How Matt Leslie and Dylan Mulick Pulled Off a Zero-Budget Horror Short in Quarantine (Video)

“Zoom Cloud Hack – #91784 – The Tribe Murders” follows a group of colleagues on a Zoom call who get attacked by a demon, one by one

The coronavirus has shut down film and TV production, so horror filmmakers Matt Leslie (“Summer of ’84”) and Dylan Mulick (“NVRLND”) decided to take matters into their own hands and film a horror short, titled “Zoom Cloud Hack – #91784 – The Tribe Murders,” in the confines of their own home.

“We got together for coffee one day, socially distanced of course, and Dylan said, ‘dude I’m climbing walls, I need to do something,’ and I said, ‘well what we can do?'” Leslie told TheWrap. “We started talking about making a horror short and Dylan came up with the Zoom idea and then we started riffing.”

A day later, the duo had a script, Mulick said. And a day and a half after that, they were fully cast with actors they felt confident in to pull together a film that wasn’t going to be pieced together on a set.

“We ran it through like a stage play,” Mulick said, adding that the group rehearsed it twice before shooting. “It came together so fast. I’ve shot a lot of music videos and even some TV movies, and nothing was as seamless of a process as this. Even the technological hurdles at the beginning seemed so manageable.”

“Zoom Cloud Hack – #91784 – The Tribe Murders” follows a group of six colleagues who hop on a Zoom call, but somehow invoke a vengeful demon who kills them off one by one. However, they soon realize that maybe this was not accidental at all. The film stars Rachael Thompson, Susie Castillo, Adam Huss, Adam Bucci, J. Elijah Cho, and Mark David Christenson.” Mulick wrote and directed, while Leslie produced alongside Sean Deveraux and Chris Meagher.

While the film was shot through the Zoom portal and only took around 1.5 days to shoot, the difficult part was the visual effects needed to create the demon. And that’s where Deveraux from Zero VFX stepped in to help.

“He did it for free because we had no budget,” Leslie said, “and those are not quick and easy shots. Post production took two months: shooting it was quick, but the other stuff took so much time. The creature design was extensive — we had to do the VFX shots with the creature separately and then had them copied in with the VFX team. It was not an easy process.”

Horror legend Gabe Bartalos helped on the creature design which all in all took over five weeks to mold — additionally it took three to four hours to put actress Stephanie Salyers into the makeup.

“I had never done such extensive visual effects work and putting the creature on a ceiling was something so specific especially without a special effect supervisor, it was challenging,” Mulick explained. “I tested the shot on my iPhone by taking the picture of her crawling, and then rotated the shot on the editing app and checked the lightning, and Deveraux approved the shots over Skype.”

Mulick had worked with Christenson on a music video before and had done prior work with Huss, and had seen Bucci, Huss’ husband, on “Eastenders.” Castillo is Leslie’s wife, and Leslie and Mulick had seen Thompson’s work on projects like “Ozark” and “Black Lightning.” But they needed one more actor, so Mulick asked his friend who was part of an improv group to post the casting notice — they only received one submission, and it was from Cho.

“Everything was scripted, but we wanted it to be improvisational, so we decided to actually film this through Zoom,” Mulick said. 

Watch the short above.

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