Archive for the ‘Inspirational’ Category

And Then What?

Tuesday, November 11th, 2014

I wanted to not be a grenade, to not be a malevolent force in the lives of people I loved.

In May of 2012, my mate est passed on a new book he’d just read called “The Fault in Our Stars” by John Green.

So I read it.

When I read a book, I often tear off pieces of the library receipt to use as markers for quotes or ideas within a book that I feel are worth writing down or investigating further.  There are usually three or four good quotes or ideas that make an impact on me when reading a book and often lead to me reading other books or novels that develop an idea further or build on something that caught my attention.

My copy of The Fault in Our Stars looked like this:

TFIOS The Fault in Our Stars by John GreenTFIOS quotes

I passed the book on to Byrd, and it quickly became her favorite book of all time.

Then they made the book into a movie.  And now the movie is out on DVD.

I still haven’t seen it.  Byrd says when she watches it, she just cries and cries.  Not the best endorsement in my opinion.

The book centers around two people and the impact cancer has on their lives.  Hazel Grace Lancaster, a terminally diagnosed cancer patient wanting to minimize the impact her eventual death will have on those around her, and Augustus Waters, a cancer survivor embracing every new moment he’s been given.  And while there are many other characters and themes throughout the book, and countless websites and forums that centre around John Green’s works (proof of the impact his writing has on his readers), these two themes are the ones that resonate with me most when I read The Fault in Our Stars.

Hazel, while trying to minimize the impact her death will have on her family and friends, still battles with the human desire to be of worth and valued and to be more than just a footnote:

Much of my life had been devoted to trying not to cry in front of people who loved me… You tell yourself that if they see you cry, it will hurt them, and you will be nothing but A Sadness in their lives, and you must not become a mere sadness, so you will not cry, and you say all of this to yourself while looking up at the ceiling, and then you swallow even though your throat does not want to close, and you look at the person who loves you and smile.

But what we want is to be noticed by the universe, to have the universe give a shit what happens to us – not the collective idea of sentient life but each of us, as individuals.

…it occurred to me that the voracious ambition of humans is never sated by dreams coming true, because there is always the thought that everything might be done better and again.

…depression is not a side effect of cancer.  Depression is a side effect of dying.

Sometimes people don’t understand the promises they’re making when they make them.

What I like about Augustus’ character is his realization that our individual impact on the world, or the universe for that matter, might be absolutely unnoticeable in the eternal scheme of things, but that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t try to make SOME impact, or that our impact on individuals during our time here isn’t minimal:

I fear oblivion.

We’re as likely to hurt the universe as we are to help it, and we’re not likely to do either.

You realize that trying to keep your distance from me will not lessen my affection for you… All efforts to save me from you will fail…

All salvation is temporary…I bought them a minute.  Maybe that’s the minute that buys them an hour, which is the hour that buys them a year.  No one’s gonna buy them forever… but my life bought them a minute.  And that’s not nothing.

You don’t get to choose if you get hurt in this world, old man, but you do have some say in who hurts you.

The general underlying theme that I took from the book is the understanding of the impact we have on others regardless of whether or not that impact affects the world – it affects someone’s world:

There will come a time when there are no human beings remaining to remember that anyone ever existed or that our species ever did anything… we will not survive forever… And if the inevitability of human oblivion worries you, I encourage you to ignore it.

I’ve lost friends and family in the six years since I started this blog.  According to world statistics, someone dies every 12 seconds – 5 people a minute; 30 people in the time it takes you to read this blog post.

But harsh as it may seem, we don’t mourn every death, only those that relate to us.  A day of remembrance for those who have died, but it is emotionally impossible to grieve for every death in the world as it occurs.  But then, it’s the lives that have impact on OUR lives that result in such loss and grief when they’re gone.  We are generally a narcissistic people in our grief.

Eat Your Face

My father’s death was pretty sudden – diagnosed with Lymphoma in March, he was gone six weeks later.  But it wasn’t until I walked in to his house prior to the funeral that it really hit me that I would no longer be greeted by the smells of his cooking in the kitchen, nor would I find him reading a book in the living room.  I still see or hear or read things that I immediately think of passing on to him, and then realize he’s no longer there to share those moments.  A friend of mine who had recently been through a similar loss, losing a friend to cancer within a week of losing her grandmother, summed it up perfectly – one moment you’re singing and dancing with them to Abba in the lounge room, and the next moment they’re gone.

