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!”