Capital Region filmmaker discusses latest project, sets sights on Schenectady

Movie set in a house with two actors and crew, man's photo inset

On the set of "The Zombie Wedding." Inset: Micah Khan. (photos provided)

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Capital Region filmmaker Micah Khan has made an impressive number of films over the course of his career, though perhaps none quite on the same scale as his latest.

Called “The Zombie Wedding,” it’s the first film from the popular former tabloid Weekly World News (WWN) and follows a couple about to get married when a Zombie apocalypse breaks out. They decide to move forward with the wedding even though the groom and his side of the family are now zombies. WWN reporters cover the event while trying to get out alive. It’s based on an interactive play written by Greg D’Alessandro that premiered in 2015.

Khan was hired to direct the feature last year and worked with actors Cheri Oteri, Seth Gilliam, Heather Matarazzo, Kevin Chamberlin, Christine Spang, Siobhan Fallon Hogan, Vincent Pastore, Ajay Naidu, Mu-Shaka Benson, Micky Dolenz of the Monkees, Deepti Menon, Donald Chang, Katie Kuang, Krystina Alabado and Jay DeYonker.

“It was a huge production,” Khan said. “It was a bigger budget than I’ve ever worked with.”

Over the last nine years, the East Greenbush resident has made more than 30 short films, most locally shot and produced. Recently, he was one of 25 writers selected for the Mentorship Matters program, an initiative aimed at boosting opportunities for emerging writers of color. It connects selected writers with established showrunners and includes a year of in-depth mentorship and creative advocacy.

Looking back, making a career out of filmmaking seemed unattainable as a kid.

“I always loved movies. I just never thought it was accessible. No one ever told me ‘You can do that as a career,’” Khan said.

Growing up, he watched a lot of American action movies and Bollywood films and after graduating from Columbia High School, he pursued a career in comedy, working at the People’s Improv Theater in New York City.

He went on to land a bit on “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon” and acted in an indie film. However, he quickly became more curious about working behind the camera and moved back to the Capital Region to study at the New School Center for Media. He started making films around that time.

“I just started making short film after short film,” Khan said. “I made 34 short films from 2014 to 2020.”

The first 10, he did nearly all of the filming himself.

“When I first started making films, it was just me because no one told me to ask for help. So I would have a shoulder rig on my arm, and then I would hold the boom in my other. It was nuts,” Khan said.

He also wrote many of the scripts. At first, he made them in between working retail jobs, but eventually, he was able to focus on filmmaking full-time, working as a grip or a PA on film sets both local and further afield.

Being steeped in the industry seems to have paid off. One of Khan’s short films, called “Meetcute on Danceworld,” caught the attention of David Benioff (showrunner on “Game of Thrones”) and Ben Stiller, who tweeted about it. It was shot in Troy several years ago and is set in a world where people communicate through dance rather than verbally. 

“[The film] was just making a name for myself as a weird, out-of-the-box filmmaker, which is funny because to them, it’s out of the box. To me, it’s like, ‘oh, I just love Bollywood.’ I don’t think I was changing the wheel,” Khan said.

It helped him land the job as director of “The Zombie Wedding,” which was filmed last year in Vineland, New Jersey.

“The best part about it was that I was able to bring a ton of upstate New York filmmakers with me as crew,” Khan said.

That included Jim Powers and John Stegemann and others from the Capital Region. Local actor John Schnurr was also a cast member.

They filmed the comedy over the course of 18 packed days.

“Time was our biggest adversary,” Khan said. “In your mind, you’re making this incredible movie and then time comes in the way. I got about maybe 70% of what I wanted on screen exactly the way I wanted it.”

However, in some cases, that served the film well.

“Some of the scenes are very different than what I wanted, originally. That doesn’t necessarily mean they’re bad. Sometimes you have a storyboard and in theory, it looks great, but then you see an actor do a certain thing or a certain look, and you’re like, ‘Alright, well, I need another shot of that.’ You want to leave yourself adaptable to what people are doing on set and not be rigid because I just believe that films are like a moving, breathing organism,” Khan said.

Eyes Schenectady

“The Zombie Wedding” is in post-production and Khan hopes it’ll be released this year. In the meantime, he’s got his sights set on Schenectady.

“I’m trying to set up my next movie here in Schenectady,” said Khan, who previously lived in the Stockade.

Titled “Patterns,” Khan co-wrote the script, which follows a man who, after his father dies, inherits his house and in it, he finds a rug. When he rolls out the rug, there’s an alternate dimension inside the rug. He also finds a child there.

“It’s all about him unraveling this mystery of what this thing is while this thing is making him go mad. It’s a very, internal psychological, cosmic horror,” Khan said.

He’s been in discussions with Schenectady Film Commissioner Donna Pennell and Ray Legere, owner of Armory Studios, NY to make the film happen.

“I’m so excited for him,” Pennell said.

She and Legere toured the studio with Khan and the production team, including Powers and Stegemann of West Field Films. 

“For me, for the Film Commission, it doesn’t matter the size of the production. From large to indie to small, everyone gets the same high level of service from start to finish. That’s super important to us. We’ll be with him right through,” Pennell said. 

With this project, Khan is looking for local involvement and investment.

“We wanted to make a movie up here in Schenectady, and try to use as much local crew as possible,” Khan said.

He’s also working with fellow local filmmakers to help build a workforce of filmmakers in the heart of the Capital Region.

“We really want to help create a workforce up here, because I feel like Albany, Schenectady, Troy, all these areas, we could become an industry of film if we just start building the infrastructure for it, and part of that is workforce,” Khan said. “When these bigger productions come up here, they can hire from our pool of local talent.”

He’s also bringing both working and aspiring local filmmakers together with 518 Film Network, which he co-founded with Michelle Polacinski.

“The idea of that was to really start connecting the [film] community up here, and get everyone to collaborate with each other versus just living in a vacuum alone,” Khan said.

“The 518 Film Network has done a great job promoting the talent we have in the 518 and continues to expand with new members.  We have reached out to them on numerous occasions when productions are in need of local crew,” Pennell said.    

They plan to hold events like an Oscars watch party and several others this spring/summer. They also help to promote local premieres and work by local filmmakers.

“We want you to be in film. If it’s a hobby, it’s a hobby. If it’s your passion, try it. Don’t hesitate to reach out and join the community because we’re here to help connect filmmakers,” Khan said.

The Oscars watch party is set for 7:30 p.m. Sunday, March 12 at Kickback Studios (10 2nd Street, Troy). For more on 518 Film Network visit them on Facebook.

Categories: Entertainment, Life and Arts

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