Day 66 Reflects

Editing Day 66 has begun, thanks to Tippers Pritchard, who has taken over editing the entire film.  Progress is expected to be slow, as Tippers understandably has to concentrate on paid work as his priority but he is keen to get stuck in and excited to work on the project.  Therefore there is less to write about at present, with filming complete, so I’m reflecting back on experiences to date.

It is hoped that the film will be complete within the first half of 2020.  Once edited, there is still foley sound and music to be added, and likely a few additional brief shots here and there.

Tippers was one of many extras who attended the hordes in Botley this June.  He found out through a mate, though this turned out to be a massive coincidence, as Tippers has done many projects with Beacon Productions in the past.

The opening title sequence is well underway, with some fine tuning still required and actual credits added!  I will be meeting Liam Low Ying soon to progress this.

I have had several people comment that they thoroughly enjoyed being part of Z-Day, despite the unusual weather.  Here is some of the feedback I have received:

 “I got involved after my grandmother found the advert for extras in the Daily Echo, as I am a SFX makeup artist we both thought it would be a good reason to contact Day 66 about being a makeup artist for the zombies. Working on a lower budget gave a foot in the door about successful budgeting and making realistic wounds with more simplistic materials. My favourite wound and makeup would have to be the smashed in head zombie with the exposed brain. This is one of my most successful zombies to date, due to the sculpting detail I put into the prosthetic. The best moments on the film were getting to know my fellow makeup artists and making friends with them, also with moments in between takes chatting to the actors while they were all made up as zombies, it was a funny atmosphere to be in.”

Rhianna Kingdon (makeup artist)

“I still smile from remembering the experience I had shooting the film that day. The weather wasn’t ideal but that was soon put out of my head by the warm welcome from Russ and the crew. The makeup artists that made me were amazing and friendly as well making me look awesome as a zombie. My fellow cast mates were great to have fun with. Everyone I had the pleasure of talking to that day made the time between the shots go quickly and helped me forget the cold and wet weather. I would film for anyone involved in this again in a heartbeat –  was so much fun. Thanks!”

David Charlton (zombie extra)

“Really loved being part of this. The makeup team did an amazing job of transforming everyone. Some of the wounds looked very deep and disgustingly scary. Throughout rain and wind everyone was in such good spirits. I felt very at home wandering round a field looking gormless, I think it came naturally to me! Thank you for letting me be part of this zombie experience.”

Kate Drummond (zombie extra)

This feedback is amazing – I’m so grateful to all that have given up their time and who have believed in this project.  Your support really has been appreciated.

We now have a YouTube page dedicated to Day 66 material.  There’s only one video in there at the moment, but more will be added as they are made by Liam Low Ying and others, including behind the scenes vids/interviews.  You can access the page via this link – don’t forget to subscribe to the channel please!

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC2LZl_B0trWSiEtRYj9va5A

Don’t forget to check out the Day 66 website, www.day66.uk, and also follow us on Twitter (@Day66_Movie), Facebook (Day 66 Movie), Snapchat and Instagram (day66movie) for updates on progress.  Taking a few seconds to follow us, and re-tweet / share our posts really does make the difference in getting word out there!  Thanks allJ

Day 66 – Z-Day

Late May, I was walking round Marwell with the kids and took a call from George Howarth from Botley Co-op.  I’d written to several retailers requesting support for the 15 June hordes shoot, given the community nature of the project in providing opportunities for local residents and students, to get involved in film production. 

George recognised the value of the project and was keen to assist.  He explained he’d be applying to head office for £250 worth of stock, to include items such as bottled water, sausage rolls etc.  Nothing was guaranteed but this was excellent news.  I’d already asked extras and crew to bring a packed lunch and decided not to broadcast this news in case nothing came to fruition.  Locks Heath Waitrose had already supplied biscuits for the event, which were gratefully received.

I’d become somewhat of an amateur meteorologist in the weeks leading up to 15 June, checking the weather outlook several times a day.  During the course of production, I have come to trust the BBC report more than the MET office.  I find their weather map in particular to be pretty accurate.

I’d heard the weather for that weekend had been described as ‘unsettled’, which left me feeling the same.  So much planning had gone into this shoot that nothing short of a storm would cause me to cancel plans.  But I knew even the slightest amount of rain would either put people off attending or simply prevent us getting all required shots.  So much was at stake.

I’d become financially committed too.  I was advised within a fortnight of the event that we would no longer be permitted use of the annex toilet on site.  I therefore arranged for three portaloos to be delivered the Thursday before.  Without going into detail, let me just say these were not cheap!  Fortunately my parents very kindly offered to cover the cost.

Public liability insurance was my next big cost.  Again, I won’t go into figures but ouchy!  Let me just say it was either about the same or perhaps even more than the total I have spent on the production to date (excluding the portaloos!).  I quite simply was not prepared to go without and in any case, the landowners quite rightly wanted evidence of this before the event.

I also believed the event should have a risk assessment completed.  I’d not done one before, but used a template from work as a guide and made it relevant to our activity.  I wanted to do everything as responsibly as possible, given the numbers expected.  Safety always has to be the number one factor.

This was a useful process, as it enabled me to think in more detail about planning jobs for crew.  I decided I’d need two crew members to initially deal with parking.  I wanted both in hi-vis jackets and on hand to ensure cars parked where and how needed.  I wanted access left available for emergency vehicles if required.

The weather the week before was horrible.  Rain, rain and more rain. I think it was the Wednesday evening we had a particularly heavy downpour and the landowner contacted me breaking the news he no longer wanted cars parked on the six acre field through fear it would be too boggy.

Bugger.

Over a hundred expected attendees and I’d just lost my parking.  48hrs to come up with a plan, on top of everything else!

I decided to approach Woodhill school, which was just down the road.  In fact, I was at work on the Thursday when the toilets were delivered on site, so my dad (also Russ) oversaw their arrival and then popped into the school to make the request.  The receptionist took his details and said the headmaster would phone later that evening.

Nothing was heard until the Friday morning, when he received a voicemail stating it was fine for me to park my vehicle there – I just needed to hand them my registration! Clearly the request had not been fully understood, so he shaved, booted and suited and popped back to the school to make the request again.  He clearly made a good impression, as the school were on board.  Phew!  I put an email out that afternoon confirming the revised parking arrangements.

As mentioned last issue, Steve Launay would not be present for the hordes shoot.  I therefore popped over on the Thursday evening to collect all the equipment.  Steve also leant me an antique gazebo.  On the Friday morning, I enlisted my wife, Selina, and my father to assist me in constructing all five gazebos I had acquired.

The first three were dead easy.  However the Launay circa 1850 edition came with no instructions and consisted of a bunch of poles resembling Meccano.  We had no idea what went where and every time we came close to fitting sides together, they came apart and twatted us over the head.  There was evidence Steve had previously experienced similar issues, as the poles had tape on the ends and we ended up following suit and taped everything together!  It was extremely unstable until well-tethered. 

We’d wasted an incredible amount of time on that one gazebo, which took longer than the others combined.  When the fifth gazebo came out its bag and we realised it was from the same era, we decided four were enough!

Next on the list of chores was signage.  I decided when signed-in, each extra would be given the letter A, B or C and this would correspond with not only what gazebo they reported to for makeup, but would determine which zombie group they were part of on the main field.  Briefing a hundred zombies in one go would be extremely difficult but three people briefing a group of around thirty each would be far more manageable.

I hung A, B and C signs in the gazebos, along with a plan of the site and a Day 66 logo.  Other Day 66 signs were placed at the entrance to the site, opposite the front gate and on the main road through Botley so people knew where to turn.  I’d made additional signs for parking attendants and to remind people that entry to the main field was only permitted if they’d handed in their disclaimer.

My father had kindly leant me five of his radios, which we then tested, along with a megaphone he’d purchased online for a tenner.  These all worked fine – we could easily communicate from the field to the school parking area.  Given the price, I’d not expected much from the megaphone but it worked a treat.

I received an email from James Robinson from the Daily Echo advising that the article he’d interviewed me for a few weeks earlier would be in the Saturday 15 June paper.  They’d not wanted to publish it earlier in case it gave the location away. 

With the site prepped and extras and crew appraised of the new parking arrangements, that evening all I had to do was pack my car with kit and props and try to relax.  Oh, and boil some eggs…

I woke up around 4am on the Saturday unable to get back to sleep – things were playing over in my mind about the big day.  I saw the article on the Echo website and stuck a link to the Day 66 social media pages.  I once again then checked the weather and reckoned we’d be alright until about 1/2pm when it would likely rain and not stop.  But there was nothing I could do.

I popped to the Co-op on route to see if the supplies were ready.  George was not in but staff assured me they’d ring when stock arrived and was ready for collection.

I arrived on site around 8.15am.  It was a sunny, dry start.  Both fields felt firm.  Good start.

I assigned sign-in duties to my mother, Helen.  Beacon member Mat Hasker took on parking duties in hi-vis, joined by my father.  Mat had the important role of holding the Day 66 sign outside the school.  Mat has a lovely personality, ideal for meeting and greeting and he was the perfect man for this job, as I’m quite sure extras will agree with.  The last thing they needed was being met by a ‘don’t give a shit’ attitude, having given up their time to be there.  Mat and my father had a radio each.  “Parking” and “Old man” became their impromptu call signs.  My mother had one too – “Sign-in”, as did I, “Director”.  Not rocket science!  Totton student, James Caven, was assigned gate duty and had the fifth and final radio to start with.

