With many anticipated films scheduled for a 2017 release, horror fans are anticipating a long list of sequels and remakes. However, one film of which gore fanatics are mostly unaware of is an original horror short featuring zombies, Johnny Depp and the film’s 16-year old writer, Anthony Conti in the leading role. Entitled The Black Ghiandola, this film is a young aspiring filmmaker’s dream come true made possible by Tamika Lamison and her nonprofit organization Make a Film Foundation. This organization gives kids with life-threatening illnesses the opportunity to fulfill their filmmaking dreams by giving them a chance to write and star in their own Hollywood production.
According to LA Weekly, when a stage-four Adrenal Cortical Cancer diagnosis put an abrupt end to his participation in a summer film camp, Conti began chemotherapy, leaving him with a limited supply of energy. Despite the draining treatment, Conti kept his passion for film alive. After submitting his screenplay monologue with the headline Monologue for JDawg (as in J.K. Simmons) to Make a Film Foundation, Lamison selected Conti’s screenplay for the non-profit’s fourth film project.
Taking place in a zombie apocalypse, Conti’s screenplay features a comedic undertone similar to his favorite horror film, Sam Raimi’s The Evil Dead. However, with a personal aspect interwoven into Conti’s script, The Black Ghiandola won’t be all laughs. Conti told LA Weekly that his story also serves as a metaphor for his illness. Because his cancer originated in his adrenal gland, Conti chose to include the the Italian word for gland – ghiandola – in the title. The film’s story also centers on an infected young man who continues to fight the illness while risking his life to save a young girl.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, The Black Ghiandola underwent a guerrilla style five-day shoot in mid-November featuring three directors and a long list of Hollywood talent generously donating their time. Collaborating with Conti on writing the finishing touches to his script were Scott Kosar (Texas Chainsaw Massacre) and Wash Westmoreland (Still Alice). According to PRWeb, helping bring Conti’s film to life from behind the camera were Catherine Hardwicke (Twilight, Thirteen), Theodore Melfi (Hidden Figures) and, of course, Sam Raimi (The Evil Dead). Others taking time out of their busy schedules were Johnny Depp (Pirates of the Caribbean, Sweeney Todd, Edward Scissorhands), J.K. Simmons (Whiplash, Burn After Reading), Laura Dern (Jurassic Park, I Am Sam) Penelope Ann Miller (The Birth of a Nation, Tales from the Darkside), Chad Coleman (The Walking Dead), Richard Chamberlain (Thornbirds) and David Lynch (Eraserhead).
Conti’s Hollywood experience doesn’t stop at working alongside big names in the film industry. According to PRWeb, Make a Film Foundation made it possible for the young aspiring filmmaker to visit the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences with the help and support of all its donations and volunteers. However, help is still needed for the final step. Make a Film Foundation would like to create a special red-carpet screening experience premiering The Black Ghiandola for Conti, his family, the cast and crew as well as the Hollywood community. Anyone wanting to contribute to this great cause can make a donation through the project’s GoFundMe page created by Make a Film Foundation.