INTERVIEW: Matthias Hoene Director of Cockneys vs Zombies and Giffgaff’s ‘Don’t be Scared’

MatthiasSome of you may have seen a brilliant new advert for GiffGaff the mobile phone company on Channel 4, E4 and Film4 last night at around 10:20. Here at Geek Syndicate we were lucky enough to get an interview with Cockneys vs Zombies director Matthias Hoene who directed this gem.

Geek Syndicate (GS) – Hi Matthias, thanks for agreeing to speak to me this lovely rainy afternoon

Matthias Hoene (MH) – No thank you I am very excited.

GS – So I’m Wendy from Geek Syndicate, we were at the brilliant afternoon on the Saturday for final day of the GiffGaff shoot with the zombies, what attracted you to the project to begin with?

MH – Well it’s got something to do with my previous feature film which is called Cockneys vs Zombies, which came out in the UK through Studio Canal last year, its now going through festivals throughout the world, and has the cinema release in the US on 2nd August 2013. So they kind of approached me knowing and having seen the film, and of course I have done zombies and I have a whole team of people with zombie experience, and fans who were zombies in my film, so it all makes sense that with the script the idea was right up my street.

GS – So, did you bring people who had been in Cockneys vs Zombies who had been zombies to help be zombies in this feature too?

MH – Oh yes absolutely, I tried to bring in as many of the crew as I could, pending availability of course. For example, Dan Bronks the cameraman did the movie, most of his team were on the movie, Paul Hyett who did the prosthetics on Cockneys vs Zombies, who is actually a director now, but agreed to help out on this one as a friend kind of thing. And then of course we had prepared quite a detailed ‘How To’ zombie walk for the movie, which my movement choreographer  from CvsZ Tristan Matthiae prepared, but he wasn’t around so we worked with another guy called Stefan Puxon, the Movement Choreographer Giff Gaff who helped choreograph the zombies as we were putting everything together. It was a big shoot in a way because there were two units going at all times, and I had a great second unit director called Mark Adcock, it was like a big family coming back together again – some of the actors, some of the zombies were in the movie and yup it was great for everyone to come back and be zombies again.

GS – In regards to the zombies you obviously went with the old traditional slow-moving zombies, is that more how you see zombies rather than some of the more modern takes of the ‘running’ zombies?

MH – When I first came up with Cockneys vs Zombies everyone was doing fast-moving zombies and I always felt that the traditional slow-moving zombies were more interesting dramatically because it highlights the characters drama, and its more about the human characters and their struggle, especially with Cockneys, to me it was important to give them time to crack jokes about the zombies as they are approaching. As opposed to fast-moving zombies that turn every film into a chase movie, where everyone is out of breath running away all the time. I think there are some very good fast-moving zombie films, but I kind of feel the original slow movie zombie is the way forward.

GS – I agree, I definitely think that it is more…they are dead, they don’t have much of a brain so they are gonna be slow-moving, so I do think that it is, maybe if you can say realistic when it comes to zombies, but maybe slightly more realistic.

MH – And also I kind of feel like zombies have a lot in common with us normal people. They are hungry, they are shambling around the world not sure what is going on, with people picking on them the whole time. And I kind of feel we can identify with a large part of that, I always feel very sorry for zombies because of all the moaning and groaning, appear to be in pain and often quite sad and I kind of like slow-moving zombies. Fast moving zombies are more like feral animals.

GS– Yes, that’s very true actually. What would you say is your favourite zombie movie then?

MH – Growing up it was very much Peter Jackson’s Brain Dead…

GS – Excellent film!

MH – That really influenced me. Then I really loved Evil Dead 2 by Sam Raimi a horror comedy I suppose. And of course there have been great zombie movie films since, but those two are my favourites.

GS – Brilliant. So Cockneys vs Zombies was obviously at the FrightFest last year in London, is there going to be anything at this years FrightFest? Are you going to be attending at all?

MH – I will be attending, but I haven’t made another movie yet. I have developed a science fiction screenplay over the last year which I set up a couple of weeks ago with 20th Century Fox with a producer called Hodge Parker who was behind X-Men and Wolverine, and I am actually going over next week to kick off the next stage of the process and hopefully within the next 6 months I will be able to get that green-lit.

GS – That sounds great. Can you tell us a little about that at all?

MH – Yes, it is a high concept man on the run thriller if you like. About a guy who starts receiving chrome capsules containing holographic messages from his future self.

GS – Ok, that sounds different.

MH – I am gonna keep details under wraps *LAUGHS*

GS – *LAUGHS* Ok, fair enough.

MH – But you know that is exciting. We had a great time developing it with a fantastic American writer called Ian Shore and a producer called John Suzanni and then literally the news broke. Since then we have been negotiating a bit and we have met everyone but it broke a few weeks ago, and I am very excited, I will hopefully be kicking that off very soon.

GS – Brilliant. Going back to the GiffGaff project we have been told the main ‘advertisement’ – if you wanna call it that is three minutes long, you did three whole days of shooting. That sounds like you must of had a lot of footage to go through?

MH – *LAUGHS* Well we did film about eight hours of footage which is quite a lot.

GS – Wow!

MH – Not unheard of in the heyday of advertising, in the 80s people would sometimes shoot 24 hours for a 30 second spot, but quite unheard of for me. I tend to be a lot more focused and frugal with how much I shoot. But we did have a few units going, lots of zombie scenes to wrangle and…..well I don’t want to give it away what’s happening in it, but you try to capture a little bit of genuine love between human and zombies, those little unrehearsed magic moments that sometimes happen when zombies and people come together. That is when you need to shoot a little bit more than just your set up scenes and you end up filming a little bit too much. But that is all part of the process.

Matthias a

GS – Was you favourite bit the Morris Dancing?


GS – *LAUGHS* – Because I know that was one of my favourite bits!

MH – Yeah, I think a lot of….I mean….no I’m not gonna pick favourite bits…


MH – Actually I own a couple of cats, and I love the cat scene.

GS – Oh! A cat scene I haven’t heard about this, I am going to look forward to that then, that sounds interesting.

MH – *LAUGHS* Yeah exactly.  Interestingly with GiffGaff what I really liked was it was very much a super creative process, because the strategy was there from the advertising agency, but the story itself, and the scenes were something that we worked up in pre-production together, and GiffGaff  kept pushing me to make it darker and more twisted, and more gory to the point where I thought ‘Are you sure we can still get this on TV officially?’, because I have never seen anything like this in commercials before, or an ad break before. *LAUGHS* But we kind of went there and I think it treads a fine balance where it is trying to push the envelope but we still managed to get it on TV – mind you after 9pm of course. So it was a really good process and very unusual….so I would like to send all my love to GiffGaff.

GS – That is brilliant. Thank you so much for your time today and I look forward to your new project that will be coming out. And I hope to see you at FrightFest in London in August.

Check out the zombie fun on Channel 4, E4 or Film4 – it will be taking up a whole 3 minute ad break and will be aired after the 9pm watershed (best to check whilst Big Bang Theory and Rude Tube are on as GiffGaff sponsor these shows). However if you miss it on TV you can also go to the website  to watch the advert in full, they’ve got extra footage which isn’t in the televised version and there is further information on the site. They are using #dontbescared on Twitter, and if you type in #dontbescared on YouTube you can see the full 3 min advert as well as some teaser trailers too.


The full article about our day at the shoot with brilliant photos will be in the latest release of Geek Syndicate’s magazine which is due out on June 1st – make sure you don’t miss it!

If your sharp-eyed you can even see me in the advert – let me know in the comments if you spot me….

Reporter: darkphoenix1701

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