Billy Jameson picked up a slightly hungover Giorgio Cavaciuti from Botley train station.  Giorgio had kindly come down from London for the shoot, having celebrated his birthday the day before!  I was impressed at his dedication!  Both would be our primary camera operators for the shoot.

Sam Warren also attended, taking on sound duties and also used a second camera to get alternative angle shots of the horde. 

Luke Goble, ever reliable on this production, was my assistant and was in charge of the shot list. 

Liam Low Ying was on behind-the-scenes photography and interview duty.

Totton college students Armin Penzes, Riley Cole, Midnight Cook, Shannon Harris and the aforementioned James were runners.  Fellow student Matthew Wright was placed within the horde as a mole, along with fellow moles Thomas Rawlings and my brother, Howard Tribe.  I tasked them with taking charge of a zombie group each.

Less makeup students arrived than anticipated from the London college of Beauty Therapy but there were still 19 of them, plus two lecturers.  I was so grateful for the effort they went to in travelling down from London by coach and they arrived extremely keen and raring to go.  Nine makeup students, plus a lecturer, attended from Solent University.  They had exactly the same positive attitude towards the production.  Lead injury detail makeup artists for the day were the returning Molly Savery and Rhianna Kingdon.  Both mucked in with helping getting the horde prepped.

I made a point of meeting and greeting as many extras as I could, keen to thank them for giving up their time.  They were all genuinely lovely, nice people and all seemed to instantly gel.  I then addressed them all by megaphone and explained the rough order of events.

As expected and planned-for, some extras had arrived pre made-up, so whilst the majority were still being ‘gorified’, we made a start around 9.50am.  We filmed some shots at the bottom of the ten acre field, where my character Jack appeared from the woods, followed by members of the deceased community that would come to be known as the ‘tree zombies’! 

I’d mistakenly thought that Armin was competent with operating the boom, when in fact he’d never used one.  We therefore used the opportunity to train student Armin and Billy oversaw this.  Giorgio started on camera.  When Sam arrived, he took a second camera and got shots of the zombies from the side s they emerged from the tree line.

I received a call from the Co-op confirming our supplies were ready for collection and tasked my mother with collecting these.  Little did I know she’d require a small removal truck!

When word reached me that there had been no activity in the car park for an hour, I called back my father and Mat and stood down James on the front gate.  Mat was put on field guard duties.  James gave his radio to Howard, so I had means to communicate with the horde.  When the horde were all made-up, they made their way to the top end of the field, awaiting instruction.

We still had a few shots to finish where we were, so I sent Sam and Armin up to the top to record foley sound including individual zombies, small groups and the whole horde.  With the odd sound-cameo by a dog walker chatting over the fence. 

I gather Luke then took on the important role of keeping morale up within the horde whilst they patiently waited, even getting them to floss!  (As in the modern dance – not a mass zombie teeth cleaning exercise).  Howard also tells me he was talking to them about Love Island and asking the vegetarians within the horde why they wouldn’t eat meat and yet had a fascination with human flesh!

Meanwhile down the bottom, so to speak, I was having trouble getting my primary weapon out, being a baseball bat Jack had hammered nails into.  You may recall the anecdote…

Firstly, I was incapable of reaching the bat, which was sticking out the bag on my back.  Secondly, once we cheated things slightly, I still couldn’t pull it out, as the nails kept catching the fabric.

I then proceeded to make hungover Giorgio jump out his skin, by charging at the camera screaming “Arrrrrrgh!” without warning. 

When we finished those shots, I sent everyone up the top end, whilst I dived into the woods and swapped my clean jeans for a bloodier pair.

We then got some great shots of the horde walking past the camera, along with shots of me running amongst them with a hammer.  Georgia Jackson, of the Daily Echo, then attended and took video and photographs of the action unfolding.  I was briefly interviewed before cracking on with further shots.  I had planned to follow these with aerial shots courtesy of Billy and his drone, however, the weather took a turn for the worse and we experienced a downpour.  I therefore called time for lunch.  The announcement of the Co-op survival package noticeably increased morale at a vital time!  And blimey did they deliver the goods!  A HUGE thank you to Botley Co-op for the generous supply of goodies for our students, extras and crew.

As you can imagine, rain stopped the minute we broke for lunch but the horde and crew deserved the break.  After lunch, I noticed numbers had dropped in the horde.  It was then I realised numbers overall were not as expected.

I had pretty much bang on a hundred extras confirmed to attend and exactly fifty turned up.  Of those fifty, nine went AWOL at lunch.  Still, the fact I hadn’t realised until that point showed that having fifty extras out on that field forming a horde still looked pretty impressive and given the nature of our film, actually getting as many as fifty extras (not to mention the makeup and crew) involved is spectacular in itself. 

Given the forecast and last minute parking issues, I’m not surprised some dropped out.  But I’d never have guessed such a large percentage would and this is a learning point for future productions. 

We recommenced filming and started with a shot by the tree line I’d missed in error involving the baseball bat.  I called for runners to assist retrieving props and realised they’d gone AWOL too!  Word reached me via radio they’d opted to walk into Botley to get lunch!  This was frustrating, as at times I was having to act, direct and run across the ten acre field to get props myself.

Molly and Rhianna were then up for their first injury detail, a gash caused by the bat.  Then a laceration from the claw end of the hammer.  Then a head injury from repeatedly smashing a head with the hammer…I’m hoping the BBFC are suitably repulsed by all this when that time comes.

Talking of the head smashing, I’d brought along a brain splatter mix I made in February.  It consisted of fake blood, cranberries, and bread – only now with an added layer of mould!  We positioned the camera – quite a new one for Beacon Productions – on the ground near the mix, as I hit it several times with the hammer.  I had hoped the mix would splat in my face.  However, very little hit me but a lot hit the camera, including the lens!  After my last camera incident, I was hoping to keep this one a little discreet, but the wonders of social media scuppered those plans!  Still, the shot looks FANTASTIC!

I had to make some tough decisions.  I cut one attack sequence to save time.  It involved my least favourite injury.  There was also a bit where the claw end of the hammer was supposed to get imbedded in a zombie’s forehead, which we would’ve achieved using wire, however, this would also be too time consuming to set up, so I opted to have the extra simply hold it in place.  It actually comes across quite funny – likely a much needed moment of comic relief.

Molly and Rhianna had a few more gory delights to work on but I had a couple of my own too!  I’d chopped the ends off those boiled eggs and soaked them in fake blood overnight.  I then carefully placed one on the end of my knife and it gave the appearance of being an eyeball I’d ripped out poor Claire Goble’s head.  Those Goble’s don’t have much luck with their eyes – poor Luke had a similar experience in mid-2018 during our very first zombie sequence.

This was followed by my favourite shot – me cutting open my brother’s stomach and pulling out his intestines, involving those tights I talked about preparing in a previous Venturer article.  As a recap, they contained tissue paper and had been tied together to form a long sausage-like string of guts.  I’d then attached them to an old white t shirt.  I got Mat to abandon his post, put on some gloves and soak the intestines in fake blood.  Howard then put on this t shirt under his other one and we carefully positioned the guts between the two layers.  They worked a treat and disgusted those present.  A week later and the blood has only just disappeared from my hands.

Molly and Rhianna then had a couple of knife-to-forehead applications to action, so we sent a second camera to the six acre field to get close up shots of those and other injury detail close-ups.

When all remaining shots were in the can, I decided the time had come to get the drone up.  It was no longer raining and Billy confirmed conditions were suitable.  The drone was a great way to end the day.  I stood with Billy and crew towards the bottom of the ten acre field, well out of shot.  The horde made their way from the top to mid field.  It was fascinating watching the drone in action.  Billy is a talented drone operator.  There was still a fair breeze but you’d never have guessed it from watching back the footage.  From the angle I had, it looked like the front row of my horde were about to be decapitated.  Whilst this would’ve looked great on camera, it would not likely have gone down well at court.  Fortunately, Billy assured me it was just perspective and my extras were well clear!

We kept the drone up to repeat the sequence of me running through them with a hammer.  After one take, we repeated the shot, only this time I’d let the zombies crowd a little too close round me.  I therefore decided to end the day on an unscripted zombie massacre, allowing the circle around me to tighten until I was effectively bundled on the ground.  This adlibbed “alternative ending” was just for fun but ended the day on a laugh and extras started a round of applause, proceeding to shake by hand one by one, thanking me for a great day.  It was lovely to hear and I’m just glad that despite the conditions and waiting around, so many of them still had a fantastic experience.

Extras started leaving and the crew assisted in a clear up.  Unfortunately, as I was packing away, I realised I’d lost my knife.  You may recall from around May last year, this had happened before and against the odds, I’d found it among the fallen leaves of the Addison woods ground!  Alas, there was no finding it on this occasion.  It was a bittersweet ending to the day, as the knife had served Jack well throughout the film and it would’ve been a nice prop to keep.  I ran a load of rubbish down the tip and enjoyed several alcoholic beverages that evening!  Months of planning and stress was now over.

I returned to the location the following afternoon, to pack away the gazebos.  Fortunately, Steve had given me permission to retire his, so I made another trip to the tip.     

