Slaying fictional zombies on the big screen has helped Dylan Thomas-Bouchier do battle with some of his own demons.
"The personal battle that my character fights is one that I've fought my entire life," said Thomas-Bouchier during Edmonton AM's special live broadcast from Fort McMurray.
"That feeling of being left out or being pitied because of my disability. The card I have been dealt in life is not the perfect hand."
Thomas-Bouchier — who lives with cerebral palsy — stars in the Good Survivor, a film written, filmed and produced in Fort McMurray.
The digital short explores the relationship between two survivors: Thomas-Bouchier's character Dylan and his friend Steve (played by fellow Fort McMurrayite Steve Reeve) as they scavenge for survival in zombie-infested northern Alberta.
"He's trying to prove that he's not a burden."
The survival of the fittest storyline was borne out of Bouchier's desire for a major role. Although the 16-year-old had acted in a few local stage plays, he'd always felt held back by his disability.
He reached out to local filmmaker Tito Guillen and the pair began collaborating on the screenplay and fundraising for the production.
Although Thomas-Bouchier had a lot of control over the script, bringing the character to life on camera when filming began at Maqua Lake Provincial Park last November, it was often painful for the young actor.
"Typically, when you're acting you're playing a character which is not like yourself. But that wasn't the case here. There's not much of a difference between me and Dylan. I was really facing those demons," Thomas-Bouchier said.
"There were a couple times where I had to stop, and take a breather because it was so emotional."
Although the process has been trying, Thomas-Bouchier is proud of the final product, which will be screening at Fort McMurray's WinterREELS Festival on Thursday night.
"This whole process has been vulnerable, but I don't want to shy away from it. I want to face it. You have to be yourself."