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INTERVIEW: The Undead Brains Behind PATIENT 23

Months ago, AP2HYC had its very first interview with Damian and Veronica Vargas about Deadpool: The Webseries. For those who don’t remember, Damian, a recently retired professional wrestler and life-long comic book lover, had starred in the series as the body of Deadpool (with directer Chris Notarile as the voice). Unfortunately, Marvel squashed the project under legal red tape.

However, all was not lost, as the pair have now teamed with Anthony Gutierrez and Ron Fulmer on an original project (so no interference from Marvel this time!). Patient 23 promises to be an action-packed horror/thriller with a deep mythology base. We had a chance to speak to the filmmakers about the film and got a few more hints about what we can expect to see.


Anthony and Ron, could you tell us a bit about yourselves and how you got into filmmaking?

Anthony: Born in the Bronx NY, I have always had a passion for filmmaking. I admit I’m virtually new to this. But my life has went in a different and new direction. So here I am now and learning everyday what it takes to be a great director and filmmaker.

Ron: I have been a watchmaker for the past 8 years, running my own shop since 2005. I started in film about 2 years ago by accident; an old high school friend asked me to help out one day as an extra and ended up working on the rest of the film filling various roles.

What can you tell us about the plot of Patient 23?

Anthony: Well the plot starts off with vampires coming out of the shadows and showing the world they mean no harm but the government had different plans. You know how it is they fear what they can’t control. So Patient 23 is born and with the help of Ron, Veronica and Damian we all have built this script to become bigger than what we imagined it would be. I mean the following we have on this project goes past what the Facebook numbers show.

Ron: Can’t say much at this point without giving away too much but I can say zombies, vampires and other mythology are a big part of the film, but the main theme is how Human and Vampires would coexist in a time when neither species controlled the earth.

Veronica: I have to agree with Ron on this, there isn’t much that any of us can really say without revealing too many plot points about Patient 23.  Basically what needs to be known is: zombies, vampires, humans, mythologies and lore of them as well as some religious dogma. It’s become something unique and special.


How did the project get started? Where did the original idea come from?

Anthony: Well I was sitting down one day and had my laptop in front of me and I said to myself I have to create something that has not been done before. And being that I love zombies also the horror business is big right now. So I breathed in and let my mind loose and boom Patient 23 was born. Damian and I are are old friends from his wrestling days and I knew he had just retired and jumped into acting. So I gave him a buzz to play a role. He really loved the idea and brought aboard Ron due to his experience in the genre. Then Veronica has her long writing background and started to lend a hand. Now with the help of Ron, Veronica and Damian I feel we’re really developing a great and fun film.

What made you decide to use Amazon as a way of raising money instead of other methods of crowdsourcing like KickStarter and IndieGogo?

Damian: That was an idea I came up with for two reasons. The first was a way to build a relationship and trust with those that became interested in and supported our project. That we weren’t going to run off with their money. Also after seeing initial footage, we quickly realized we needed to do reshoots. But, with improvements to costuming and effects and we needed them fast. Sad fact though, we also have real life jobs, bills, financial strains and families to support. So it was a long shot to see if anyone would support us if they 100% KNEW where their money was going. In the end we got a good response and gained many necessary items. For their kindness all are receiving autographed copies of the short film upon completion, a signed poster as well as being listed in the credits. We couldn’t thank our supporters of Patient 23 enough as they really came through for us!

Is the film currently shooting? When can we expect to see it? 

Anthony: Right now everything is in development for the feature after completing the short with some fun things that will pop up along the way.

Ron: Like Anthony said. It’s pre-production right now. Casting will begin sometime this winter and we will begin shooting spring of 2014. Short back-story teasers will be released over the next year till principle filming is complete.

Veronica: With the short film being wrapped, and being slightly ahead of the game in terms of promoting it via social media, right now focus lies in the pre-production/development stages for the feature length film.  Really fleshing out the script and characters via their own back stories with a film short of their own, fine-tuning the concept art for the final appearance of the characters, as well as continuous promotion of the short film within everything else that we are doing.