Hazel’s reaction is to minimize her impact on those around her.  Augustus’ is to grow his.

We plug through work and jobs and responsibilities to family that are a necessary part of life.  I get that.  But to say that that’s ALL there is…

To say that I should be happy that I have a paycheque and accept my lot…

Why not shoot for bigger things?  Why not try new adventures and experiences?  What’s so wrong about stepping outside my comfort zones with acting or building or creating?  Why not me?  Why not you?  Why not any of us?

Why not me?  Why not us?
~ Russell Wilson

And WHEN you try, don’t let anyone try and beat down your attempts!  All the Pinterest adages that are so popular exist because of exactly that – those around you who don’t (for whatever reason) want to see you succeed in changing.  It’s difficult not to drown in the daily status quo.

If I could make a living being an extra in television and movies that made an impact on people’s views, and still do so without giving up the current responsibilities in my life, I’d do it.  Not born from any incredibly desperate need for attention or accolades, but for the purely narcissistic reason that I LIKE being part of building impactful moments in people’s lives.  I want to make and create and build things that leave people feeling “That was pretty cool!” regardless of whether or not they associate that moment specifically with me.

I’d rather be an Augustus than a Hazel, even if I end up being a grenade in the lives of people I love as a result of creating moments that they miss when I’m gone.

jimmy Johns has the best motivational quotes

Behind The Scenes Of A Z Nation Zunami

Sunday, November 9th, 2014

This post contains spoilers for the Z Nation TV series.

I was pleasantly surprised to see Mark Carr and Doug Dawson make a reappearance in episode 7 (“Welcome to the Fu-Bar”) as their Sketchy and Skeezy characters!  I was really impressed with what the two local actors did with their characters in episode 1 that it was cool to see the writers decide to improve their characters’ fortunes and use them again!

Episode 8 (“Zunami”), which is supposed to take place in Nebraska, was actually filmed in Sprague, about a half hour west of Spokane.  I “discovered” Sprague on an earlier shoot due to bad planning.  I had intended to stop for petrol before leaving Spokane, but the shoot went late, and I forgot.  By the time I noticed I was on empty, I was half way past nowhere, and the only place to get petrol was Sprague.

the Viking burger with chips fries burger Seth Brittany the Viking

Sprague has a population of 350 people in a town with one school, one post office, and no stop lights.  I was filling up my car at the only gas station in town when the distinct smell of bacon wafted by, and I realized how hungry I was!  Seth and Brittany who run The Viking, a small burger joint across the street from the gas station, were just closing up for the night, but turned the grill back on to make me an excellent burger with bacon, egg, and grilled onions, and a side order of hot chips (beautifully done!), to eat on my drive home.  Awesome!  So I was a bit biased in favour of Sprague by the time I showed up there to shoot episode 8.

60 zombie extras show up for the zunami episode, and Jen Gatts, our usual Zombie Wrangler, not only knows every one of us by name and face, but she also knows who’s been on set before, and which episodes they’ve been in!  Pretty amazing!  30 zombies including half a dozen teenage ones pile onto a bus as I arrive, and within an hour, the remaining herd has arrived for makeup and costume.

Tess Fowler

Tess Garcia (who constantly sings “Everything Is Awesome” from the Lego Movie) does my makeup, minimizing the blood and lightly dusting me down in a coating of red dirt.  Neither of us is aware of the actual storyline except that it takes place in one of the Corn Belt States of the mid-West, hence the dirt.

zombie Herd

We take a bus to Sprague where all the zombies gather in the Town Hall to receive directions from Vanessa Driveness, one of the Assistant Directors and onsite Z Wrangler:  “Most of you have done this before, so be nice; be quiet when you’re not on set; and most importantly, don’t be dicks!”  The day is heating up quickly, and the Town Hall doesn’t have air conditioning, so we’re happy to only be there for half an hour before we walk the three blocks to Downtown.

zunami z nation

They decide to film the fast zombie scenes first, before the day gets too hot, and spread us down the street for a block before the intersection where the cameras are setup.  A lot of time is spent looking from the camera vantage point and arranging us to vary height, look, etc.  On “Action!” we run down the street, past the camera intersection, and continue on for half a block before slowing.

Reset to start.
Do it again.

And again.

And again.

We get rearranged a couple times – faster zombies in the back, slower zombies in the front.  Each time we reset to our starting positions there is always waiting, and we slowly migrate to any available shade on the street.  Zombies are pressed up against walls, hang out in doorways, and some of us sit in the “abandoned” cars used in the scene until “Places!” is called.

