Niagara Gazette — Creative people have visions. Finding a way to take the imagination and turn it into reality is how successful people are made.
Hope Muehlbauer is one of those successful humans, having written, directed, starred in and edited her own full-length movie in one of her favorite genres.
But what makes Hope so special is she’s not even old enough for high school. She’s 13 years old and still walking the halls of Gaskill Preparatory. And in a matter of weeks, she’ll be a moviemaker for real.
“I started writing it two years ago,” she said. “We were filming last summer, but a few of the cast members quit. So we had to audition again in April and found our remaining characters. It was fun, though.”
Just what can a 13-year-old envision? Hope’s movie takes liberties with a local tragedy the Niagara Falls community likely will never live down. She surmises the Love Canal site has left some destructive chemicals in the ground, though no one knows how bad until a group of youngsters break in to the area and come in contact with the waste.
It quickly turns some of the children into the walking dead, leaving the rest to fight for survival.
She’s debuting her film, “Zombie Kids,” at a special screening at 5 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 26, at The Screening Room, 3131 Sheridan Drive, Amherst. Though entrance is a $5 cover charge at the door, attendees will get to experience a film by a young filmmaker and a number of live extras, including a panel with some of the film’s actors.
She shot the movie on a digital camera, part of a shoestring budget she was able to secure through the lucrative funding source called Mom and Dad. The actors were unpaid. The only real expense they encountered was in buying makeup supplies for the gruesome monsters her cast morphed into.
It’s an experience she said she’d love to repeat again and again, as many times as possible. But like everything happening in her life, she learned some important lessons along the way. If ever she does make her next film, she’ll use the experience making this one to be better.
“I learned you have to trust people, that you have to be patient,” she said. “You have to be ready for everything, because anything can get in the way. But I also learned I want to keep making movies.”
As a filmmaker, Hope is on the right path. But as a person, she’s been there a while. Her father, Tom Muehlbauer, said she’s never been a troublemaker, consistently succeeding both in and out of the classroom. Her mother, Shelly Muehlbauer, said she’s beyond proud of her daughter’s recent accomplishments.
They both have a different way of parenting that works in their situation. Members of a local metal rock band themselves, they’ve brought their daughter up in an environment tailor made for gothic fantasies. They have rooms filled with horror movie memorabilia and all-year Halloween decorations stationed throughout their quaint 30th Street home in the Falls.
They said Hope saw her first horror movie at 2 years old and laughed when a character was decapitated. Yet she’s a model citizen. It debunks, to them, the idea that their brand choice of entertainment can negatively affect the behaviors of teenagers.
“She’s as great of a kid as possible,” Tom said. “She gets straight As, she’s never in trouble. She’s the ultimate example of how that stereotype is a myth.”
So it’s no surprise the young filmmaker chose zombies for her first foray into the world of cinema. It’ll be up to her to do something more with the passion she has.
“This is all her doing,” he said. “She has the passion and the talent to do this. She did the best she could.”
Contact reporter Timothy Chipp at 282-2311, ext. 2251 or follow on Twitter @timchipp.