Four lessons from first-time film director Abby Laine Faber

Abby Laine Faber, director of 'Sorority Zombie Blood Bath,' at Queens University of Charlotte.

Abby Laine Faber, director of ‘Sorority Zombie Blood Bath.’ Photo by Max Millington.

Blood is splattered on the dorm room wall. A girl sits on the floor beside it, covered in blood. She rocks back and forth, tears streaming down her face. Her dressers, slightly open, are glazed with a layer of blood, and so is the plant nearby. The girl starts to shake and then breaks down, chest heaving, tears falling.

“Why is this happening?” she pleads, her body folding into itself.

The screen goes black, and the title “Sorority Zombie Blood Bath” splatters across the screen. And the film begins.

Created for Zombies in Film, an honors program class taught by Queens professor Craig Renfroe, this short film made such an impression that it helped land Queens student and first-time film director Abby Laine Faber an internship with Chris Waldorf, a local director.

Faber describes her film as a “funny horror movie.” She says she learned a lot of lessons while making it. Here’s what she learned:

A dedicated cast and crew is essential

“I was really dedicated to it [the film]…because it’s what I want to do with my life,” Faber said. “Finding the right people to do that with me is hard.”

But it is possible.

“I was surprised that so many people, one, took it seriously, and two, really listened to me,” Faber said.

Establishing herself as the director—and not a friend—was key in gaining the necessary respect. From the first cast and crew email, Faber says she set a tone that emphasized her leadership.

“I did it in a really professional manner,” Faber said.

She told the cast and crew the exact times they needed to be present and made deadlines for learning lines. If these guidelines were not followed, Faber made it clear that they would be cut from the movie.

“I had a list of things,” Faber said, “and I said ‘don’t take it personally, but this is my career path.’”

Focus first on the preproduction period—even if it is boring

Faber says preproduction makes everything so much easier in the end. Even though she spent two months planning before filming, Faber says she still went into the filming stage feeling a little unprepared.

“That’s one of the biggest parts of filmmaking that I was kind of just like, ‘meh!'” she said. “And it’s so hard.”

To make sure actors know when they need to show up and what lines they need to memorize on a given day, Faber says planning is essential. It also allows the director to organize which scene is filmed at a particular time. The weather, time of day and availability of actors all play into what order scenes are filmed in.

Let people know the film is student-directed

A lot of times, businesses are willing to help student filmmakers out with their purchases, Faber said.

When Faber and her crew went to buy prosthetic and makeup supplies, just telling the store employees that they were students got them a 25% discount.

Even if it doesn’t look like employees will give a discount, Faber says, “always tell them that you’re a student film maker.”

Support is as important as prestige

Small schools, like Queens, don’t have the film degree offerings that bigger, more distinguished film schools do, Faber said. Queens doesn’t currently have a film major, so Faber says she’s kind of making it up as she goes along.

“Sometimes, I just get scared that I’m not going to be able to do it…” Faber said, “that there’s always going to be someone better than me that went to NYU.”

But she says the amount of encouragement she receives from Queens’ faculty, staff and administration, and their level of interest in her, makes up for that.

“I feel like people here really helped me out, just supporting me,” Faber said. “And that’s going to give me as much experience as the next person who’s out of a big school.”

Want to watch Sorority Zombie Blood Bath?

“Sorority Zombie Blood Bath” is on YouTube.

Zombie makeup of a Queens student actor in 'Sorority Zombie Blood Bath.'
Zombie makeup from the film.

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Published by students of Queens University of Charlotte, 1900 Selwyn Avenue, Charlotte, N.C. 28274.