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…