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An Interview with Michael Souder, Director of By Day's End

by Mike Haberfelner

February 2020

Films directed by Michael Souder on (re)Search my Trash


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Your new movie By Day's End - in a few words, what is it about?


Carly and Rina are going through a rough patch in their relationship and it all gets interrupted by the zombie apocalypse. I tend to specify the genre as found footage lesbian zombie horror romance.


With By Day's End being a zombie movie, is that a genre at all dear to you, and some of your genre favourites? And what do you think makes your movie stick out of the crowd of genre fare?


Zombie horror is a huge favorite of mine. My mom let me watch Night of the Living Dead at a very young age and I was scarred/hooked for life. Fast or slow, virus or supernatural, I like them all. In fact, the original idea for By Day's End was inspired by a scene in 28 Days Later. Now I don't remember any of the characters' names, but there is a scene where a man is bitten. There is the initial shock of the bite, then a split second to contemplate the consequences, then the woman he was with, I thought his girlfriend, kills the man. Very little hesitation, and it makes sense in that universe considering how quickly people change, but that scene always stuck with me. I thought there would be no way I could make that decision that fast. In fact, sort of spoilers, I thought I could spend a fair bit of a movie wrestling with that decision.


I hope By Day's End sticks out by focusing more on the relationship between the two main characters. Don't get me wrong, I love zombie films that just go through cooler and cooler sequences of killing zombies, but usually any drama or relationship conflict takes a pretty distant backseat if not pulled behind the car with a bloody rope. With By Day's End, I tried to bring that aspect to the front.


Other sources of inspiration when writing By Day's End?


Unchained Melody by the Righteous Brothers, that song from Ghost with Patrick Swayze. In particular the line, "I've hungered, hungered, for your touch"  Don't ask me why my mind jumped to zombies when contemplating this line, but it did. In fact, the original version of the script was titled Hunger.


I'm also a big fan of the Twilight Zone, Outer Limits, Tales of the Dark Side, Black Mirror, any of those shows which take a premise and, more often than not, take it in a direction you weren't expecting. My zombies are quite hungry and will eat most anything yet one of my main characters is bulimic. I love playing with those sort of dichotomies.


What can you tell us about By Day's End's approach to horror?


Because we didn't have unlimited funds, we had to take the Jaws sort of approach to horror. Don't show the monsters as much and try to build tension atmospherically. Another side effect of this is that it forces you to focus on how the horror affects the characters versus actually showing the horror, so you really have to beef up the drama in the relationship. Thankfully our actors did a really good job here filling in the gap of not having 100s of zombies on screen.


By Day's End was partly shot found footage style - so why is that, and the advantages and challenges filming that way?


Found footage done well feels more intimate for me, like you are there experiencing the events with the characters. The downside is that you can run into motion sickness problems. I tried to get the best of both worlds by mixing the found footage with security camera, fixed camera shots that Carly sets up in their motel room, or the characters drop the camera and it somehow manages to fall in the perfect spot. 


Another challenge for pure found footage is editing within a scene. Usually you have to do really long takes because there is no other camera angle to cut to. The security cameras and fixed cameras gave us that opportunity.


Do talk about your key cast, and why exactly these people?


Lyndsey Lantz was a friend of the co-writer on the film, Justin Calen Chenn. When he got on board, he had her in mind from the beginning. After I met her, I immediately saw Carly. As you can see in the film, she has an outward strength and can seamlessly flip that to vulnerability.


The role for Rina came down to two actresses after initial application screening. We did a Skype call and Andrea Nelson just nailed the scenes she read. She was able to do the inverse of Lyndsey, come across as more reserved at first but with hidden strength. I always seen Rina as the true badass of the couple even though first appearance might suggest otherwise.


Joshua Kellar Katz submitted a reading with his girlfriend that just captured the calm cool of Wyatt when we first meet him in the film. Bill Oberst jr [Bill Oberst jr interview - click here] has just about the perfect voice for the Dr. Rittmeyer work we needed, not to mention he's a veteran of the horror genre. Same with Maria Olsen [Maria Olsen interview - click here], the absolute perfect Mrs. Tibbs. I think Maria was also a friend of Justin's, but when she came on set, she was just magnificent. I don't want to leave anyone out, so I'll just say Devlin Wilder, Umberto Celisano, Diana Castrillon, and the rest, all wonderful and all really fun on set.


I think the motel location is a key factor in By Day's End - so where was it filmed, and what was it like filming there?


We filmed at a motel in El Monte. It definitely had a lot of character and characters staying there, including me. I stayed in the motel for the duration of the shoot, in fact my room was used sort of like the green room and make up room. Lyndsey actually stayed a night in the room from the film when we had a late night. Ben Bertucci, our DP, found quite a lot of interesting shots due to all the off angles and strange shadows around the place.


A few words about the shoot as such, and the on-set atmosphere?