Monday’s Daily Echo featured an article on the shoot.  I am extremely grateful to the Echo for their interest in the film and for helping spread word of the project.

Following the shoot, one of the extras, Tippers Pritchard, has offered to edit the remainder of the film.  Tippers has worked with Beacon Productions several times before and I look forward to seeing his work on Day 66.

I’ve loved reading the comments on social media, specifically Facebook, that followers of Day 66 have left regarding the shoot.  Several people have uploaded their own photos, which was fab as I didn’t have opportunity to take many myself.

Liam took lots of photos and behind the scenes videos and intends on putting together a mini documentary on the day.  I look forward to seeing that when completed.  Liam has also messed around with one or two videos he took on the day and my personal favourite is the clip of me running amok with the hammer, to which he put the Guile theme from Street Fighter!  There’s also a hilarious Bullseye darts clip, which I’ll let you discover for yourself over on our social medias!

The thing I’m most proud of is managing to make this all come together on the day.  It was lovely meeting so many like-minded (warped minded?!) strangers, who share a love for the genre.  All the outfits and makeup were brilliant.  Everyone was extremely friendly and made a top effort. 

As this was the biggest shoot that Beacon Productions have undertaken, I intend on sending out a feedback survey to extras and crew, so we can learn from any shortcomings and discover what we did well that should be repeated in future.  I’m a firm believer in seeking feedback, as it shows people not only you care about their opinions but it provides an opportunity to better yourself and working practices of the club.  

Once edited, foley sound will be required for several scenes and then Mat Hasker will need to work his magic with the soundtrack.  Liam and I have also started work on the opening credits sequence.  I intend on arranging a premier once the film is completed, which will serve as a wrap party too!

Many thanks once again to all supporters, extras, cast, makeup teams and crew that have worked on Day 66 to date.  You are all legends.

Don’t forget to check out the Day 66 website, www.day66.uk, and also follow us on Twitter (@Day66_Movie), Facebook (Day 66 Movie), Snapchat and Instagram (day66movie) for updates on progress.  Taking a few seconds to follow us, and re-tweet / share our posts really does make the difference in getting word out there!  Thanks allJ

Day 66 – No guts, no glory!

I returned to our location in Botley mid May to really get my head around how I’m going to shoot the hordes on 15 June.  At that time, the field was covered in hay.  I’ve since been sent video clips of tractors baling the hay, which was actually thoroughly fascinating but also a relief knowing the field is ready for our zombies to descend!  I will hopefully be heading back early June, and again the day before to set up.

Giorgio Cavaciuti contacted me offering his services as cameraman, which was fantastic.  Giorgio has covered several shoots now and is travelling some distance to assist us on this important day.  Billy Jameson has also kindly committed to lending a hand with camera, including the use of his drone to get aerial shots of the horde.  I cannot wait to see those!

I have a small army assembling from Totton college to bolster zombie numbers and also be on hand to take behind the scenes footage. Liam Low Ying is returning to also capture behind the scenes stuff and Day 66 soundtrack maestro Mat Hasker will be on hand as a runner.  Sam Warren, Luke Goble, Howard Tribe and John & Ann Hampton are other returning crew keen to get involved.

One person who will sadly not be present for Beacon’s most ambitious shoot to date is Steve Launay.  Steve’s father, John, has unfortunately been hit with some bad health of late and has requested Steve’s presence when he travels to France, that very same day.  Steve is gutted he won’t make the shoot but looks forward to seeing the results.

Most props are ready now – I had the fun task of making intestines recently.  I’ve become a dab hand at making props over the course of this production but I was concerned about this one – but then I decided, no guts, no glory! 

I found a great YouTube video that suggested a few ways to do this.  My favourite, and by far the better looking, involved the use of tights.  I got my wife, Selina, to buy me a pack (far too embarrassing to buy myself) and I cut each pair in half and stuffed with white tissue paper.  I then tied each stocking together and attached one end to an old t shirt from my brother’s stag do, which bears the logo “Howard’s last fling – Prague 2016”.  On the day itself, the intestines will be carefully soaked in fake blood and at the required moment, Howard himself will wear this t shirt underneath his zombie costume and I shall proceed to rip the guts from his stomach.  Should look suitably disgusting.  Back in 2016 when I was sat in Goldfingers, Prague, for best part of six hours (strictly there on business), I had no idea what was in store for my attire that night.

I’ve now completed the shot list for the day, but need to revisit this to ensure I’ve prioritised shots with the hordes and also made the best use of time available whilst the majority of extras are made up.  Some filming will get underway straight away, as I have around 20 extras arriving already made-up, which is excellent.  Numbers currently stand at around 85 extras, plus however many a performing arts college from Southampton are supplying (around 20-25 I believe).  I may also have a few extra make-up artists now coming from Southampton, which should help make light work of things.

Extras and crew have been asked to bring a packed lunch along to the shoot, although I have been attempting to secure a donation / sponsorship from local retailers.  These efforts are ongoing and should I be successful I will communicate that to all attendees before the event.

On Sunday 26th May I travelled to the Fordingbridge area with Liam Low Ying to get shots on my mobile phone for the opening credits, which Liam is editing to fit the theme tune by Mat Hasker.  Talking of which, that tune has recently been re-jigged by Mat to sound more apocalyptic.  I’m loving the new sound and can’t wait for everyone to hear it!  Be sure to check our social media feeds for a couple of amusing videos Liam has put together from our trip.  #gorse… 

Late 2018 I sent the editor of Total Film, Jane Crowther, a set of answers to a ‘meet our readers’ monthly article that features in a subscriber only edition of the magazine.  The article asks readers a bunch of film related questions.  I used the opportunity to plug Day 66, even wearing my baseball cap for the profile photo.  Despite being told to look out for it in a future magazine, and being sent the entire Breaking Bad DVD boxset as a thank you for participating, I’d given up hope it would feature, given how far into 2019 we’d got.  Imagine therefore my joy to see it in the latest TF – just before the hordes themselves!  Perfect timing or what?!  I’m very grateful to TF for allowing the plug and giving us this opportunity to spread the word even further.

That’s really it for this month folks – I can’t wait to get these hordes done and dusted.  It’s been a real headache to arrange and stressful as hell.  But things are falling into place nicely now and I’d just be grateful that if you can’t make it, at least please keep your fingers crossed for decent weather!

PLEASE REMEMBER – We need as many Beacon members getting involved with the hordes as possible.  Not only Beacon members, but friends and family too, so please please please spread the word!  Contact me via email (find it on the club’s global emails) or via Facebook or any of the below Day 66 social medias.  Thank you for your continued support!

Don’t forget to check out the Day 66 website, www.day66.uk, and also follow us on Twitter (@Day66_Movie), Facebook (Day 66 Movie), Snapchat and Instagram (day66movie).  Taking a few seconds to follow us, and re-tweet / share our posts really does make the difference in getting the word out there!  AND CONTACT US TO GET INVOLVED!  SUPPORT YOUR CLUB!  WE NEED EXTRAS AND CREW MEMBERS!  Thanks allJ

Day 66 – planning the hordes

I wrote my first Day 66 article for Venturer magazine on 1st May 2018.  That was a year and a day ago, at time of writing.

I had no idea we would still be filming this far into 2019!  The hordes on 15 June should mark the end of shooting, except for perhaps a few pick up shots here and there, as may be required.

April 2019 saw the first month of no Day 66 filming since production began.  I did disappear for 12 days to Kuala Lumpur and Phuket, but since returning have been starting to consider how I am going to pull off the feat of bringing together so many extras and crew in June.

Back in early 2018 I revisited an abandoned airfield in Hamble, with Steve Launay and Jon Leech.  Whilst it looked great, it wasn’t far enough away from surrounding buildings to suit the hordes.  This needed to be set in the middle of nowhere.  The New Forest would have been great, but for a few reasons we decided against filming there.

The work colleague’s property we’ve filmed at in Titchfield would have been ideal, however, that location has been exhausted with previous filming.  It would have been obvious we’d already been there.  We needed somewhere fresh.

Around February this year, I visited Queen Elizabeth country park on the South Downs and Royal Victoria country park at Netley, Hampshire.  Both locations were excellent, having parking, toilet facilities and open fields which suited my vision for the hordes.  I decided QE country park was too far away from where the majority of extra volunteers were coming from.  I was denied filming permission over at Netley, which was disappointing given the nature of the project and the real community spirit that is behind it.  But I accepted the decision and moved on.

I mentioned my struggles to my folks and they suggested I contact a friend of theirs, aware he had a plot of land that may be what I was looking for.

I met the landowner at their address near Botley, Hampshire.  It was perfect.  The land consists of two fields, of six and ten acres.  The six acre would suit parking and the ten acre the hordes filming.  There were trees blocking the view of houses behind, another tree line blocking view of his house, and the field was on a gradual slope, meaning nothing could be seen over the brow.  There are one or two houses to one side but nothing clever planning can’t overcome.

I think the land used to be used for strawberry pickers, so he’d built an annex consisting of a toilet for the pickers to use.  I was informed we could have use of that, so along with the parking and middle-of-nowhere feel, all requirements were met.

There was one catch – the field would be growing hay until late May, early June, so we’d either need to film the scene end March, or wait until June.  There was no way in hell I was going to be ready by end March, so mid June suited fine.

