Guy Pigden, one-time employee of the UK’s Scala Productions, is one of four directors who will make the first ultra low-budget films under the New Zealand Film Commission’s (NZFC) “escalator” initiative.

I Survived a Zombie Holocaust, co-written with Harvey Neville and to be produced by Zoe Hobson, is about Wesley, a young runner on a zombie film who has a first day from hell when real zombies overrun the film set on which he is working.

When applications were called early this year, 251 teams responded with 753 ideas for features. A dozen of the teams went through a three-day workshop in June and then given three months to develop an idea before the final four were chosen by several industry experts including Australian filmmaker Rolf de Heer. They will getNZ$250,000 each.

Another of the four films is Existence, billed as a punk-style Western set in a post-apocalyptic future, It will be directed by Juliet Bergh who wrote the script with Jessica Charlton. Mhairead Connor and Melissa Dodd are the producers.

Gerard Johnstone, director and co-writer of the popular NZ TV show The Jaquie Brown Diaries will direct House Bound from his own script. The producer is Luke Sharpe. It is about what happens after serial offender Kylie Baxter is placed on home detention.

In Timeslow, Henry is forced to re-evaluate his entire life when he discovers the secret to slowing down time and is propelled into a shifting world of intrigue and danger. Director Sally Tran wrote the script with Omar Crawford and Owen Hughes is producing.

Meanwhile, shooting will start later this month on The Most Fun You Can Have Dying, in London, Paris, Berlin — and Hamilton on New Zealand’s North Island.

Funded under the NZFC’s usual investment criteria and adapted from Steven Gannaway’s novel Seraphim Blues, the story focuses on Michael, a young man who decides to have the time of his life after finding out he has only months to live. All goes to plan until he falls in love.

The increasingly popular New Zealander Matt Whelan plays Michael while French actress Roxane Mesquida will co-star as Sylvie. Her most recent films, Rubber and Kaboom, were both in official selection in Cannes.

Alex Cole-Baker is producing and the highly experienced Tim White (The Boys Are Back) is the executive producer. They also secured finance from private investors. Rialto Distribution will release The Most Fun You Can Have Dying and NZ Film is the sales agent.