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by Thomas M. Sipos, managing editor [July 19, 2016]
[HollywoodInvestigator.com] Day 1's description -- a story set "in a near post-apocalyptic future" -- raises our expectations for yet another zombie infestation. The opening scene shows a middle-aged man, Kevin (Walt Sloan), tending a campfire in the woods. He ruminates over "how It all began." The cutting of the last tree in the Amazon? The extinction of the bees? Nobody knows for sure.
Naturally, horror fans will assume that It is a zombie apocalypse. Yet the zombies never show. There is a disease about. Its victims look normal, yet must be avoided, even killed, if humanity is to survive. What is the nature of this disease? Does it compel infected people to kill? Murders are up. But again, we don't know for sure.
Kevin treks through the woods. He must keep moving. He meets an infected woman who begs to be killed. And an infected man who begs to share Kevin's fire. Another of the infected who sits in chains so he can't harm others. Soldiers at an army outpost remind Kevin that he must keep walking along the path. Why must he keep moving? We never find out.
Day 1 is writer/director Jose Carlos Gomez's second post-apocalyptic feature. Although Bled White (2009) had zombies, whereas they're MIA in Day 1, Gomez's two films are so similar in their bleak emotional tone and desaturated photography, the two films appear set in the same universe, concerning the same event. If you've seen Bled White, your imagination will supply the zombies for Day 1. We don't know that there aren't zombies out there in the woods.
"Day 1 is not necessarily a continuation of what we did with Bled White," said Gomez, "but perhaps it's a story told alongside of the events that occurred in my zombie film. Day 1 [began] as a simple idea of a person who needed to walk to live. I built the story around that idea. Why did he need to walk to live? Who was maintaining this imposed social order? Day 1 is based on the idea of doubt.
"With Bled White we knew who the bad guys were. The undead were a known entity. Day 1 has no known entity. We don’t know who the bad guys are. Is a disease turning people into violent killers or is it just human nature? Humanity doesn't know what's real. Our characters doubt the things they're told. Even their memories shed no light as to the truth. Answers, though provided in the movie, are never openly stated. We, the audience, experience this post-apocalyptic world with the same eyes as our protagonist.
"That was my interest. To tell a story where reality is solely based on memory, doubt, and point of view. The post-apocalyptic world is just a place to set these conditions in which our characters can experience the journey."
As with Bled White, Day 1 emphasizes desaturated colors. Bright, primary colors are used mainly for flashback memories, although images do brighten at happy, hopeful moments. And the past is not all bright and pretty. Ugly events are drenched in harsh, reddish-orange hues. Throughout the film, colors reinforce each scene's emotional intent.
Kevin wanders a bleak present (above) amid the desaturated hues that dominate Day 1.
The desaturated present sets a stark contrast to Kevin's happy memories with his daughter (two above images), saturated in rich, primary colors.
But the past was not all bright. The above image shows one of the random murders in the chaos that preceded current events. Drenched in rusty, bloody hues, this immediate past appears uglier even than the desaturated present. This color contrast suggests the mass murders have subsided (perhaps because most people are dead?), to be replaced by a gloomy, survival-oriented malaise.
And the future is hopeful. Colors brighten when two soldiers share a romantic moment (he having found a red dress for her -- second image above), and when Kevin continues his trek toward the film's end.
"I used Magic Bullet to create this look," said Gomez. "The colors in Day 1 were selected to define our world. Our present world is ill. Colors needed to provide a sense of environmental ruin. As we end the story, the colors brighten up. Now human nature, its actions, are the cause of ruin. Harmony and discord go hand in hand in my stories."
Many of Day 1's scenes were shot MOS, the voices dubbed in later. Serendipitously, the resulting emotional effect supports the story's tone. Protagonists' voices are disembodied, creating a sense that we are in a dream. Or a nightmare.
"On set we used a sound recorder," said Gomez, "but there was a snag. Although the Day 1 world looks empty and devoid of technology, I assure you it wasn't. We were lucky to find locations that met our needs, but these were set in the middle of loud and vibrant towns. Airplane enthusiasts constantly used the sky above us, circling endlessly. So we picked up a lot of vehicles, industry, and airplanes. Helicopters also made a constant appearance. We captured a shot of one for the movie. Might as well. In post-production I recorded ADR for all the scenes, to maintain a consistent, clean sound. I am grateful that our cast returned to record their dialog. It's a testament to how much they cared about our movie."
Day 1's music selection emphasizes opera and other classical fare. Kevin carries about a wind-up phonograph (I suppose because electrical supplies are unreliable post-apocalypse) to play old LPs. This juxtaposition of elegant music against harsh imagery contrasts the refined past that is lost to the current chaos. It reminded me of Hardware.
"Although I'm a big fan of Richard Stanley," said Gomez, "Hardware did not play any conscious part in Day 1. I was more in tune with Andrei Tarkovsky's Stalker and Miklós Jancsó's The Red and the White. As for music, like my landscape colors, music helps define memory from dubious reality. The soundtrack evokes a western sense of music, making the audience feel comfortable. DC McAuliffe's original score evoked sounds unaccustomed to our mainstream aural experience. I asked DC to build a score around a Gamelan inspired sound, which he did wonderfully. The score maintains the duality of beauty and horror found in our world."
Some of Day 1's budget was raised through crowd-funding and Gomez's "personal savings. We also did a fundraiser in Chicago. My producers donated some funds. Our budget did not exceed $20,000. Most of this went to equipment, props, feeding the cast and crew, and post-production costs."
Those props include several military vehicles, which Gomez credits to one of his producers, Kelli Tidmore. "Kelli and I worked on Bled White. I knew what she could do in terms of locating military vehicles, among other things. Somehow she does it, and that's just wonderful.
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