Damon Vanhee Z Nation shade

Ricky Giles, the onsite EMT, walks around passing out bottles of water to everyone (“Everyone’s hydrated, right?  Drink some water, people!  It’s free!”), while Damon Vanhee heads up the onsite makeup team who touch up blood effects, darken teeth, and dust everyone down in yet another layer of red dust that we all come to despise by the end of the day.  Damon’s pretty funny with some sharp insights into people and the filming process that he delivers deadpan and does a great job of keeping everyone chuckling and motivated throughout the hot day.  They have a much thinner version of the mouth blood now – instead of a rootbeer syrup flavored mouthful from a squirt bottle, it’s now a minty fresh spritz sprayed onto your teeth.  MUCH better after multiple takes!

oil Change

The first commercial for Z Nation aired the night before during Sharknado 2, so we’re all a bit pumped about the series finally coming to air soon!  Zombies start comparing what episodes they’ve appeared in, whether or not they’ve had the chance to kill or eat someone, and whether or not they’ve died on screen.  Turns out that the majority of us haven’t died or eaten actors, so those that have gain instant “celebrity” status.  The Oily Zombies, and the ones that spent time lying in a swamp, or were shoved up under the hood of a truck, enter an elite level of Zombie Extra stardom.

Destiny Mitchell Patrick Arkangelo Z Nation zombies Z Nation Patrick Arkangelo Z Nation Destiny Mitchell Z Nation

Most of the morning, I’ve been hanging out with Patrick Arkangelo, Destiny Mitchell, and E.  Patrick has been in multiple shoots for Z Nation and is funny and laughs a lot.  He’s outgoing and confident, and models clothes and appears in fashion shoots – he is probably the best looking zombie in the entire series!  Destiny is a bit more reserved and cynical.  It’s her first day on a Z Nation shoot, but her dad has been on multiple ones.  He spends the day as the red shirted zombie that Murphy finds “guarding” the apartment.  We spend some time watching him and Keith Allan work out their “dance” as Murphy figures out how to get past him and up the staircase.  He’s been trying to get Destiny on site for weeks now, but she’s put it off until today when they needed as many extras as they could get.  She’s still not sure being a zombie is better than spending the day in an air conditioned house watching TV, but she warms up as the day progresses and starts to come up with her own jokes and comebacks – Patrick’s grin and sense of humour are pretty contagious.

e Z Nation

tuneup

E tells me he’s homeless, usually sleeping on the streets during warmer weather and moving to a shelter in town when it gets cold.  He ran into the Z Nation crew when they were filming in Downtown Spokane for episode 3 and convinced them to hire him as a zombie.  “I walk around those streets every day, so getting paid cash and a free lunch to do it was a no brainer!”  Yes – E made a zombie pun.  E is always the last zombie to shuffle past the camera no matter where they put him in the herd:  the herd rushes past the camera… pause… E shambles past to end the shoot.  Patrick and I would grin and quietly play the “Yakety Sax” song as he would shuffle in.  If The Asylum ever puts a Z Nation gag or blooper reel together, I totally want to see the full unedited scene in there!

downtown Z Nation Zunami episode 8

Vanessa picks out a dozen zombies from those used in the early morning shoots, and sets them up at the front of the herd, just behind a group of actors who are about to be Z Chow.  On “Action!” we give the actors two seconds before taking off down the street again, but this time, the actors and chosen zombies turn left down the street towards the camera while the rest of us continue along our usual path.  They film it a couple more times before giving the rest of us a break while setting up the cameras for close-ups of the actors getting tackled to the ground by zombies and eaten.

morgue

In the episode, you see this group of survivors running towards a morgue where our main characters are hiding.  Only one guy makes it, while the rest are taken to the ground and eaten by zombies.  There are two things to note from behind the scenes.  First, the door to the morgue actually opens to a set of stairs that lead to the apartments above the street where we’ve been filming.  The interior morgue shots aren’t even filmed in Sprague.  Second, it’s pretty cool to realize how many people are “behind” the camera during a scene.  As I said, only a dozen zombies are used to attack the group, so the rest of us are either looking for shade, or standing just off camera, watching with envy as the chosen ones elevate their zombie-cred by taking out this group on camera.

