there.”
In the interim between seasons one and two, Wayland and Salk plan on entering the series into some festivals for audio dramas, plus remastering and cleaning up the whole thing for a retail CD and iTunes release. That process will involve removing all the chapter breaks and ads, cutting out the coarse language and various technical fixes and tweaks to improve the overall experience. As for future plans, they’re interested in doing additional audio drama series, and they’d love to adapt We’re Alive for television as well. Whatever happens, they both say the experience of working on the series has been rewarding in and of itself.
“If we never earn any of the money back, that’s okay because it’s my baby,” Wayland says.
You can get more info on We’re Alive from the series website and by becoming a fan on Facebook. Episodes are available as a free download from iTunes, Zune and other means. Tell them you saw it here on The Inevitable Zombie Apocalypse!