A&E: The Dead Inside

Billed as a supernatural musical with zombies, “The Dead Inside” is the latest starring role for Edmond native Dustin Fasching. The feature-length, genre-bending crowd-pleaser is currently making the festival circuit, screening all over the U.S. and snowballing awards wherever it rolls.

An Edmond Memorial High School graduate, Fasching moved to Hollywood with his comedy troupe “One Hit Wonder” in 1999. They had a following in Oklahoma City and, after impressing the audience at an Austin, Texas, improv festival, they caught the attention of some important people. “Industry professionals wooed us out to L.A. with promises of fame and fortune that never really came true,” Fasching says.

“One Hit Wonder” performed at the Aspen Comedy Arts Festival in Colorado and had a radio show for a year. It was mostly online and it even enjoyed FM play in some cities, like Spokane, Washington. “It was a paid gig, so it was real enough for us,” he says. However, the troupe soon fell apart.

These days, most of Fasching’s auditions are for commercials. He’s appeared in spots for various companies. His imdb.com page lists a handful of acting roles, like “The Breakdance Kid,” which he says was just something to put under his belt.

“‘The Dead Inside’ is the first film that I’ve ever been proud to be part of,” Fasching says. He plays Wes, a burnt-out photographer whose wife, zombie-novella writer Fi (Sarah Lassez), begins acting strange. Her behavior turns terrifying and the film sheds its levity for darker tones.

“It has a very independent feel,” Fasching says. The film uses only two actors in multiple roles and nearly the entire hour-and-a-half runtime takes place in one location: an apartment. “It’s very artistic and theatrical. It’s shot by a first-time cinematographer,” Fasching says of Shannon Hourigan. “The art direction is very good. She dressed the set the way it is to keep the audience members interested even though we never leave the apartment.” That apartment was the home of Hourigan and the film’s writer and director, Travis Betz.

“The project found me, kind of,” Fasching says. He and Betz work together at Messina Baker Entertainment Corp., a company that manages comedians, actors and other performers, and Betz asked Fasching if he would like to star in his movie.

“The Dead Inside” is hard for many to classify. “It draws inspiration from several classic films like ‘Night of the Living Dead’ and ‘Eraserhead,’ although nothing directly inspired this film other than the basic spirit and feel,” he says. The film grabs elements from different types of movies and juggles comedic and dramatic elements, not to mention the fact that the cast regularly breaks into song. “This was just totally out of the mind of Travis,” Fasching says. “It’s pretty original.”

A subplot of the film, kind of a story-within-a-story, calls for Fasching and Lassez to double as zombies. Those scenes were the only ones filmed outside the apartment.

One of the challenges of the part was deciphering the tone to bring to the acting. The zombies are in love with each other, and they talk (and sing) and act much like living humans. There was humor in the role, and there were questions about how broad or realistic to portray the characters. “We ended up playing it fairly real and dry,” Fasching says. “We didn’t want to take it over the top. We just played it honestly.”

Ever since the film’s standing-room only, sold-out Hollywood premiere, Fasching has been traveling to support it on as many of its festival stops as possible. “(It’s won) three awards from various festivals, and I’m hoping to tag a few more on,” he says.

The tour will bring “The Dead Inside” to the metro when it hits the deadCENTER Film Festival in Oklahoma City. The festival will be June 8-12 and will feature more than 100 films. “We were pleased to find out that we were one of the staff favorites,” Fasching says.For more information on the festival, visit www.deadcenterfilm.org. To view a trailer, visit www.thedeadinside.com.

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