I emailed all the hundreds of people who had volunteered approaching a year beforehand, to be zombie extras.  I fully expected the vast majority of those people to have lost interest in the project.  Some considerable time had passed as progress had been slower than anticipated.  The response was fantastic, especially considering the date of filming.  I’ve had around 70-80 extras confirm for the 15 June shoot, along with another 23 or so performing arts students from Southampton, and around 34 make up artists from a London university.

I’m pleased to welcome back the three main make up artists who have helped on the project to date – Molly, Rhianna and Penny.  They should be able to ensure a level of continuity in the make up and I’ve tasked them all with various injury detail that will need applying on the day.  Let’s see just how disgusting we can make things this time!

At the time of writing, things are a little uncertain in terms of crew.  I desperately need members of Beacon to volunteer their help – whether it be to control the crowds of zombies, be a parking attendant, a runner or simply there to watch what promises to be one of the most ambitious filming days in Beacon’s history.  Any Beacon members worried they’ve missed the opportunity to get involved as a zombie extra – fear not!  There’s still time! The more the merrier!  Just get in touch ASAP please whatever you wish to get involved in.  It really will be appreciated.

I’ve started planning shots but haven’t got far – this will be my May task!  Along with an interesting prop idea I’ve had which involves making intestines, but I’ll write more about that another time!

PLEASE REMEMBER – We need as many Beacon members getting involved with the hordes as possible.  Not only Beacon members, but friends and family too, so please please please spread the word!  Contact me via email (find it on the club’s global emails) or via Facebook or any of the below Day 66 social medias.  Thank you for your continued support!

Don’t forget to check out the Day 66 website, www.day66.uk, and also follow us on Twitter (@Day66_Movie), Facebook (Day 66 Movie), Snapchat and Instagram (day66movie).  Taking a few seconds to follow us, and re-tweet / share our posts really does make the difference in getting the word out there!  AND CONTACT US TO GET INVOLVED!  SUPPORT YOUR CLUB!  WE NEED EXTRAS AND CREW MEMBERS!  Thanks allJ

The Making of an Amateur zombie film: Part 4

JANUARY 2019 – Day 66 goes to school!

After a nice break for Christmas (yeah right, I was working) the Day 66 crew recommenced production on Sunday 20th January 2019.  We welcomed nine (yes, NINE!) new cast members, who were all keen to get involved.

The Locks Heath working men’s club kindly permitted us use of their entrance hall, which doubled as a school reception area.  I’d arranged for the cleaner to let us in.  Down went the ‘no drinks past this point’ and ‘Pub Watch’ signs…up went the drawings my kids and Erin Goble had drawn, along with other typical school themed signs and notices.  It only took a few minutes to make the place look a lot less like a drinking establishment and more like a school. Sandford Primary to be exact.

Steve Launay took on camera and we were joined by Sam Warren on sound, and Luke Goble as a runner. Everyone else chipped in here and there to get things set.

Jan Seymour took on the role of receptionist, Mrs MacReady (a nod to The Thing – I’d forgotten this was Kurt Russell’s character name when I appeared on Pressure Pad a few years ago and never live that down. It’s particularly embarrassing as its one of my favourite horrors).  Not realising she had any lines, Jan did well to get through the scenes in so few takes!

Sarah Miatt returned as Susan Farley, along with my kids, Ella and Lincoln, as Sarah and Brody Farley respectively.  The scene saw them being collected from school amongst all the chaos of a mysterious illness outbreak…

John and Ann Hampton joined us as paramedics, and Mat Hasker appeared as music teacher, Mr Gilbert.  His piano tie has caused quite the stir on Twitter!  Check it out!

Claire Goble and daughter Erin appeared as extras.  Erin did extremely well considering her young age, playing a sick child.  Well done Erin!

The shoot at the club went very smoothly and we kept on schedule.  Once completed, down went the drawings and all the alcohol related stuff went back up! Many thanks LHWMC!

Around half of us then headed to Whiteley to film a scene in a car park, which doubled for the school’s.  We were met by Ella’s friend, Francesca Baxter, and her parents, Darren and Lucia.  They’d been expecting Francesca to get involved but little did they know they too would be roped into being extras!  Many thanks for being game and taking part!  Day 66 is 96% shot at time of writing.  Getting there people!!!

FEBRUARY 2019 – Day 66 turns up the gore!

Tuesday 5th February 2019 saw the Day 66 crew back in action.  John and Ann Hampton had kindly offered the use of their bedroom for some brief shots of my parents, as zombies, staggering towards the camera.  This shot will be inserted into previously shot footage from inside Steve’s house, where my character, Jack, discovers the place in which he is recuperating is not as unoccupied as he first thought.  There’d also be a scene shot elsewhere involving another couple zombies, so we used the Hampton’s as a base for that makeup too.

I turned up at their house shortly before 10am slightly confused, having not been there for a couple years, not expecting the front door to actually be at the front!  It was lovely stepping back inside where I have fond memories of filming mainly Strawberry Fields and The Parsons, two of Beacon Productions’ biggest shows from the past.  Albeit, it has changed a great deal since that time!

My parents arrived soon after, followed by Molly Savery, who would once again assist with makeup.  I’d asked my parents to be zombies primarily to save money on materials.  There was also the added bonus my dad had twisted his ankle a few days before, which assisted with his zombie-walk!

We were joined by Steve Launay (camera), Luke Goble (runner/ zombie extra yet again!!) and Day 66 twitter follower Tess Lorrigan.  I’d put a shout out to Beacon members on social media requesting an extra but likely due to the daytime shoot I’d had no responses, so Tess bit my hand off (no pun intended) shortly after advertising the opportunity to followers on Twitter. Tess had been following the Day 66 project since the Daily Echo article was published in May last year and was eager to get involved.

As soon as my folks were made-up, we commenced shooting whilst Tess then had her makeup applied.

I was impressed with the excellent zombie work from my parents and Molly did a predictably great job with the makeup.

Once that finished we filmed a brief shot outside of me peeling a bandage off, revealing a wound underneath Molly had prepped for me.  This will be inserted into previously shot footage from last year.

Once that was in the can and Tess had been zombified, myself, Steve, Luke and of course Tess headed to a car park in the Warsash area to shoot another scene.  This would see Jack, having just taken on the hordes (yet to be filmed), arriving back to his car only to find two zombies loitering nearby! 

We’d had recent snow and I’d recced the car park the day before to ensure there was no ice remaining that would ruin continuity.  Upon arrival I was disheartened to see a council van and trailer parked in the exact spot my car needed to be!  I couldn’t believe my luck.

I found an alternative spot and figured a way to trick the angle/viewer.  Then every professional dog walker you can think of started turning up and before we knew it, Steve was scribbling down telephone numbers, impressed with the canine handling he was witnessing!

They were all good as gold and parked where we politely asked them!

Sadly, the council were chain sawing nearby, which meant we were unable to shoot with sound.  But then an awful lot of this production will rely on Foley anyway, so what did a little more matter?!

Tess was first up – she started staggering towards me as I entered the car park.  Once I’d pretended to douse her with lighter fluid, I stormed over to football hooligan zombie Luke (wearing a horrifically disturbing mask I’d purchased off Amazon), punched him to the ground and got in my car.  Seeing Luke trying to get to his feet in my wing mirror, I slammed the car into reverse and ran his head over.

To avoid a possible health and safety breach, I used a paper maché head I’d fashioned instead of Luke’s actual noggin.

Crafting the head had been strangely therapeutic.  Not having done this since I was six, I googled the technique.  I covered a balloon with a total of six layers of paper, newspaper followed by plain paper as a first double layer.  A day later a second double layer and so on.  Once dried, I popped the balloon.  The rest was my own experimentation.  I painted it and cut a half circle into the scalp so that when flattened, there was an obvious escape route for the gore.  I made a brain splatter mixture of fake blood, bread, dried cranberries and jelly. 

When we were ready to film the head being run over, I popped on some gloves and carefully poured the mixture into the head Tess kindly held for me.  Only realising as I went it was starting to leak out the cut in the scalp!  We cleaned up the leak and carefully positioned the head to the rear of my car, with a rock behind it to prevent it rolling to one side. I plugged the neck with bubble wrap so there was only one way the splatter could go.  We placed the scarf and top Luke had been wearing around the head and we were all set to go.

I became extremely nervous.  I’d only prepped one head. This really was a one shot opportunity.  No second chances.  It had  to work.  Realising the monumental moment, we got some behind the scenes footage and I introduced the take.  I got in my car and when Steve confirmed he was ready and recording, I slammed the car into reverse.

SPLAT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  It worked a treat.

I sat nervously in my car for a few seconds whilst I sussed the reactions as to whether it had been a success. I exited the car and saw the carnage.  Watching the footage back, I couldn’t believe just how well it had gone.  Steve said it was the only disgusting thing he had ever seen.  Tess described it as a “beautiful squirt”! 

I was chuffed to bits. So much so, that the news later that day the pot-hole ridden car park had snapped both my front suspension coils causing £500 worth of damage, didn’t bother me.  Immediately, anyway! Sadly the other shoot planned for February was cancelled due to crew availability – this was rescheduled for 9th March…

The Making of an Amateur zombie film: Part 3

NOVEMBER 2018 – now 88% shot!

Day 66 managed three filming days in November, meaning great progress was made and as of 30/11/18, 88% of the film has now been shot.  This is fantastic news!