lunch cassie z nation

By now it’s about 3 o’clock and the hottest part of the day, so we head back to the Town Hall for lunch.  The zombies that were on the early crew are released for the day, and the rest of us head back into town to film the tractor scene with Keith Allan.  Andrew and Cassie play the farmer and waitress Hero Zombies in this scene – I recognize Andrew from previous episode shoots we’ve been in.

keith Allen Murphy keith Allen 

Originally, this scene is shot with Murphy walking among the zombie herd before ascending the tractor.  The scene is shot multiple times from multiple camera angles before they decide to shoot it with Murphy walking AGAINST the crowd.  To give the illusion of an unending zombie horde, an AD is stationed just beyond the camera frame to the left and another to the far right.  As extras pass the “end”, we run around behind the camera to the “beginning” of the zombie herd and shuffle past the camera again.  In a typical take, we pass the camera two or three times.  Keith is pretty cool, joking and chatting with extras in between takes while cameras are being reset.  At one point, he takes out his own camera for a group selfie, and everyone goes nuts!

black Dot black Dot Resident wrap

Our final scene for the day is the footage that will be used for the long shot of the approaching zunami.  We’re arranged into three different groups, and “fast zombie” around the corner of a building, through an empty dirt-filled lot, kicking up mountains of dust, and running towards the camera.  We wait 10 minutes between shots for the dust to settle, but it’s still pretty hazy to breathe through it all.  At 8:45, they finally call it a wrap for the day, and after allowing all the extras to view the on-camera shot, we pile back onto the buses, tired and caked in dirt, and head back to base to change and clean up – the end of a long hot day in Sprague, but totally worth it.

z nation zunami zombie cast and crew

Most of us know that we might not make it on screen after the episode is edited.  We know that main characters are the true actors in the series and carry the plot and storyline.  And we know that the only people other than us who are going to recognize us as we flash past the camera, or search for a glimpse of our zombified face on screen, are family or friends or other zombie extras.  But none of that really matters.  It’s been so cool to be a part of the total experience!  And even Destiny finally agreed that it was pretty awesome to be a part of this and know that we were there!

 

Turn Up The Lights

Wednesday, November 5th, 2014

Turn up the lights.
Turn off the noise.
Remove all the people, and this place is no longer an event.
It’s just a moment in the past.

haunted Workshop

Regular nightly attendance this year was our lowest ever, except for on Kid Friendly nights and Halloween itself where we broke all attendance records for the night from previous years.  Maybe it was the construction.  Maybe the weather dampened people’s desire to be out.  Maybe we’ve just cycled through the latest generation of High School kids and are working on a new one.  Whatever the reasons, overall attendance was just short of last year’s but we still had a steady stream of customers through the house most nights.

parachute Walls

In previous years, we have tried to create a confining/claustrophobic feeling in many of our hallways by making them narrow or leaning the tops of the wall panels inward like a collapsing building.  I wanted to make a 20” wide hallway this year (our typical hallway width is 44”, and our narrow hallways are 36”) that customers would have to turn sideways to press their way through, but we get enough variance in people sizes that we figured someone would eventually get stuck.  Instead, we took the parachutes used in last year’s Big Top and draped them from the ceiling and walls to drastically alter the shape and volume of one of our hallways.  Add a fogger machine and minimal lighting, and you get a very weird hallway that “breathed” and left natural folds for hiding characters or props.  Still didn’t get the claustrophobic effect I was hoping for, as the parachute “walls” are thin and moveable, but it created some good effects.

voodoo Jungle voodoo Woman halloween makeup ideas

We built a Voodoo Jungle using the tree we built a few years back and the camo netting from the Haunted Bayou.  Nice to have accumulated so many good props over the years.  Our Voodoo Woman volunteer went all out with some amazing makeup effects and was great at reading groups as they came through – hiding behind the tree until customers passed her before startling them and jumping into action.

skeleton Room

Similar to the Dead Room, we had an interior room draped with heavy black curtains and blacklights, and our girls that worked last year’s drop panels ran around inside dressed as skeletons.  The back of their costumes were completely black, so they would melt and blend into the walls anytime they stopped moving and turned their backs.  Then a quick spin, and VOILA!  They “magically” appeared in front of people, running through crowds, and basically scaring the hell out of everyone!  One of them would occasionally follow at the back of a crowd since it was so easy to appear and disappear whenever the last person in the group would glance back.  It was such an effective room that, depending on the response of the particular group, we would often close the exit and send  them through the room a second time.

