Emily Hagins has always loved movies. She loved watching them and soon even that wasn't quite enough. She began making shorts and then at the age of 12 she directed, wrote, shot, and edited the low budget feature length zombie movie 'Pathogen' which was finished in 2006 after 2 years in production. News of her amazing accomplishment circulated and soon a documentary was made about her entitled 'Zombie Girl'. In the interim Emily has made a couple more movies 'Party Killer' (which she wrote and directed) as well as her most recent project 'The Retelling' (which she also directed, wrote, and produced). This is one amazing young woman and Emily was gracious enough to take time from her schedule for this exclusive interview.


  Emily, at age 12 you directed, wrote, shot, and edited the low budget zombie movie 'Pathogen'. Did you have any sense of the time at what an amazing accomplishment that was for someone so young?

At the time, it just felt like more of a challenging experience than my short films, but essentially the same deal. However, I think not knowing how big the project was became a major factor contributing to why I was able to finish it. Having a goal (and not being distracted by the limitations) was a huge part of Pathogen that I was unaware of- but now I'm glad it was there. Finishing Pathogen made me realize how much I love making movies.

How did you come to know this much about filmmaking at such a young age?

One of the things I've learned making movies is that the best way to learn is to, well, make more movies. I always take what I learned with the previous project and apply it to the next. I also learn from the movies I watch, and I try to watch as many as I can. You can never learn too much, especially with how much technology is changing nowadays.

Were your folks a bit upset that you were making this movie about zombies or are they pretty cool with the horror thing?

My parents didn't have a problem with the zombies; in fact my mom really liked the genre. My dad was bit concerned with how big the project sounded, but I kept assuring him that it would be all right. Of course his doubts were reasonable, but he was still supportive throughout the process.

So with your film it sounds like it was mostly your friends helping you out with acting in the scenes and stuff. What did you learn about motivating and being in charge of groups from making this movie? How did you keep it all together?

Honestly, being 12-years-old and in charge, I know I wasn't able to keep it all together all the time. But I can assure you I learned from that. One thing I learned about being in charge is that you have to be confident about your vision, but not bossy or controlling. Filmmaking is a collaborative effort, and every job has an important part in bringing it all together (seriously, it can fall apart like dominoes). It's important to be assertive, but in a way that will make people want to follow you (and not feel like it's because 'they have to').

If you could tuck one memory of making that film into a time capsule to preserve what would it be?

I think the best moment of making a movie is when you feel that somehow it will all come together in the end. For me, it was the scene at the end of the movie when the main character leaves the grocery store and there is a horde of zombies to meet her. We didn't have as many zombies as I'd hoped for, but my friend Neil brought a jib (to do a crane shot), which ended up making the final scene look awesome. Seeing the last shot of the film (and how cool it looked with all the zombies) really made me feel like the movie was a real movie, and not just a bunch of scenes we had filmed.

What is your favorite way to kill a zombie?

From Pathogen? Probably the kill with the knitting needle to the eye. From another movie? Recently, it would probably have to be the Banjo kill from 'Zombieland'. My dad makes and plays Banjo, so it's good to know that there are plenty of possible zombie killing weapons in my house if I'm stuck during zombiegeddon.

So tell me about the documentary they made about you called 'Zombie Girl: The Movie'. How did that come about?

The documentary filmmakers (Aaron Marshall, Erik Mauk and Justin Johnson) saw my posting on when I was casting, and thought the process of a 12-year-old girl making a zombie feature length film might be a good subject for a documentary. My family had a meeting with the filmmakers, and we all agreed that it would be okay for them to follow us with the cameras. They're nice guys, and had a very 'fly-on-the-wall' approach to the doc. They saw me making mistakes, but didn't stop me. Ultimately I had to learn the hard way, but I think they were right in letting me make those mistakes on my own.

What was it like to see yourself as the subject of a documentary? Is there anything in the movie you wish wasn't included or anything you wish was included that was skipped?

I know I didn't think a lot before I said some things, and there are certainly moments that I wish weren't in there. I know I was trying to be goofy for the camera some times, and now it's forever on film, haha. However, I think they did a good job with what they decided to include.

Have you always been a fan of horror?

Honestly, I was scared of almost everything (from the guy dressed up as Chuck-E-Cheese to Halloween) until I was 11-years-old. I had never seen a horror movie all the way through until I went to Harry Knowles' (of Aint It Cool News) annual movie birthday party called Butt-numb-a-thon (which takes place at the awesome Austin movie theater, The Alamo Drafthouse). I loved watching movies, but I had never had such a fun experience as watching 24 hours worth of movies of all sorts of genres, both vintage and new releases. That is where I saw the Australian zombie movie Undead, which made me realize that horror movies could be both silly and scary. I had been thinking about starting a feature film, but Undead made me want to make it a zombie movie.

You've also wrote and directed 'Party Killer', which sounds promising. Tell me a little something about that.

It was our final project for 8th grade film class. I don't think it was unreasonable for my middle school to be wary of a slasher film (because all the film class' short films show at a school-wide film festival), so we had to promise limited gore. This was the year Grindhouse came out, which my whole group loved. To make the movie acceptable for the film festival, we decided to make it ridiculously silly (with a grindhouse-style), so the bits of gore that we had to include weren't taken too seriously. We got away with the project, it came out all right, and it was a ton of fun to make.

I also want to hear the details of your latest project 'The Retelling' which again this time you directed, wrote, and produced.

It almost felt like a totally different experience than Pathogen. This time I was working with a crew (about ten people, eight of which were under 18-years-old including camera, sound, and lighting), and professional actors. I also budgeted the film ahead of time, but ended up having to make the film severely under budget (only raised $10k, budget should have been $20K). There were many new problems I had to face with this project, but I'm very proud of everyone involved and their hard work. It actually took three years, while Pathogen only took two.

So when you do all this - the directing, writing, editing, producing, etc. What do you feel is your biggest strength and where do you think you need to work a bit harder?

I feel like my biggest strength is directing, though I have a lot of fun with writing too. I'd like directing to be my main focus though, and I'm working on pursing it. Editing might be my biggest weakness, but it's always fun to put the footage together and see the scene really come to life.

Do you have any other projects lined up you would like to let the readers know about?

Right now I'm working on a horror comedy script.

What was the first movie you saw that scared the hell out of you?

This may be a weird answer, but 'Pee Wee's Big Adventure' - Large Marge.

Any horror film you would LOVE to remake?

I can't think of any off hand because I wouldn't want to change any of the horror movies that I love. Maybe a horror movie that isn't so good?

Okay, we're pulling into the Emily Hagins' Drive In. What three horror flicks are on the triple bill for tonight and what goodies are they going to be serving up at the concession stand?

Hmm, this sounds fun! I'd have to pick a theme first, right? I guess it would be teen horror. The movies: 'The Monster Squad', 'Night of the Living Dorks', and 'Fright Night'. Concession stand: fun movie food- candy, popcorn, sodas, milkshakes, burgers, hot dogs, and vegetarian options.

What scares you in real life?

Snakes and spiders. Living things without bones.

Emily, do you have some long term goal regarding your filmmaking?

Just that I plan to keep making as many movies as I can, and tell good stories.