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SXSW veteran Will Hartman is back at this year with a new short, Food For Thought. The Daze got a chance to peak inside the mind of the man behind the people eating zombies.

AD: Tell me about this film.

WILL HARTMAN: It’s a satiric look at impulse control from the most impulsive people—zombies. Two zombie teens eat humans and then are excoriated by their teacher who shows them an abstinence video explaining why it’s better to abstain from eating people. SXSW is more or less its premiere. This is the first one where I was actually submitting it to get it in and get it played. I was here last year with another short called The Art of Karaoke. That was a doc about an 83-year-old man who discovered in his twilight years that he could sing like Sinatra. Now he goes to Karaoke clubs and sings. He does it for health and love—a really heartfelt little movie. It’s had a very nice festival run and NPR and PBS did a piece on it.

AD: From a doc about an 83 year-old-Sinatra singing man to zombies. Tell me about working in these different genres

WH: I like to do different things. Everything I’ve done is in comedy. This is my six short that I’ve directed and seven that I’ve written—I wrote one that sold to another director that just came out—and they are all different genres. This one is darkly, sort of grossly, funny compared to the Art of Karaoke which was sweet. I did one called Bus Stop about kids on a bus battling a terrorist that was a little more poignant. Easy Pickins was at Austin Film Festival in October and that was about two thugs that follow a little old lady home. I get an idea and I just want to write it out and then I feel like I have to shoot it. I come out of commercials so that’s where I get the desire to have to put something together really fun and fast and hopefully good.

AD: What inspires you? Are you just kind of out in the world?

WH: Yeah. With Easy Pickins, I was literally at this grocery store and saw this little old lady with this giant roll of cash. She had to peel off these twenties to pay and it looked liked she had $2,000 in there. I had this fantasy of following her home and tying her up—if I was like a bad guy, right? And then I thought, What if that’s exactly what she wanted me to do and the minute I try and take her down she’s going to be like ex-CIA or ex- assassin and flip it on me. That was the whole premise for Easy Pickins. These two guys get her in her house and then realize that she has the whole thing figured out. With Food For Thought, we were sitting around talking about those sex-ed videos we used to have to watch and it occurred to me that the worst possible audience to watch those things would be zombies. Or teenagers who are like zombies.

AD: What were you like as a kid?

WH: I was always in trouble. I was always drawing. You would have your school map and I would be the kid drawing a plane shooting off somewhere on it. I always got sent to the office. My report card said, “Talks too much in class and won’t stay in his seat.” Over and over again. A lot of daydreaming. I think all of us that are in this world are prone to that.

AD: What’s next?

WH: I’m working on feature films now—writing and directing. I’m really looking to do a full blown feature that is funny but also good. I’d like to come back to SXSW next year with a feature. After six shorts it’s time to do a feature. I’ve done a feature, if you strung them all together. If I died you say that was my feature.

AD: Anything else?

WH: Film festivals are some of the greatest institutions. I really love Austin. This is my fourth film here. It’s just a super awesome audience. All the people I’ve met, a lot of my good friends now, I met on the circuit here the last couple of years.

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