torture Chamber torture Chamber

We built a torture chamber, complete with a stretching rack and characters playing both victims and torturers.  Three or four characters, dressed as zombies, would sneak up behind the customers if they stopped to watch the scene play out, and then chase them off to the next room in the house.  Lots of work and dressing with hit and miss on the reactions.

psycho Path leads to the Cemetary zombie graveyard cemetary Night

The zombie graveyard this year was moved out back of the building due to the road construction.  Customers follow the Psycho Path up a short hill to the cemetery which ringed a MASSIVE tree.  Other than hanging things from the branches, we never got around to fixing things to drop from above which was a bit disappointing to have missed such an opportunity.  Once the house gets started, I get caught up in the nights running it rather than changing or improving things.  Lots of rain made the Psycho Path slippery, so we had a couple of mishaps as customers were walking down from the cemetery and would get charged by a zombie or a chainsaw wielding groundskeeper.

ebola Lab

The Toxic Waste room was converted into an Ebola Lab this year (#currentEvents).  We have a couple that sets this room up and works it every year, and they are fantastic!  A lot of the extra props and effects are all theirs that they bring and improve upon each year.  My favorite part had to be that they clad the hallways in and out of the room with thin, white plastic, similar to what you see in movies when the CDC sets up a quarantine area.  But since the plastic was so thin, it would give you glimpses through it of moving “creatures”, and would whip around in the wind.  The rain would stream and drip down it, adding its own effect and causing it to stick to customers if they brushed against it in passing.

And then there was our final room.
It MUST make a BIG impact, and there MUST be chainsaws.
We want people to run screaming from the house as new customers are walking in.

facade Modified

Our first step, due to the narrowness of the house, was to alter the front façade so customers exit THRU the façade, rather than into the waiting area behind the front doors.  In order to ensure entering customers could still see them, we removed four wall panels from the exit hallway and replaced them with a 16’ section of chainlink fence.  So customers in the waiting area could see the customers running out, but they didn’t collide with one another or get in the way.

meat Bags blood Paint

We decided to make the final room into a Butcher Shop, but we didn’t want people stopping to look at tables of body parts and characters being cut up.  We want them to exit, running and screaming.  So we took all our prop bodies and body parts, and stuffed them into white, 45 gallon trash bags; splattered them in “blood”; and hung them from crossbeams in the final room, positioning the top of the bags at about 6’ to block the view of our typical customer as they moved throughout the Butcher Shop.

butcher Shop of horror

The maze had two exits which dropped customers into two different sides of the Butcher Shop – you could see your friends entering, but you couldn’t see the exit, and you couldn’t see what else was in the room with you (unless you dropped to the ground to look under the meat bags which no one did).  Customers had to push the bags out of their way as they moved through the room in order to search for the exit, but our Butcher Shop Clown didn’t have that problem.  He not only knew the room layout, but also could tell by the sounds once the majority of the group had entered, and that’s when he fired up his chainsaw, and started to pursue customers throughout the room until they found the exit!

It worked beautifully!

butcher Clown butcher Clown horror exit

We splattered acrylic paint on the bags for the blood effect, and although they were dry by the time we hung them in the room, the rain made them wet to the touch, which added to one’s reluctance to move them out of the way to pass through the room.  Add foggers and strobe lights to the room, and we had a lovely nightmare for customers to end their tour.  Many times, as the chainsaws started up, customers would frantically push their way through the meat bags only to find another wall where they expected to find the exit!  The chainlink fence lined exit worked wonderfully to allow entering customers to see them running out without anyone getting in the way of their terrorized departure.

Lovely!

scream

Our 24 volunteers did a wonderful job with their own makeup and costumes, and the new shape of the house this year really worked out well!  There are always things, post Halloween, that I think of doing better, but the house really had a great feel to it this year, and although attendance was low, I thought it was easily our best design yet!

greeters zombie screwdriver zombie butcher Clown butcherzipper golem Witch kid Friendly Night host tour Guides butcher ghouls zombies goblins

It took us only a day to take everything down and pack it up – a new record for us.  Don’t know if we’ll have another house next year, but if not, this was an awesome way to end our run of Haunted Houses!  One group of kids that came through on Halloween night is graduating from High School this year and off to college – they have attended every year as a group since year 9.  So awesome!  So much fun!  So cool to have been a part of that!

So depressed to walk into work knowing this event is over…

…what’s next??

Dead Room

Thursday, October 23rd, 2014

Soundproofing a hallway is not as cheap as I’d originally thought.  Even the online “cheap” options aren’t really cheap when you’re looking at a LARGE space like our Dead Room, and you’re not wanting to spend more than $30 bucks.