On Sunday 11th November we returned to the property in Titchfield to complete all remaining scenes set there.  I’d been keeping a close eye on Storm Deidre, who’d threatened to force my hand and cancel the shoot.  However, the ever-reliable BBC weather forecast (clearly keen to make up for the 1987 Michael Fish blunder) indicated Deidre would bypass Titchfield for the majority of the shoot.  I arrived early with my daughter Ella and started work on our mock cemetery, including the gravestones made by former Beacon member, Daniel Cook. 

Our cameraman for the day, Connor Cleary, was next to arrive, followed by Liam Low Ying who took on a mystery role…

Very little can be said about the cemetery scenes, as we’d enter spoiler-territory, and we are limited to what photos we can publish!  However, I can say Chris Challis took on the role of a vicar, and he brought along Yria Martinez Bonillo and Steve Launay, who took on zombie roles. 

I’d created a schedule for the day we needed to stick to rigidly.  The lovely Molly Savery was on hand to do make up and started work in the garage, which was our shelter/base for the day.  Molly once again did us proud and her timing fitted in perfectly with what I’d scheduled, ensuring there was always something being filmed.

Steve hammed up his zombie perfectly, which was just what was required for what I call the ‘companion’ role, although he was seemingly unable to control his saliva at one point!  My character, Jack, captures Steve’s zombie and instead of dispatching it, decides to wine and dine with it.  These scenes will be shot on a later date in the garden at Steve’s house.

Deidre emptied her bladder on us around noon, which provided an opportunity to break and scoff some food.  Liam kindly dropped Ella at my parents and once Deidre was spent, we continued filming.

We finished the day with scenes involving Jack being woke by Yria banging on the window of his car, leaving her bloody handprints on the glass.  We also popped down a local road and filmed scenes of Jack driving past a staggering Yria.  We chose a quiet location, but still managed to attract the attention of a curious motorist, who asked if we were filming a porno.  Much to his disappointment, I advised we weren’t, and he replied “I’d hoped you were gonna ask me to join in”.  I suggested the porn industry may wish to consider this genre but Connor informed me they already do. 

Tuesday 20th November saw our second Day 66 evening shoot (after the campfire scenes shot in June).   We met at mine to complete the remaining scenes set at the Farley’s house.  Crew-wise we had Steve on camera, and a jetlagged but determined Chris Wilkes on the duel-role of lighting and sound.  My kids, Ella and Lincoln, continued their roles as Sarah and Brody Farley, whilst Sarah Miatt and James Farmer returned as their parents, Susan and Chris.

I ran a tight ship, keen to get all planned scenes completed.  At around half 8, just after Sarah’s scream frightened the whole of Whiteley, we packed up and went to James’ house in Stubbington to film a couple of bedroom-set scenes there.  Thanks to James and Steph for accommodating us.

A few days later was the annual Beacon casino evening. I arrived to be informed by Steve a slight mishap had occurred mid file transfer and that all Day 66 (and other productions) audio since July had been deleted.  I thought the permadeath of my ultimate edition horse in RDR2 was upsetting…

Fortunately, I contacted my mate Liam, who works in IT, and he suggested a download of ‘undelete 360’.  Steve contacted me the next day and much to my relief, advised he was able to recover all the files.

Tuesday 27th November saw myself, Steve and Luke Goble film scenes in the Hook area of Warsash, Hampshire. Steve took camera, whilst Luke took sound but was also a zombie.

We made the most of the great location, filming scenes at Hook rec and the woods off Hook Lane car park. I popped by the Subway in Whiteley on my way home.  As I queued for my festive-special footlong, I realised I was wearing bloodied clothing and must have looked like I’d massacred someone and popped out for a spot of lunch.

DECEMBER 2018 – Day 66 wraps for 2018

On Thursday 6th December, I managed to cram in an hour and a half of filming before a late shift, getting shots done I’d struggled to ‘bolt on’ to other shoots through timing issues.

First location was a local church.  I’d recced the site around the same time of day a week or so earlier but on arrival we were frustrated to find the gate padlocked.

We were forced to cut short our visit, only getting what shots we could from outside the grounds.

We then ventured to a cemetery in Sarisbury Green to get shots of my character, Jack, walking through the site in search of his son’s grave.

Last up was Portsdown Hill, to get shots of the harbour and Portsmouth itself.  This will feature as part of a montage halfway through the film.  Such a quick shot but we needed to get it done at some point.

I dropped a carsick Steve home and headed to work.  Three locations in an hour and a half was not bad going.

The only other December shoot was on the evening of Wednesday 19th at Steve’s house.  This was always going to be a fun shoot, being a rare moment of humour in an otherwise bleak film.  Set whilst Jack recuperates at the country house, he starts going a bit loopy and wines and dines with the zombie he captured.

Steve was none too thrilled to be once again donning the vinegar-smelling bloodied jumper I’d prepared and cunningly stored at his house since his last appearance.  In fact I met the crew there before Steve even arrived home from work.  Chris Wilkes let us in, having just finished his Beacon Productions’ snooker final against Day 66 vicar Chris Challis.  Us being myself and returning cameraman Luke Foley.  Chris Wilkes took on the duel role of sound and lighting and the three of us set up the dining room ready for Steve’s arrival.

Shortly after Steve’s arrival, we were joined by Rhianna Kingdon, our returning make up artist, who did a fabulous job of recreating the work that (sadly unavailable) Molly Savery had done on Steve the previous month.  We got some cut-aways done whilst Steve was in the chair.

Once made-up, Steve joined the shoot.  We shot the first scene in full, which involved Jack getting frustrated with the zombie over his table manners and refusal to eat the meal that had been (or baked bean) prepared.  Needless to say, Jack found a way to encourage the zombie to consume its meal…

We then concentrated on getting all bits shot that involved Steve, as he’d had a last minute Air B&B guest book that night, and he was understandably keen not to greet them looking deceased.

We shot the next scene in full, which forms part of another montage showing Jack’s return to full fitness.  By this time, Jack has used up all the ‘acceptable’ tinned meals and is left with the one thing he cannot stand…corned beef.

It turned out Steve also cannot stand corned beef.  The mere smell of it was enough to make him retch.

In a reversal of table manners, Jack ends up throwing some rejected corned beef at Steve’s zombie.  We shot this from a few different angles.  The first time I was supposed to only pretend to throw it, but somehow some of the slop found its way out my fist, past Steve’s face and landed on his dining room wall.  I’ve never seen a zombie so annoyed.

My personal favourite shot, and Steve’s least favourite, was the close up of the slop landing on Steve’s face.  Naturally, this took a second take to get it just right.  Unfortunately, the second take also resulted in the slop bouncing off Steve’s face and back on to the wall…

Steve managed to de-zombify just in time to receive his French guest, who still managed to walk in on us as we finished shots involving Jack cutting his hand open.  I’ve yet to hear whether he left a favourable review.

With cast unavailable between Christmas and New Year, that would prove to be the final shoot of 2018, but what a fun way to end the year.  We started Day 66 in April 2018 and whilst 23 filming days sounds horrific, in reality many of these have been an hour here, a couple hours there.  Only a few have been full day shoots.

I left Beacon members this little festive number…

Rudolph the Dead-Nosed Reindeer

Had a very shiny nose

And if you ever saw it

You could watch it decompose.

All of the other reindeer

Used to groan and call him names

They never let poor Rudolph

Come with them in search of brains.

Then one foggy Christmas Eve

Santa-zombie said:

“Rudolph with your nose so dead,

Won’t you help me pull my sled?”

Then how the reindeer loved him

As they shouted out with glee:

“Rudolph the Dead-Nosed Reindeer, Eat a brain or two for me!”

The Making of an amateur zombie film: Part 2

AUGUST 2018 – Day 66 cast expands!

After the morning excitement and violence of the first zombie shoot, the afternoon of 25th July involved two scenes shot near Day 66 soundtrack composer Mat Hasker’s house in Titchfield Park.

The first was an introduction to acting for Mat’s seven year old son, Joseph.  Helen Warne returned to play Jack’s wife, Alice.  Joseph played their young son, Arnie.  No prizes for where that inspiration came from!

The scene will serve as a flashback for main character Jack, just before he takes on the hordes of zombies.  Joseph only had a couple of lines but nailed them perfectly – no mean feat for a seven year old who, only a couple of years ago, would run and hide the minute I walked in the Hasker household!  Well done Joseph – awesome work dude!

The second scene was another flashback, where Jack and Alice moved house, following a tragedy.  I commandeered Mat’s new car for the scene, in which Helen sat in the front whilst I loaded the last of our boxes into the boot, before getting in and driving off.  How to make this more interesting?  Film in a single take, with cameraman Steve Launay walking round the car, following the action.  Steve did brilliantly in ensuring he didn’t make a cameo in the paintwork.  I however, realised on watching the footage back I still had blood up my arm from the morning’s brutality!!

Thursday 2nd August saw Iain Hamer join the cast as a funeral director.  Elliott Honey kindly provided the use of a hall at Sarisbury Green community centre for the shoot, which would only last an hour.  Steve was on hand for camera once more and we took advantage of the location by completing further scenes involving Jack using an exercise bike, which will form part of a montage where he recuperates from injury.  Many thanks once again to Elliott for providing the location – greatly appreciated and we hope to return in the near future for more Day 66!

