Ball State alumni reconnect through thriller film

Valentine DayZ is written, directed and acted in by four different Ball State alumni. Robert Acres, Curt Lambert and Ed Morrell all have acting roles, while Mark Allen Michaels writes, directs and acts as Dallas Valdez. Mark Allen Michaels,Photo Provided
Valentine DayZ is written, directed and acted in by four different Ball State alumni. Robert Acres, Curt Lambert and Ed Morrell all have acting roles, while Mark Allen Michaels writes, directs and acts as Dallas Valdez. Mark Allen Michaels,Photo Provided

For many Ball State alumni, losing touch with classmates after college isn’t unusual. But for Mark Allen Michaels, this wasn’t the case. 

Michaels is an actor, writer, director and producer who has created three  Hollywood films. His third film, “Valentine DayZ” is a love story set in a zombie apocalypse, and it features three other Ball State alumni.

Michaels finished his first film, “Mind Rage,” in 2001. The film featured two Ball State alumni, Curt Lambert and Robert Phillips, whose screen name is Robert Acres. 

In 2015, he completed his second film, “The Fiancé.” Michaels asked Lambert and Phillips to come back for this film and included a third alumnus, Ed Morrell. 

Michaels said he worked with Lambert at Ball State on a play, and he met Morrell while filming an experimental film at school. He had never worked with Phillips, but he was confident in what Phillips could contribute to the team. 

“I knew what they could do, and that’s why I brought them in,” Michaels said.

Besides his fellow Ball State alums, Michaels also had the opportunity to work with Robert Allen Mukes, who plays the lead antagonist in “Valentine DayZ.” Mukes’ credits include “House of 1000 Corpses” and “Westworld,” among others.

“I had the pleasure of working on one of the most professional projects of my career thus far [with ‘Valentine DayZ,’]” Mukes said. “The script is what every actor looks for — challenging yet fun.”

Along with the script, Mukes praised the production crew and the character development.

Michaels said Mukes benefits any film set because of his physical size and his acting ability.

“The guy is 6’10” — he’s huge,” Michaels said. “He brings intensity, but he’s a pleasure to work with.”

Between his first and second film, Michaels took a 15 year break. He said he was looking more for the right story,than just improving as a writer.

“I was writing the whole time. I never work at writing to become a better writer. I have no idea how that works,” Michaels said. “I think you write from who you are. It’s like architecture, where writing is your base structure and directing is creating the building. You get a thousand options on the same scene.”

No matter how long it takes Michaels to find the right story, he said he always comes back to the same genre: thrillers. His favorite films include “Jaws,” “Psycho” and John Carpenter’s, “The Thing.”

“It’s what I like. I love Hitchcock films. I love humor and a little twist,” Michaels said. “A love film gives you a chance to add some emotion in there. I don’t always do straight out humor, I always come back to the things I like — the love angle.”

Whether he’s finding the right story or dabbling in a new genre, Michaels said he knows he has a team he can trust in his fellow Cardinals.

“I enjoy working with them,” Michaels said, “so they’ll be back for my next film, Vampires On A Boat.”

Contact Trevor Weldy with comments at tjweldy@bsu.edu

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