Green glue?  $17 a tube is considered cheap!
Acoustic panels?  You’re kidding, right?
Rigid foam panels or soft foam underlay?  $6 for 2’x2’ panels or $30 for the 4’x8’ panels.  Two wall panels make up a hallway, and half of one for the roof, so you’re looking at $75 for 4ft of hallway.

No cheap options.

entrance to the dead room; cheap ways to soundproof a room

First step: double-layer the walls, using two wall panels on each side instead of the typical single layer.

Next: put a roof on the entire structure, then clad it in plastic.

This is going to shut out most of the noise of our haunted house, but it doesn’t give customers that uneasy feeling you get when the pressure changes in a room where the walls are specifically clad in soundproofing.

Collect egg cartons to tack to the walls?  Nice idea, but 4ft of hallway requires 96 cartons (and that’s with spacing).
Quilt batting?  $12/yard at its cheapest (0.5” thick) = $84/4ft of hallway.
Egg crate foam mattress covers?  $50 for a queen size (4’6”x 6’6”)
Old mattresses would be great, but you can no longer buy those from Goodwill or other OpShops, and we’d need about 20 of them.

See the problem?  So while we were totally excited about the concept of the Dead Room, we were suddenly realizing it might be nothing more than just a very dark room.

We started asking for donations of old curtains, sheets, blankets – and then we hit the motherload!  One of the guys knew someone who was replacing the carpeting in their home.

The day we installed it was a nightmare as it dumped rain and we hauled all our carpet inside the hallway to keep it dry while we measured it, cut it, and tacked it to the walls and ceiling.

That sucked.

Maze entrance

But the result was as close to what we wanted as we felt we were going to get.  The roof above the entrance to the Dead Room slopes downward, forcing customers to duck and look into the first dark hallway.  A strobe pointing at you from above the entrance kills any night vision you’ve acquired, and just inside, the light quickly fades as you see the hallway turn to the left.  And once inside, you get the slightly oppressive feeling from the sound dampening, and have to feel your way along the walls to find your way around the corners and back out into the light.

We do get a lot of traffic that slows through this area, and some people have crashed into walls when they moved too quickly, but it’s been great to slow everyone down just before the maze and the final exit.

On our budget, I couldn’t have asked for better!

Z Nation Second Season Announced

Monday, October 20th, 2014

z nation season two tweet retweet

SO awesome!
Luckily, I happen to know a few people that are able to help out as zombie extras.

z nation zombies extras #znation homeless Zombie will work for brains brainz

 

Narrow

Tuesday, October 14th, 2014

tree frog

Due to the recent destruction of our donated parking lot, our Haunted House design this year is much narrower than in previous years.  We kicked out the façade a ways and are utilizing areas behind the church to give us the same square footage in the floorplan, but as a result, the layout is very different from previous years.  We wanted to build on the confining feeling created by a narrower house, and really work to emphasize the additional length of the layout.  So while a customer may walk the same number of steps as they would have in a previous house, the lack of front-to-back switch backs or the long hallways that reverse on themselves, combined with the emphasis on keeping the traffic always moving towards the front of the house really messes with your head and gives you the feeling that this one just goes on and on and on.

Haunted House floorplan layout

The first problem was how to create the boundary that was previously created naturally by the zombie cemetery and corner building.  Luckily, our experience in building long, narrow hallways provided us with a solution, so it was back to Home Depot for a couple dozen nine inch nails so we could build a bunch of wall anchors.

nine Inch Nails

Originally, we thought we could build out to the temporary construction fence, but the road graders and dump trucks drive through it quite often, so we decided to give it lots of room!  We placed the wall anchors about 30’ back from the fence.

long view

Although I always refer to this portion of the house as “the maze”, there’s never really been more than one path through it.  A couple of dead ends have allowed us to place characters or maze runners with chainsaws, but there was only one successful path through the house.  This year, we put in an actual maze, with four paths through the house as long as customers continue to move forward.  We’ll see how it all works out as customers now have the ability to double back into the house rather than move out which may create some traffic bottlenecks, but then, that’s why we have maze runners.

the Maze

Another area I’m excited about is The Dark Room.  Our house tends to be very noisy – strobe lights, stereos blasting loud music and sound effects, smoke machines, and black lights.  The Dark Room is a section of covered switchbacks with no interior lights and walls clad in sound proofed material.  Customers enter via a low entryway, and their ability to see ends after the first turn.  From there, they will need to feel their way through the room until they are led to the exit, all the while unable to see anyone that follows them through the room, or what else might be hiding in there with them.  The sound proofing should also induce a slightly claustrophobic feeling as the pressure in the room will feel different without the hard walls to bounce sound back to customers.