Saturday 4th August saw filming occur at my house, with my kids, Ella (10) and Lincoln (6) playing the children of Sarah Miatt’s Susan Farley.  Ella (Sarah Farley) only got to shoot one of her scenes that day but has more to come.  Lincoln (Brody Farley) saw more action and should be very proud of his performance, which involved throwing up and looking feverish.  Molly Savery joined the shoot to ensure Lincoln’s ‘injury’ looked suitably realistic and concerning!  Molly also took on the role of boom operator for a couple of scenes.

Long-term Beacon member Sarah, as expected, did an excellent job with her lengthy dialogue.  I, however, need to familiarise myself more with the ‘zoom’ sound device, failing to realise that if a certain button was accidentally pressed it meant sound recorded through the device itself as opposed to the boom!  Fortunately, where we were indoors, the sound quality is sufficiently good!

On Thursday 9th August we headed next to the Locks Heath district centre to film a news report, by famous reporter, Jim Hooper.  Sorry, Tim Cooper!  Jon Leech also made his Day 66 debut, covering sound for the shoot. 

The rear of one of the main shops doubled for Sandford hospital, at which the public were arriving in droves for treatment, following the outbreak of a mysterious illness.

Steve returned knackered from his ‘business trip’ to Amsterdam but willing to see through his camera duties, also finding opportunity to be “hospital extra #3’!  Extras 1 and 2 were played by my parents, who came armed with their B&Q dust masks bought on “Wrinkly Wednesday”, which they wore sheepishly whilst standing in a non-existent line waiting for treatment.

Tim was predictably brilliant in the role, bringing a sense of needed realism to the scene, which briefly explains what is occurring on what is essentially Day Zero.  A sequel one day, perhaps?!

We had hoped one of Steve’s travelling companions would play Tim’s cameraman, however, neither fancied it given their lack of sleep.  I desperately phoned round people two hours before the shoot, finally securing the services of Stevie Waight only half an hour before filming commenced!  Given her lack of acting experience and the late involvement, Stevie impressed those present with her performance, for which she had to learn lines at zero notice.  Stevie – you can come again! Thank you! That would be the last filming day in August, with my holidays following the shoot.

SEPTEMBER 2018 – braaaaaiiiiiiiins!

Sunday 2nd September saw the arrival of five more zombies!

The largest Day 66 cast and crew to date gathered at Steve Launay’s house at 9am.  The three make up girls returned, this time accompanied by newcomer Tash Smolerek.  Make up took the best part of two hours, allowing Steve and I time to recce Addison woods to choose our location.

Once make up was complete, our five zombies (James Bint, Emily Phillips, Thomas Rawlings, Lorinda Laing, and Mairi Campbell, visiting from Australia!), four make up girls, Steve, runner Daniel Farmer, cameramen Giorgio Cavacuiti and Luke Foley, production photographer Liam Low Ying and I gathered in the rear garden for a quick briefing. I read out the ambitious scene to all present, which would see Jack attacked by a mini-horde.

We then headed to Addison to create the mayhem!  Stab wounds to heads ensued, along with a brilliant bit of gory brain detail, courtesy of Rhianna Kingdon.  I also found a really good use for some reduced to clear turkey mince…

After a brief pause for lunch, filming resumed and continued until about 5pm.  It was a long day but well worth it – the footage looks great!  Many thanks to all involved – it was often a lot of waiting round but I’m confident it was all worth it.

On Tuesday 11th September, we headed to a work colleague’s house to film, as I’d realised the land there was perfect for the ‘country house’ I had in mind when I wrote the script.  I met cameraman Connor Cleary at Steve’s house to collect kit and the two of us headed over to start proceedings. Within five minutes, Connor unfortunately lost the majority of the camera rig in long grass.  We retraced our steps but were unable to locate it.  We got by and made good progress.

We were met by Steve and former ‘stick-in-the-eye’ zombie, Luke Goble, around 11.45am, followed by another work colleague who was on hand to move vehicles about on the land as required.  In fact they proved their worth very quickly, by driving the off-road vehicle round the field, managing to somehow locate the rig! 

My favourite bit of the day was the unveiling of a new Day 66 themed number plate for a vehicle Jack finds whilst he recuperates at the house. 

I’d over-estimated the amount of scenes we’d get through, leaving more to film there another time.

Saturday 22nd September saw James Farmer join the cast, as father Chris Farley.  Chris is the father of the children played by my kids, Ella and Lincoln.  Sarah Miatt was sadly not available, so we could only film one of James’ scenes, but managed to get through all of what else I’d scheduled. I was really impressed with Ella’s acting – I’ve been totally out-acted (not hard) by my 10 year old daughter! Steve took camera, while Jon Leech was on hand for sound and we welcomed Chris Wilkes to the crew to provide his expertise with the lighting.  I have learned lighting can take a long time to set up, so need to take that into account when scheduling future scenes.. TOP TIP! – When writing a script, DO NOT set any scenes on stairs or anywhere near banisters! 

On the afternoon of Sunday 30th September, I popped over to Steve’s to film a few hallway-based scenes, with Steve on camera and Jon Leech covering sound.  Despite more stair-lighting issues, we finished ahead of schedule and managed to get a few more montage scenes filmed, along with some footage of the M27, which may be inserted into the opening credits. 

With four shoots completed in September, it was our most active month since filming begun. 

With four shoots completed in September, it was our most active month since filming begun. 

OCTOBER 2018 – Day 66 nails it!

Ok, so it’s been a slow month for Day 66.  We haven’t exactly nailed it but as you will come to realise, this was an appropriate title for this month’s piece…

The only filming day in October was on Tuesday 2nd, when we returned to my work colleague’s property in Titchfield, intending to complete all non-zombie related scenes set there.

We consisted of me and Steve Launay, who has joined me on almost every Day 66 shoot so far.  We also consisted of newcomer Jack Pimbblet, who responded to the Daily Echo article, keen to get involved in any way he could.  We needed a runner, to lighten the load of prep work and carry the kit about.  Jack jumped at the opportunity!  Turned out Jack also has some camera experience, and was keen to advance these skills wherever possible.

We met on location and discussed the shoot.  I soon realised the garages that were supposed to be left unlocked, were in fact locked, so contacted the key holder to bail us out!  We got on with external scenes in the meantime.

We started with scenes of my character, Jack, running outside, which forms part of his recuperation whilst lodging at the country house.  We experimented with one shot, whereby I held the camera, mounted on the rig, filming myself whilst running.  This paid off and the result looks great!

We took full advantage of the great location by filming a scene by some eerie-looking outhouses. 

When the key holder arrived, we moved indoors to film garage-set scenes.

Some of these form part of a montage, where Jack is preparing for battle.  Jack finds a baseball bat and decides to hammer nails into it, creating a weapon Negan would be proud of.  Lucille Mk2 if you will.

I had a GREAT idea.  A POV shot of the bat as the nail was hammered in.  This is when we should have realised this was NOT a great idea.  We should have weighed up the pro’s and con’s and realised there were hardly any pro’s and a shitload of con’s.  We proceeded…

We realised we’d done it directly under transparent roofing, meaning I was a silhouette and nothing could be seen. 

This is when we should have re-evaluated the necessity of the shot and abandoned, realising that actually a camera lens is a pretty expensive bit of equipment and that a damaged camera lens could have significant ramifications on not only the club’s finances but also this and other scheduled productions!  Also, this was such a tiny, insignificant shot, that we may end up binning.

We proceeded…

Fuck. My. Life.

This time, I hit the hammer a tad too hard, and the nail dinked the camera lens.

Bollocks.

“Oh shit, I did it”, I said.  “What are you doing?!”, Steve replied.  “I didn’t do it on purpose mate…”, I replied, “…I brought it up, so that when I hit the nail with the hammer, it wouldn’t do that…”

But of course that had happened.

Steve checked the lens for damage.  Had we got lucky or was there a scratch?

But of course there was a scratch.

And herein lies the root cause of my PTSD.

Realising a small scratch would equate to a big circle on screen, we halted use of the short distance lens.  With 80 Degrees filming scheduled that weekend, Steve was understandably starting to fret.  Poor Jack didn’t know what to say but did Google the scenario and discovered ‘rubbing alcohol’ and a microfibre cloth may be our salvation.

We completed remaining scenes as best we could given our predicament, and then I took Steve to B&Q, hoping to find this weird sounding alcohol, even contemplating whether I would drink it should I find any.  They didn’t sell it, but said the chemist would.  So off we went to the chemist but were informed it’s really difficult stuff to get hold of.  Amazon Prime it was then.

To cut a long story short, I received an update a few days later that the scratch had buffed out sufficiently to no longer be an issue.  No word of a lie, I slept awful those few days and had flashbacks.  I could barely bring myself to watch the footage. 

Needless to say, now I can look back and (almost) chuckle, but a vital lesson has been learned.  Don’t fuck with the camera.  No shot is worth the fallout. Hopefully next month I won’t be reporting that a POV shot of a zombie’s head being run over resulted in the complete pancaking of a camera!

