He's only 9 years old, but his mother says Jack Murphy of Ashland is a natural-born director. And with $1,511 raised on Kickstarter, he bought a video camera to shoot and produce an hourlong film about hunting zombies.
A homeschooled kid who now attends Willow Wind Community Learning Center, Jack got his idea from watching "Super 8" last year, and he thought, "Why not have me, a real kid, make a real zombie movie?"
"The idea just popped in my head that I could do it," he said.
With the help of his mom, art therapist and nutritional consultant Delaine Due, Jack proposed the movie, called "Z-Minus," on Kickstarter, asking only $80 for a cheap video camera to fulfill her requirement for a summer project. Jack also is the son of Myles Murphy, who works for the Ashland Daily Tidings.
The project quickly charmed 79 backers, who donated almost 20 times what he asked. When combined with $80 from selling home-squeezed lemonade at "a buck a glass," plus saved-up allowances, it was enough for a $400 Canon Vixia camcorder, plus lights, sound equipment, tripod and special effects, with plenty left over to throw a pizza party for a growing cast — now at seven neighborhood kids.
The project's fundraising period ended Aug. 17. According to his Kickstarter page, Jack will reward donors with credits in the film, a DVD of it, a signed copy of the script and other goodies, depending on their level of gifting. Some backers joined from as far away as the U.K. and Germany.
"It's been amazing," says Due. "We thought we'd cover the $80 from just family members, but backers were almost all people we didn't know. It was a great learning experience, and the more money that got pledged, the more serious we've had to get about making a really quality movie."
Per his mother's deadline, Jack finished the script in June and launched into rehearsing and making phone calls to complete production tasks. The family found mentors to teach Jack the various phases of making this, his first movie, including Jim Teece of Project A in Ashland, who advised Jack on the purchase of a good video camera.
Due says she's pleased with her son's ingenuity, focus and creativity. He showed directorial skills at age 4 and 5, she said, when as a member of the Ashland Children's Theater company he wanted to stop the show so he could block the next scene and tell the actors what to do.
The neighborhood actors are thrilled about playing (or killing) zombies, with seventh-grader Kendall Chaspell demonstrating how loud and shrill she can scream — her main acting duty before she faints from fright.
Sixth-grader Rees Meads is the chief zombie hunter, which he says is "great fun." Gahl Falkner, already an actor at Oregon Shakespeare Festival, plays the wife of Rees and says she must be slain in her role, just as she is at OSF.
Jack and his cast recently shot the first sighting of a zombie, at Standing Stone Brewing Co., using the big brewing tanks and instrument panels as a factory scene.
"It's great fun shooting. I want to be a famous movie producer really bad when I grow up and also an actor," he says.
Jack cut his teeth on movie production by doing video reviews of burger joints as the family drove across the country to Washington, D.C., says Due.
"Then I pumped out three scenes for the zombie movie," says Jack, "and got creative block. It was a little difficult, definitely a big delay — but I got over it. After this movie, I'm going to do 'Z-minus II,' and then I have another movie in the works after that."
To read of the project, see www.kickstarter.com/projects/1183199505/z-minus-0.
John Darling is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.