Anthony: If done right and accounting for any speed bumps as I’m sure there will be, hopefully a 2015 release. The goal is DVD distribution. We have a few other things in mind but don’t want to put the cart in front of the horse. But we’re looking to keep everyone’s interest peaked as this venture goes like Veronica stated.


Damian, I know you’re relatively new to acting and working in film. Did you learn anything valuable from Deadpool that you’re bringing into this experience?

Damian: Oh absolutely! In watching Chris Notarile direct and command a crew on his own, it was a guide on how to get what you want out of your cast onto film. But also as an actor I learned how to be able to do a scene repeatedly yet stay consistent each time it is done. Hitting the same mark, or expressing the same inflections over and over. Working with Chris was a complete learning experience that I will 100% say taught me things moving forward with this project and beyond that I will keep with me forever.

What kind of action can we look forward to? Will there be more guns/explosions, or are we going to see more hands on fighting? 

Damian: I guess this my department since I am responsible for the fight choreography and action sequences. I WISH we could do explosions. I’m sure as the story develops there will be areas that it would fit. But we don’t have a Michael Bay budget or licenses or even a crew to safely accommodate that. But as far as the gun play, definitely. Hand fighting, ABSOLUTELY! We’ve been fortunate enough to actually have a NJ police officer, Justin Clayton who plays Adrian Jax and a former 1st Lieutenant Marine in Eric Moran who plays the General on cast. They’ve been instrumental in guiding the weapons tactics on this project based on their real life knowledge and experience. They’ve guided in proper weapons handling, posture and even approaching a target. There is even talks of actually having cast take a tactical course, which I’m uber excited to do!

As for the hand to hand combat it is not going to be like the parkour style you see vastly used so much now. One, cause me and I’d say our cast can’t do it. But mostly cause of the second reason. I take my philosophy from Bruce Lee. If it isn’t practical, it looks too fake. So the fights I have been putting together are based on realism, hard hitting and physical. On location I literally told one of the actors working with me to run in hard, scoop me up and dump me to the ground-HARD! The actual shot was so hard there was no sound effects needed and you see me in one shot go up in the air and hit the ground with no pads. That us the type of action I love and the type of action I have found that grabs people. When it is as real as it can be. I mean sure there will be some cool “Hollywood” style moments in the combat. But again, I’m going the old school route with the action. And I feel it’s a great marriage with the style of the film going this approach. It adds to the feel of the movie as well as the realism of the moment. It’s a method some people will be able to relate to as well as see and appreciate the physicality being presented. I don’t just want them to cringe at the gore, but the hits as well.

In the end I want everyone to look legitimate on film. Like they can hurt you in 1001 ways. I’ve seen a lot of films where an actor only does one tactical pose, approach or even a fighting stance for an entire movie, and it looks completely unbelievable and takes me out of the film. I want to see an actor and feel like they ARE that person and have that training. If they don’t know what they’re doing, it shows right away and an audience doesn’t believe in this persons character and that can effect the perception of an entire film. It is my responsibility that doesn’t happen. To make you believe these actors are either tactically trained or formidable warriors.

Can you tell us a bit more about the short: when and how it will be released and how does it connect to the feature project?

Veronica: (answering for Ron also since we would give the same answer) The short film, I would call a Prologue to the feature.  As far as how the short connects to the feature, the short is basically the teaser.  It gives the viewer a feel of what is involved in the feature, who will be involved and a small taste as to what the characters are like.  But only enough to whet the appetite, enough for the viewers to say “That was awesome I want to see more!”, or for the viewers to say “There’s so much I want to know, I NEED to see more!”  The short film’s sole purpose is to leave everyone wondering, so that even if (god forbid) they don’t necessarily like the short film they will still feel compelled to watch the feature because they are itching to have their questions about the short answered. I call it the Cloverfield effect.
I for one am super excited to see what comes next for Patient 23. If you want to keep up to date on what’s happening with the film, you can find Patient 23 on Facebook, Twitter, and Blogspot. You can also donate through the Amazon Wishlist, which gets you some awesome rewards!


About the author

David Molofsky

David is the Owner & Editor-in-Chief of AP2HYC.