We moved the zombie cemetery to a space up a small hill behind the church.  While we just started building the “Psycho Path” that leads to it, we’re investigating what we can do with the overhead space now that we have trees and mount points above an area in the maze.  As in all things, time and money will determine what we finally do when we open.

psycho Path

It’s dumped rain on and off as we’ve been building, so it’s really starting to feel like Haunted House season!  I really like the completely different feel to the house this year, and while I’m sad at the prospect of this final year, I’m excited by the new design that resulted from the changes to our parking lot!  With the maze built, the focus now turns to running powerlines, dressing out rooms and scenes, and finishing up the house before opening night!

Probably the most pleasure I get is the designing phase.  I think that’s the fun part where you can see how you expect it’s going to work, and you can kind of have a giggle sometimes if it looks good.  And then you have that horrible phase where you have to make it.
~ Blair Somerville

You always have to keep pushing to innovate.
~ Steve Jobs

Z Nation – Fracking Zombies

Tuesday, September 23rd, 2014

Spoiler alert:  This post contains spoilers for the Z Nation Season 1 Episode 02, “Fracking Zombies”, which aired Friday, Sept 19th on the SyFy Channel. It also feeds my deeply seated narcissistic personality.

The acting for the second episode of Z Nation, “Fracking Zombies” is better than the first episode as Kellita Smith and Tom Everett Scott get more comfortable with their characters and the cast.  There are moments in the middle of the episode where they seem to revert to the “stiff” acting from the first episode, but that’s because these scenes were shot first, with the opening episode scenes shot a bit later on.

Addy Doc Mack Z Nation

Russell Hodgkinson and Michael Welch continue to bring some quality acting, showing that their characterizations in episode 1 were not a fluke.

“if we film a credited actor in episode 1, and then reuse that footage in episode 2, we have to pay them twice.  But with extras, you signed away all your rights, so we can film you and then use you for commercials, opening or closing credits, digitally put you into a scene that needs more zombies, or whatever, and we only have to pay you one time!” –Juan Mas (2nd Unit Director)

I didn’t get a call for the second episode, much to my disappointment.  The call sheet specifically said “slow, skinny zombies” which fits in well with the whole idea in episode 2 of zombies who have been hanging around the oil refinery for years or trapped in the oil tank.  Having said that, the reality is three casting agencies trying to get hundreds of extras on set, and a production team trying to be diverse in their choices (so it’s not too obvious which zombies have been onscreen already), which means I’m not going to get a call back for every episode.  Honestly, getting ANY callback was awesome!  So it was cool to catch glimpses of me and the other Zs from episode 1 running up stairs and down halls, invading Mount Wilson on Citizen Z’s monitors.

Z Nation Oily Fracking Zombies

14 extras were used as zombies at the Jersey Devil Oil Refinery – 8 of them running around the tower and 6 of them slathered in oil.  Kevin was one of the Oily Zombies, and told me this story about episode 2:

Call time was 6:30 in the morning.  We did the usual wardrobe and full zombie makeup, and then they drove us on site where we were met by the fx team.  “The good news is that you’re all going to get some closeup time on camera!  The bad news is we’re going to cover you in this fake oil.”  {I never asked him what the oil was made of}  They then proceeded to smear big handfuls of the oil all over our costumes, hair, face, and hands.  It was pretty chilly.  Initially, we all dipped our hands into the buckets of ‘oil’ to apply it to our butt and groin area, but after the third re-shoot and touch-up, no one cared anymore who walked up and drenched you in oil or where they put it.

The ‘nice’ thing about it all was that the day ended up around 92 degrees by lunch when we finished shooting, but we were all pretty cool and insulated from the heat under all that oil.  The other 8 zombies that ran around the refinery’s metal platforms for the rest of the day had some pretty horrid temperatures to deal with!

The oil pit filled with zombies was CGI.  The zombie hound was played partially by a puppeteer dog and partially by a CGI altered actor dog.  Funny enough, the zombie shoved up in the tire well of the truck was an extra (not a puppet!) who was wedged up under there for almost an hour’s worth of shooting time!

wheel well Zombie incident Z Nation

One of my mates was annoyed with the way Travis (played by new comer Ryan Higgins) talked.  I thought his slow delivery and lilt did well to belie his quick violence and cast him in a character reminiscent of “Deliverance” or “Justified”.  He was annoyed that everyone in the Zombacalypse suddenly turned into swamp people once civilization evaporated.

