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By Jason Guerrasio | October 21, 2003

Though Gus Van Sant’s “Elephant” gained wide acclaim at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, it’s not the only recent film that takes a look at a school shooting.

Ben Coccio’s Zero Day follows two tormented high school kids as they prepare for an assault on their high school. The film’s storytelling resembles “The Blair Witch Project,” as it’s done through video diaries that are found after the shooting. But unlike “The Blair Witch,” we know that the premise behind Zero Day is true.

Film Threat recently caught up with Coccio and the film’s two actors, Andre Keuck and Calvin Robertson.

How did the idea come about?

Coccio: I finished a short and Columbine happened. To say I was inspired by it sounds mercenary, but I was, I was inspired by that, more so inspired by the idea to tell my version of what I thought the truth was and that’s what I set out to do.

It was interesting what you said in a magazine about your intentions; you wanted to show “what” happened not “why.”

Coccio: I don’t think we’ll ever know why and I think the natural reaction for society and for people is to try to find reasons, to try to understand how to avoid it. But I don’t think it’s that kind of event; it’s more like a tornado.

Tell me about how you two got the parts.

Keuck: We both live about five minutes away from one another. I found Ben’s ad in Backstage, it was kind of misleading at the time, the ad said, “Looking for two nerdy types for a coming of age story.”

Coccio: Well you could imagine what I would have got if I put, “Looking for two kids for a school shooting movie.”

Keuck: I found the ad and sent my headshot in and Ben e-mailed me back telling me to come and audition and to bring someone if I could. I thought of Cal because we’d done Shakespeare for years so we went out and auditioned and that was that.

Coccio: And the funny thing is that I only put that ad in Backstage as a throw away just to get myself going and Andre was the only headshot out of all the ones that was passable. I wasn’t looking for New-York-City-actor-kids and that was what I got mostly. But Andre’s headshot made him look like he was twelve and I felt he was too young. So then I moved up to Connecticut with my girlfriend to make the film and I started going to every high school in Connecticut and getting information about the school’s drama club or just kids who like to act and I invited all of them to come audition. Andre and Cal were one of the last I saw and Andre didn’t look like his headshot anymore and they were perfect, I couldn’t see anyone else who could do it. Along with it being easy to tell them apart, one being blonde and the other brunette, they’re so distinctive in their characters. With this kind of movie if you don’t get good actors the movie is unwatchable.

It’s really strange how similar looking Cal and one of the characters in “Elephant” are.

Coccio: Yeah, I’ve noticed that in all the publicity for the film. I haven’t seen “Elephant” yet, but I’m real interested to see how my film and his compare and contrast.

Get the rest of the interview in part two of THE “ZERO DAY” CLUB>>>

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