The Making of an Amateur zombie film: Part 1

April 2018 – Creation

Having been an avid fan of cinema since a very early age, I’ve always had one of those niggling thoughts at the back of my mind that one day I should make a film.  This has never gone away – could I direct a film?  There was only one way to find out…

I don’t tie myself down to any particular genre, when asked what sort of film I prefer.  Among my favourite movies ever are Dunkirk, The Matrix, Aliens, T2, The Dark Knight, Die Hard…ok, so far, ‘action’ seems to dominate, but among other films I’d rate 5 stars are the likes of The Sound of Music, Pulp Fiction, Goodfellas, Seven Samurai…

But on that list you will also find movies like, The Exorcist, The Sixth Sense, Sinister, Tremors, IT, The Ring…and Dawn of the Dead.

As much as I like zombie films like 28 Days Later, for me, zombies don’t run.  Ok, there’s no hard-fast rules.  They don’t exist!  You can pretty much make them whatever you want them to be. But I recall seeing the original DOTD aged about 10yrs and being scared shitless by these ridiculously slow-moving corpses.  For me, that is what a zombie should look like.  Slow as fuck and yet somehow always on your tail.

As over-saturated as the zombie market is right now, it was zombies I couldn’t get off my mind.  Over several months, I formulated a plot in my head, constantly adjusting detail here and there, and about two years ago I eventually got round to the metaphorical pen-to-paper.  I started work on a screenplay.

Though, my vision was a bit different from most zombie films.  I wanted to focus purely on one character.  A man, grieving from the loss of his wife and son, retreated to the countryside to get away from death, only to question whether life’s worth living anymore. How the hell can I make a film interesting, with only one main character in it?!  How would I achieve realistic zombie make-up?  Where the hell would I film this?!  Who would play the main character?

Well, I already had leave booked late April 2018 with nothing planned.  I finished the screenplay early 2018 and emailed it to Steve Launay.  My leave fell nicely with a break between other Beacon productions.  Day 66 was a go!

Who could I rely on to always turn up to filming days (mid-week too) whilst I was off work?  My shifts are notoriously difficult to accommodate filming and I would need to make the most of the leave I had. Who could take on this difficult role?  I chose myself.

I’m completely honest about my abilities. I have the acting range of a newt.  I have a tendency to revert to ‘crazy-eyes’ when attempting any sort of acting-expression.  Why the hell would I want to do this?  I knew I would be available when I was.  Simple. 

I went on a recce with Steve and the first place we visited was a gold mine. There was open countryside, thick forest, a lake, a stream and more within walking distance from the car park.  That was our location sorted.

In the weeks before filming, I began assembling a range of props. I spent the entirety of the allotted Beacon budget within days!  Luckily, I’d set aside my own funds to get other essentials. Days before filming was due to commence I still had no idea who our crew would be.  I was panicking somewhat.  Would this all work out fine?

May 2018 – Action!

Wednesday 25th April 2018 was Day 66’s first day of filming. 

Steve Launay confirmed the crew the previous day – Connor Cleary (Director of Photography), Giorgio Cavacuiti (camera / runner), Reece Palmer (camera / runner) and of course, Steve.  We would all travel in my car, but without Steve’s dog, Oska, meaning our time in the sticks was limited before Oska staged a dirty protest.

We met at Steve’s and discussed my vision for the film.  We then collected Giorgio from Swanwick station before setting off.

The first scene involved my character, Jack, washing at a stream.  The water was an odd red/brown colour and tasted horrible.  It was a very overcast day and washing bare-chested was rather cold!

Then the rain started spitting, mid-scene.  It kept stopping and starting.  We managed to get that scene done to our satisfaction.  In what would prove to be a truly amazing moment, mid take, two deer raced past in the background – all in shot!  They were followed a few seconds later by dogs chasing them.  Fortunately, whilst I reacted in shock, I didn’t ruin the take, so we’re able to use some of that in the finished scene.  Complete luck but a fantastic moment – you can’t plan stuff like that!

Alas, that would be the only luck we had.  There were some curious passers-by but they never threatened filming.  The rain, however, was a right bastard.  We were able to get some scenes filmed but all got thoroughly soaked, with only trees as shelter.  Amazingly, given the forecast, I was the only one wearing a coat (at times – when the script allowed!).  The crew would soon learn!  Filming was aborted when the camera misted up…

Upon returning to Steve’s, we set the tent up in his living room and filmed an interior tent scene.

The next day, it was just me and Steve initially – we would spend the day down Beacon favourite, Addison woods.  We got a few scenes filmed involving Jack’s camp site.  We were then joined by returning crew members Connor and Reece, who brought along new recruit, Ryan Wilson (runner).  Steve left us to it whilst he returned home to get work done.

Despite the rain returning, we managed to get quite a bit done.  Fortunately this time, we had the tent when rain got heavy.

With all scheduled scenes completed, we returned to Steve’s, with the intention of filming interior tent scenes I’d forgotten to include Wednesday.  However, on returning, I realised my knife prop was missing. Only the sheath remained on my belt.  This was a disaster – it features heavily in the film and would be required for most remaining filming days. 

I was determined not to spend another £15, so returned to Addison with Steve in search of it.  It wasn’t in any of the obvious places but then Steve, knowing the size of my bladder, suggested I should check wherever I‘d taken a piss that afternoon.  Sure enough, near my urination spot was the black knife, barely visible amongst the fallen leaves littering the ground.  Phew!

I spent Friday preparing for the weekend’s filming.  That evening, Mat Hasker came round mine to watch Escape From New York and help make tin can props for the following days shoot.  John Carpenter is one of the key influences on Day 66’s theme tune.  I’ve always loved how his tunes seem so simplistic, yet very effective.

Saturday afternoon consisted of interior scenes at Steve’s house, doubling for the inside of whichever isolated countryside house we use.  These scenes were the first to require sound.  The previous days filming would only need foley sound adding.  We rattled through these scenes with relative ease. 

Sunday saw a return to the sticks, where we were treated to our first rain-free day!  We made great progress – I decided to leave a few scenes until we have a drone at our disposal…

We only did an hour on Monday, involving two interior tent scenes.  These were the first filmed in the Beacon studio.  My 10 yr old daughter, Ella, was off school sick with tonsillitis, so naturally I dragged her along to hold the boom!  Parenting at its finest.

 Steve was at work Tuesday, but had arranged to leave a key out so I could film some further interior house scenes, with the assistance of Reece.  The key was indeed left in the agreed spot, however, the door from annex to kitchen was locked.  Fortunately, I was able to break into the house to get filming completed! 

Tuesday was slow, as Reece was doing both lighting and camera work.  The tight confines of the upstairs hallway also posed difficulties, as some doors will lead into rooms within the country house.  We therefore had to be devious with how we shot scenes, so we’re not limited in future elsewhere, for continuity reasons.

Tuesday’s extras performed very well.  I‘d ordered live maggots for some truly disgusting scenes and they certainly did not let us down! With my annual leave over, filming would be more sporadic over coming months.  Steve’s biggest concern throughout has been how I’d achieve the ‘hordes of zombies’ as scripted.   Read on to find out what my cunning plan was…

JUNE 2018 – Day 66 goes public!

So…how would the ‘hordes of zombies’ become a reality?!

A couple of weeks before filming commenced, I set up a Day 66 account on Twitter (@Day66_Movie – pause reading this and follow us at once! Please!).  When that was done, I needed to find a way to attract followers.

The Twitter account attracted around 400 followers in under 2 weeks.  I also set up a Day 66 Snapchat account (day66movie), so people could get live-time updates from filming.  This was all very well, but in our first location, none of us had phone reception, so the live-time updates promised were in fact somewhat delayed.

About a week before filming, I sent an email to the Daily Echo, telling them what we had planned, expecting to hear nothing back at all.  After all, there are much more important things happening in the world than a bunch of film geeks making a low budget horror film.

After the first few days of filming, I received an email from a journalist at the Daily Echo, asking me to give him a call, as he was very interested in writing an article about Day 66.  I couldn’t believe it.

I phoned him and he was extremely enthusiastic about the film.  He liked that there were many different angles with which he could approach the story from – from the reason we had chosen our location, to the subject matter of the piece.  He requested photos of the production and one of myself.  Fortunately, we had taken quite a few photos and I found a nice selfie photo of me and my son, Lincoln.

We chatted for quite a while and on Wednesday 2 May 2018, the article was published. We even got a front page mention, “So you want to be a film zombie? See page 14…”. Albeit, this was immediately to the right of the main headline, “ABDUCTION ALERT”…

I opened the paper to page 14 and there was my ugly mug, with poor Lincoln completely cropped out.  But hey ho, that’s show business my son, get your own movie!

The Bournemouth edition of the Echo also ran the article, with their websites adding the same, only with more photos.  The Salisbury Journal caught wind, as did the New Milton Advertiser, who contacted me and also ran articles. I even did an interview on radio with Sam FM!

Before I knew it, the Day 66 hotmail account I had set up was bombarded with members of public offering their services as a zombie extra!  It seems there is a HUGE appetite for all things-zombie and everyone wanted to be a part of it.  Managing the email became a full time job for about a week and things would get ridiculous again every time an article was published.

I would estimate I have had over 400 emails to date – mainly people wanting to be zombies (some emails volunteering entire families and groups of friends!), but also others offering their services completely free for professional SFX make-up, editing, general crew work, graphic designing…I even had someone offer me the use of their yacht and another offering me the use of their collection of American police cars!  The response was absolutely fantastic – beyond anything I could have imagined.

