Friday, March 26, 2010

The Night Shift: Zombie School

The Night Shift is the on-set diary of Fighting Owl Film's new independent supernatural-adventure-comedy of the same name currently in pre-production in Mobile, AL. Over the course of the next several weeks and months, you'll get an insider's peek at what it's like for filmmakers to craft a new entry of paranormal pop culture from Erin Lilley, a producer and actress on the film.

Zombie School

There's something a little disconcerting about being a human, stuck in the middle of a horde of zombies armed with nothing more than a powder puff and an eyelash curler.  Luckily none of these zombies were hungry.  Actually, none of these zombies were even dead.  Thank god.

This past Sunday afternoon, 22 actors descended upon a local art supply store for a crash course in how to be a ghoul.  Well, to be fair, 13 were zombies (that number seems appropriate), three were ghosts and six of us hapless souls were human characters, seated right smack dab in the middle of the creepies. 

Of course, the first thing we did was break two mirrors.  Brilliant. 

See, because we're all volunteers with day jobs, and because our primary location has very specific rules about when we can film, we have a very limited amount of hours per night that we can shoot.  In order to keep to the schedule, we're having to ask actors with less-involved make-up to help out with their own.  We'll have artists available on set for touch-ups and to fix mistakes, but they really need to be able to focus their time on prosthetic work.  Our chief artist, Jessica, developed this workshop for us.

We started planning Zombie 101 in January and after weeks of shopping, ordering, phone calls, emails and more emails, we ended up with a class that ran surprisingly smoothly.  The lesson to take away from this is to take your time and plan.  Plan for everything, and then plan some more. 

As the actors filed in, they found packets with their names and characters waiting at their seats.  The packets contained all their supplies and detailed instruction sheets on application.  The creatures all start off with a basic, brightly colored look that can be built upon and customized for each individual character.  For example, our Undead Prom Queen and our Frontiersman Zombie both start off with a colored base and sunken eyes and cheeks, but the Prom Queen will have glamorous eyeshadow and lipstick, where the Frontiersman may be accessorized with scars or mottling.  We're low-budget but we realize our limitations, and our goal is to make what we can do look as polished and interesting as possible.
For the film, every inch of showing skin will be painted, but for the purposes of this class, we only made up the face and didn't nit-pick over hairlines.  Considering most of the actors had little to no experience with creature make-up (and a few of the guys brought along wives and girlfriends to help out), I thought they did extraordinarily well.  We humans had it much easier, even if we did have to put up with a lot of jokes about being lunch. 

There are a few pictures here, and more on the Fighting Owl Films Facebook page.  As I've said, this was a first attempt, and we didn't fuss over details, but they should give you a rough idea of the look we're going for.  Now, it's been a very long day, and I'm going to go join Thomas for some DVR'd Ghost Hunters.  They look for dead people, and I've spent all day looking at them.  Seems fitting.

Oh, there is one thing stranger than sitting in the midst of a bunch of zombies:  Watching them all get in cars and drive away. 

For more pictures, information, and a look at the cast and crew, visit


Anonymous said...

can't wait to see how all of your zombies look and act in real life...sorry, un-life!