I was scared to death the first few days because it was my first time directing anything big. By day four or five, we definitely got into a rhythm. I recall having a lot of laughs towards the end, usually due to Josh or some of the crew joking around.


The whole shoot took 11 days though we were scheduled for 12. The hardest scenes were any with action or attack sequences. Those took a lot of work to block out in a safe way. We also ran into some problems with planes flying overhead every 5 minutes. The scene that made me the most nervous was a particularly bloody scene in a bath tub. So many things could go wrong with blood and it would take ages to reset, plus we only have a few copies of the clothes for the scenes, so we had to get it right in only one or two takes.


The $64-question of course, where can By Day's End be seen?


The film is coming out on March 17, and will be available on iTunes, Amazon, Google Play, Playstation, Xbox, Vudu, FandangoNOW, and cable/satellite (Comcast, Vubiquity, DirectTV, Dish/Dish Digital). The film will also be on DVD!


Anything you can tell us about audience and critical reception of By Day's End yet?


There haven't been any theatrical showings, but I am scheduling a couple. One in the Bay Area, mainly for friends and family of mine, and another in LA, for cast and crew. We have gotten a few reviews and some of them bring up some criticisms that I agree with, usually related to low budget issues or me making a mistake. Praise for Lyndsey and Andrea seems to be universal. They really did a wonderful job, so I'm excited that their work will be out there.


Any future projects you'd like to share?


I'll likely be focusing more on screenwriting in the future outside of a few shorts I'd like to tackle.


What got you into filmmaking in the first place, and did you receive any formal training on the subject?


I started with writing, mostly short stories until I discovered screenwriting. I wrote a few features and a sitcom pilot, got some meetings with producers, even a few options, but nothing ever came of them. I decided to write a script that, if all else failed, I could make it myself. Turns out that is what happened.


I had no formal training for making a film, and let me tell you, it is less than ideal to try to learn all this on set. People talk about imposter syndrome, where you are qualified but you feel like you aren't. I didn't have the syndrome at the beginning of the shoot, I was really an imposter!  It wasn't until a few days into the shoot that I started feeling like a director and it felt like everyone was working in sync. I'm pretty sure I could write a book on what not to do while making a film because, chances are, I made that mistake.


What can you tell us about your filmwork prior to By Day's End?


I filmed a Kickstarter trailer for an early iteration of the script called Hunger. That was a single day shoot and quite difficult given my lack of experience. We filmed only three scenes, one of which was the difficult bathtub scene I mentioned earlier.


On the other hand, my screenwriting experience is pretty vast. I've written many features, a couple pilots, and several shorts. Many have either been optioned or placed in a contest or both. Only Hunger/By Day's End has been produced.


How would you describe yourself as a director?


After my total of 12 days experience, I'd call myself a veteran. But really, I threw myself straight into the deep end without knowing how to swim and I survived. I want to study a bit more and take smaller steps to build myself as a better director.


Filmmakers who inspire you?


I'm a huge fan of the more well known folks, Fincher, Tarantino, Hitchcock, but I also get quite inspired/jealous of the unknowns who come out of nowhere and just knock it out of the park. A good example of this Shane Carruth who made Primer, one of my favorite time travel movies. You need a flow chart to fully understand that one. And, of course, I'm quite inspired by the teams behind some of the early found footage work, Blair Witch Project, Paranormal Activity, Rec, etc.


Your favourite movies?


Leon, 12 Monkeys, The Game, Fight Club, Usual Suspects, Reservoir Dogs, Dial M for Murder, Spaceballs, Big Lebowski, Let the Right One In, Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors, Night of the Living Dead, Jaws... I better end it there, I could go on for ages.


... and of course, films you really deplore?


I can never bring myself to not finish a movie, so if it is boring, I'm bored and pissed off the entire time waiting for it to get better. But now that I'm a screenwriter, even bad movies are useful for me to learn what not to do. With that in mind, I can't think of a movie I actively despise.


Your/your movie's website, Facebook, whatever else?


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Anything else you're dying to mention and I've merely forgotten to ask?


To any screenwriters out there waiting for your big break, write something you can shoot yourself and make it happen.


Thanks for the interview!


© by Mike Haberfelner

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Robots and rats,
demons and potholes,
cuddly toys and
shopping mall Santas,
love and death and everything in between,
Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

is all of that.


Tales to Chill
Your Bones to
a collection of short stories and mini-plays
ranging from the horrific to the darkly humourous,
from the post-apocalyptic
to the weirdly romantic,
tales that will give you a chill and maybe a chuckle, all thought up by
the twisted mind of
screenwriter and film reviewer
Michael Haberfelner.


Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

the new anthology by
Michael Haberfelner


Out now from




On the same day
a Burglar wants to kill you
and your Ex wants
to make up ...
... and for the life of it,
you can't decide


A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
Melanie Denholme
directed by
David V.G. Davies
written by
Michael Haberfelner
Ryan Hunter and
Rudy Barrow

out now on DVD