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