As my readers already know, I am a huge Z Nation fan along with my daughter, actress Celeste Wilson and teen genius son, Dawson aka Octaret. As a family, we tune into the show every week and we keep track of everything Z that we see online.
This week, I was fortunate enough to be able to touch base with show Co-Creator, Craig Engler and get a little insight into who he is, what’s going on with Z Nation and also an exciting new project he has coming up that anyone who loves science fiction is going to want to be part of!
Craig, first let me start by saying thank you for taking your time to talk to me. I’ve enjoyed your work since 2011 when you did Zombie Apocalypse. The film was a SyFy original and there was just something memorable about seeing Ving Rhames battle his way through man eating zombies only to be taken down by a zombified tiger in the end.
As a fan of your hit show, Z Nation as well as anything to do with Science Fiction or horror, this is a true honor for me.
You’re a hugely influential part of one of the most creative zombie shows ever to air, and fans would love to know more about not only the show, but the creator and one of the immensely talented writers behind the characters they welcome into their home every week.
How long have you been writing, and when did you know this was what you wanted to do with your life?
I wrote my first story when I was nine years old on an antique Underwood typewriter (my mother was an antique dealer and we had the typewriter in the house). I’ve been writing ever since. Professionally I started right out of college as a newspaper reporter. I don’t remember a time when I didn’t want to be a writer.
How did you wind up an executive producer for the Sci Fi Channel?
In the mid-1990s I started an online magazine that covered science fiction, fantasy and horror entertainment. I got all my friends who were pros or semi-pros in the field to write for it. The Sci Fi Channel saw it, loved it and licensed the content for their Web site. Eventually they bought it outright and, as part of the acquisition, they hired me to run all their digital efforts. The original site was called Science Fiction Weekly and is still around today in the form of Syfy Wire, though it’s morphed quite a bit over a time. I’m no longer involved with it, but I’m both pleased and shocked that 20+ years later it not only lives on but thrives!
How did Z Nation come about?
I’d been at Sci-Fi/Syfy for a while and eventually decided I wanted to try my hand at writing a TV movie. They graciously let me, and I wrote Zombie Apocalypse with my friend Brooks Peck. The movie did phenomenally well and was Syfy’s highest-rated film for about five years. Later on they were interested in developing shows based on their popular movies, and I’d always thought the core premise of Zombie Apocalypse could be the basis for a great series, so I wrote up a pitch for Z Nation. Four years later we’re in our fourth season and still one of their highest rated shows.
What would you consider some of the biggest challenges with writing or filming Z Nation?
The biggest challenge is our budget, which is super small compared to a Syfy show like The Expanse or The Magicians. We have a lot of cool ideas that we haven’t done because they’d just be too hard to do on our budgets.
Is there any one episode that has been your favorite thus far in the series?
I love Resurrection Z, which is a bit of a self-serving answer since I wrote it. But that episode encapsulates so much of what I had in mind when I came up with the idea for the show: a new take on how humans approach the zombie phenomenon, a shocking death that alters the course of the series, and fantastic acting by Tom Everett Scott and Kellita Smith. Not to mention the great work John Hyams did directing.
What makes Z Nation different from the other zombie shows that are currently airing, and why should viewers tune in to this show?
Unlike a lot of the zombie genre, our show isn’t just focused on survival. Our characters don’t want to just stay alive, they’re competent zombie killers who have a shot at curing the plague and saving the world. And we’re not unrelentingly grim like so much of the zombie genre. Every episode of the show has horror, but also humor and heart.
As Season 4 is quickly approaching the 10th episode, fans of Z Nation as well as the cast and crew want the show to return for a 5th season. The hashtag #RenewZNation is running rampant all over Twitter. What needs to happen to ensure the show continues and can fans of the show do anything to help?
The best thing anyone can do is spread the word about the show in order to: 1) get new people to watch and 2) remind existing fans there are new episodes airing Fridays at 9/8c on Syfy. (See what I did there?) Beyond that, it’s up to Syfy to decide if they want to continue with it or not, so tweeting or e-mailing them can’t hurt.
While we know the Z Nation fans love your work with the show, you have a new project coming up called The Last Days of Earth, which by the way, I decided to become a founding member of myself because the whole concept of what you were doing was so riveting.
What can you tell fans about this project and where you see it going, or what you envision it doing over time?
Thanks for backing the project!
The Last Days of Earth started out as a TV pilot, but I realized after writing the script that it should really be a novel first. Actually, three novels, delivered in serialized installments online and broken into TV-like seasons. But that’s not all. Readers will also receive physical objects in the mail — timed to arrive at specific points in the story – that will give them important hints and clues about the story to come.
It’s a concept inspired in equal parts by Chinese philosophy, narrative theory and the once-common practice of serializing novels.
The story starts when everyone in the world finds out the Earth will be destroyed in six months. It follows six characters unique impacted by the news: a pregnant woman whose due date is the day the world ends and who’s determined to save her baby. An Elon Musk-like billionaire who caused the end of the world and may (or may not) have a way to save it. And so on.
It’s a big, sweeping story that’s also character focused and will be a one-of-a-kind experience for readers. Readers can back the project on Kickstarter’s new Drip platform (https://d.rip/craigengler). You won’t be disappointed!
Thank you so much for taking time from your busy schedule to talk to me. I can’t wait to see how The Last Days of Earth turns out and of course, I’ll be tuning in every week to keep up with Z Nation and the crew as they battle their way across the Z ridden world to find what they’re looking for.
As the end of the 4th season approaches, fans worldwide can of course continue to use the hashtag #RenewZNation and hopefully, those higher ups who need to hear it will get the message loud and clear and we’ll all be able to enjoy a 5th season this coming year.
To follow Craig Engler:
Be sure to keep up with Z Nation by tuning in every Friday at 9/8c on the SyFy Channel.