The Zombie Casserole Chronicles – Part Two

Filming day arrived and we were armed with shot sheets, cameras, release forms and catering.  We don’t want our cast and crew to go hungry.  A few would be made up as zombies later in the day and, while we appreciate method acting, we don’t want our cast and crew turning on us. Total headcount stood at thirteen on Saturday and eleven on Sunday.  For experienced producers, this might not seem like much, but for us it was a full house.  We lucked out.  From our make-up artists to production assistants to cast, everyone was focused and ready to make it happen. We put out the call and it was answered. It’s up to us to deliver on our end.  Bring on Zombie Casserole!

Having a professional camcorder is one thing.  It gives some legitimacy.  Knowing how to use it is another. Fortunately, it arrived a few days before we held auditions and I had time to test it out and get used to it.  Lights were another story.  Our fill lights we’ve been using for a green screen are good for that purpose, but insufficient for lighting a set (on an unrelated note, the “set” is my house). We had two rather important lights we’d ordered from Mole-Richardson.  They are built on demand and give a wide six week window before it ships. Maybe they would come on time, maybe not. Lucky for us, they arrived a week ahead of the hurricane and we had a chance to test them out.

With equipment in place, shot sheets in hand and scripts at the ready, we met our actors and took our first shots.  Lesson one – when you have a lighting set up, take all the shots you need for that given set up regardless if it’s all part of the same scene or not. Halogen lights require up to fifteen minutes to cool and when you are fighting against time, those fifteen minutes matter. If you relight too soon after turning off a halogen bulb, it could explode. Lesson two – have back up halogen bulbs. Fortunately, we did. Even more surprisingly, we didn’t need them.

Any zombie film worth its salt needs good makeup artists. Back in May, at Wizard World Philadelphia, we were fortunate to meet two impressively talented makeup artists who came out for our shoot and zombified a small horde. Next week, they’ll be doing it all again for a mid-sized horde or about a dozen.  If we hadn’t put ourselves out on display at Wizard World, we would have never met them. Lesson three – be outgoing.  I’ve engaged in photography and written a few short stories. They’re both largely solitary endeavors.  Film is another beast.  It’s a collaborate effort and won’t happen in a vacuum.

We treated the shot sheets, and portions of the script for that matter, as guidelines which brings me to… Lesson four – be flexible. The actors brought their own interpretation of the roles which made for some wonderful footage we hadn’t even envisioned. We scripted a ludicrous dinner scene where a family sits down to dinner with a generally well-mannered zombie along with a zombie-hating bigot.  It made for some tense and funny moments. The actors all did a fantastic job of bringing that scene to life.  It was far more demented (in a good way) than we had originally envisioned.

At the end of the weekend and two full days of filming, I was utterly exhausted and sore, but happy with the footage.  I’m ready to do it all again this coming weekend when we shoot a zombie protest rally.

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