The Twitter account picked up followers and stands at 550 at time of writing.  I have since started a Facebook page.  The Snapchat has picked up quite a few followers to date, although with production slowing since that initial period of annual leave I had in April, there is often more to Tweet or “Face”(?!) about, than to snap.

I did get 5 embroidered Day 66 baseball caps made, which are pretty cool.  These were snapped up by mates, eager to buy something ultra-geeky!  If the demand is there once the project is complete, I can always look into ordering another, larger batch. Who knows, maybe one day people will be wearing Day 66 t-shirts too!

I want to get all non-zombie related stuff in the can first, before then moving on to the fun stuff!  I have created mail lists for extras, and makeup artists, for when that time comes.

I want to get all non-zombie related stuff in the can first, before then moving on to the fun stuff!  I have created mail lists for extras, and makeup artists, for when that time comes.

JULY 2018 – Day 66 turns professional!

Wednesday 16th May 2018 saw further scenes filmed at Beacon HQ, aka, various rooms at Steve Launay’s house.  Giorgio Cavacuiti joined us for the shoot, involving a collection of brief scenes documenting main character Jack’s recuperation at a country cottage.

We were keen to make scenes as challenging as possible.  Up went the black drape in the dining room, blocking the sunlight to allow for evening scenes, where Jack “enjoyed” a candle-lit dinner. Into the cramped attic I went with Giorgio, to film Jack searching for items that may assist him on his journey. 

My favourite shot of all though involved Jack brushing his teeth and spitting the toothpaste into the sink.  How to make this simple action more interesting?!  Steve’s brainwave involved the camera being positioned under a glass shelf, which I then spat on.  Seems simple enough but it took a couple attempts for my toothpaste-loaded spittle to land in the correct place!  Great result though and worth the time taken.

On the evening of Saturday 2nd June, we went camping.  Well, not quite. We shot campfire scenes down Addison woods. The ever reliable Giorgio once again joined Steve and I, accompanied too this time by Sarah Miatt and my brother, Howard, who I asked along to stay independent to filming to ensure the fire remained under control.  Approaching the longest day of the year meant we had to shoot late, timing it right to allow sufficient light so we weren’t just recording pitch black!

We all had fun creating some truly awesome shots of Jack with the flickering glow over his face, as he mourned his family.  Once again, I’d written in some eating for Jack to do, meaning I got to cook steak.  The cold baked beans were less welcome…

We filmed a couple quick scenes back at Steve’s before calling time.

Monday 25th June saw us at a mate’s house in Stubbington.  Work colleague Sam Warne and his wife, Helen, joined Steve and I for the shoot, along with their baby Thomas.  Helen is playing Jack’s wife, Alice Richards.  Sam played the part of DC Jason Mitchell.  The couple swapped baby duty when it was their turn to act.  The shoot went well and we were all done after about an hour.

A mixture of the World Cup and everyone’s busy lives away from Day 66 saw a whole month pass without filming.  However, when Day 66 returned, it turned professional…

Wednesday 25th July happened to be Beacon Productions’ 31st anniversary.  We met at 0900hrs at Steve’s house. Work colleague Luke Goble played the part of ‘zombie farmer’, after original choice Neil Miller was unavailable.  Little did Luke realise he was in for one hell of a transformation!

One of the unexpected results from the media coverage had been the offers of help from makeup artists.  This had never been something I’d considered appealing for, but the sheer number of offers I received from keen individuals was astounding.  The standard of work from photos they sent was staggering. 

I’d sent a global to artists who’d made contact. Five were able to attend. Five on makeup for one zombie would’ve been overkill, but I was keen to provide opportunity for as many as possible, so assigned one the lead, with two to assist where needed but primarily to ensure continuity throughout the production.

Molly Savery took the lead, having previously sent me a photo of someone with a pencil sticking out their eye!  This was actually exactly what I needed for this scene – only not a pencil but rather a stick.  Penelope Pitman and Rhianna Kingdon assisted Molly and it was like the three had known each other for years.  They instantly clicked, chatting enthusiastically about their experience.  It was clear we had one hell of a team assembling!

I’d allowed an hour for makeup and this overran slightly, making me nervous we’d struggle to fit the shoot in, as Steve had arranged for family to pop by at half 11!  We got down Addison woods just gone half 10 and that’s where the fun happened!  You’ll have to wait for the finished film for full details, but needless to say I stabbed Luke in the eye during a fight.  Molly had already fashioned an eye piece, meaning when we were ready for injury detail to be applied, she was able to do so in only around ten minutes. 

Of all the filming we’ve done so far, this was by far my favourite and I can’t wait to do more zombie scenes!  What a fantastic way to celebrate Beacon’s 31st that was!

Day 66 goes to church!

Saturday 9th March 2019 saw myself, Steve Launay and newcomer Jacob Chapman go to St Bartholomew church in Botley, which is part of the Manor Farm attraction.

Manor Farm had been very accommodating in allowing us to film at the location, keen to support Beacon Productions as a local non-for-profit film production club.  I’d explained the shoot was for a dramatic scene, part of a current production, being mainly a flashback of Jack and his wife, Alice, attending the funeral of their young son.

I’d missed a couple calls from Sam Warne, who was chauffeuring his wife, Helen, and baby son Thomas, to the shoot. I phoned Sam, who was struggling to find the location.  It is off the beaten track and all the better for it – the church is a real hidden gem, thoroughly worth checking out.  High praise indeed from a devout atheist!

I gave Sam directions and we headed to the church to start planning shots.  After about ten minutes I gave Sam another call and it was clear they were still struggling to find their way.  I then heard the sound of sheer panic within their car and was given a running commentary of how baby Thomas had just emptied the contents of his stomach over the inside of the car.  They had to urgently tend to things and hung up.  This was followed by a text message a few minutes later, apologising they would be unable to attend the shoot given the drama that had unfolded.

This left us in a bit of a predicament, as we’d arranged the location with Manor Farm and we already there and ready to film.  The shoot had already been cancelled at short notice the month before, due to crew availability.  We proceeded to film what we could with just me and certain shots were essentially practice runs at what we would have to return to complete in the near future.

From there, we returned to Steve’s for a quick refreshment and then headed down Addison woods to film a zombie being torched.  I’d prepared a zombie dummy to replicate the extra played by Tess Lorrigan the month before.  This consisted of a cardboard box wearing the same jumper Tess wore, jeans over pieces of wood, and a Styrofoam head I’d painted and popped a beanie hat on.  Naturally we got some odd looks as we walked to the location.

My original idea had been to mallet the wood into the ground, which would hold the remainder of the dummy upright.  However, the ground was too hard.  I’d attached some polyamide thread to the box and out the arms of the jumper, so we had the means to make the dummy move once on fire.  We used these instead to essentially hang the dummy from an overheard branch and were able to still just about pull the thread to create the necessary movement.

I doused the dummy in lighter fluid and Jacob started rolling, as Steve flicked the lighter.

It just about worked.  Jacob was able to get enough footage before the burning head fell loose from the body, after which we allowed it to fall to the ground and filmed the flaming body.  It hindsight, I should’ve used a thicker piece of wood to attach the head to the body, as the thin stick I’d used was only going to ever last so long. 

We then spent the next twenty minutes or so playing catch with a head.  You’ll see…

Sunday 17th March saw myself and Steve return to St Bartholomew church, this time via Botley train station where we’d picked up Helen Warne.  My 10 year old daughter, and Beacon member, Ella, joined us for the shoot as a runner.  We got the outstanding shots required in decent time, and Ella took photos of us all in action.

With the exception of inevitable cut-aways here and there, it is now just the hordes left to film, scheduled for Saturday 15 June 2019 in Botley, Hampshire.  At the time of writing, I’m pleased to announce that editing has already begun and in fact I’ve just watched the first draft of the first ten minutes that Jacob Chapman has sent me, which is great!  Due to the anticipated length of the film (estimated over an hour long), the current plan is to divide editing up into around four segments, with an overall edit then completed to sort any pacing issues and colour-grade.  Any additional foley will then be identified and filmed, along with Mat Hasker providing the soundtrack.  I’ve also got the opening credits to film, which I’ve decided to do entirely on my mobile phone as a side-experiment!  Expect footage from Hampshire but also Iceland, Cyprus and perhaps even Malaysia and Thailand if I find anything worthy on my upcoming trip!  I’ve also got a mate in Spain who is desperate to feature somewhere, so I’m hopefully off there in June the week before the hordes!

Planning the hordes is a monster job.  Very stressful but it’ll hopefully all be worth while. I’ll write about the planning, along with things I’ve learnt along the way in a future issue.

PLEASE REMEMBER – We need as many Beacon members getting involved with the hordes as possible.  Not only Beacon members, but friends and family too, so please please please spread the word!  Contact me via email (find it on the club’s global emails) or via Facebook or any of the below Day 66 social medias.  Thank you for your continued support!

Don’t forget to check out the Day 66 website, www.day66.uk, and also follow us on Twitter (@Day66_Movie), Facebook (Day 66 Movie), Snapchat and Instagram (day66movie).  Taking a few seconds to follow us, and re-tweet / share our posts really does make the difference in getting the word out there!  AND CONTACT US TO GET INVOLVED!  SUPPORT YOUR CLUB!  WE NEED EXTRAS AND CREW MEMBERS!  Thanks allJ