Rating numbers from episode 2 were higher than those for episode 1 while piracy numbers for the series continue to climb.

Z Nation – First Day Of Shooting

Thursday, September 18th, 2014

Spoiler alert:  This post contains spoilers for the Z Nation Season 1 Episode 01, “Puppies and Kittens”, which aired Friday, Sept 12th on the SyFy Channel.  It’s also a very long, and probably very boring blog post.

For starters, Z Nation ep101 didn’t contain a single puppy or kitten – it’s just a term used by Kellita Smith’s character, Warren, to describe zombies.

The coolest thing for me about watching the episode (other than catching glimpses of me and other extras I got to know on set) is to finally see everything coming together!  As an extra on the set, we don’t get copies of the script, the shooting schedule, or the call sheet – we just show up when and where they say and do as we’re told.  And since an episode is shot in parts and pieces by multiple camera units and put together into the final episode in post production and editing, we’re really in the dark as much as first time viewers (except for the occasional spoiler in which you’re involved as shooting for the series progresses).

The casting agency calls, emails, or texts (usually all three) about four days before you’re wanted on site to ensure you’re available.  But you don’t find out what time you are to be on set or where shooting is to occur until about 10:30pm the night before.

ep101BaseCamp

The first day of shooting for Z Nation ep101 was Monday, May 19th in Medical Lake, just west of Spokane.  My call time was 7:45am, and when I wander in at 7:30, there’re already three guys done up in full zombie makeup: massive head wounds and facial damage, and latex buildup/prosthetics.  I later learn these guys (Ron Starlynn, Brandon Arleon, and Kevin) are “Hero Zombies” – zombies who get closeups, or their heads blown apart, or something equally gruesome.  Regular zombie extras come to covet a Hero Zombie role ‘cause it not only means some possible prime air time, but more importantly, that you get to either eat someone or be killed in a gruesome manner – the pinnacle opportunity for a zombie extra (I mean, why else would you want to be a zombie in a zombie film if not to eat someone or die horribly??!)!

Ron Starlynn Hero Zombie First Glimpse

I check in with Jennifer Gatts, the Zombie Wrangler (the onsite person responsible for all the extras), fill out a bunch of forms (“Are you allergic to corn syrup?  Are you willing to wear contacts or full eye covers?” – Yes!), and then wait while others trickle in to the gymnasium where we’re all hanging out.

Lots of waiting.

Brandon Arleon

Throughout the morning, extras are called out to wardrobe and makeup, and reappear in full zombie gear.  The excitement and buzz slowly builds.

dan

At 9:40, I get called to wardrobe (shirt, pants, and shoes), change, and go back to waiting.

An hour later, I get called to makeup.  There’s a long, air conditioned trailer that seats four or five people while makeup artists work on each one.  Corinne Foster (“It’s pronounced ‘Corinn’ – Don’t call me Coreen or I’ll punch you in the dick!”) of Synapse Fx is the lead makeup artists and starts applying makeup with a giant porous sponge in layers of green, blue, yellow, and brown – layer after layer across the face, neck, hands and arms.  Once she’s got the overall effect, they take me outside and spray me down with a sealant, so the makeup doesn’t rub or wear off during the day.  Then it’s back inside, and over to Shawn Shelton for battle scars!

“Your hair is too nice!” he tells me, “Too fine and short which makes it hard to muck up!”  He decides to hide it all with a massive head wound that drips down the front of my face.

Awesome!

The blood is a red dye mixed with corn syrup and something to help it set yet still remain flexible.  Shawn applies it with a tongue depressor and slathers it over my head, down my face, dripping from my ears, and mouth.  Throughout the day, the makeup crew runs around with squirt bottles filled with a thinner version of the stuff that they use for touch ups and to darken your teeth before a scene.

Z Nation ep101 first day of shooting

By 11:30, I’m done and back in the gym in time for lunch.  Zombies that had been out filming earlier that morning arrive on a bus – there are about 14 of us in all.  The catering crew puts out sandwiches and salad and a MASSIVE plate of brownies which never seems to run out.  The brownies are AWESOME!  Chocolatey chocolate fudge brownies with chunks of chocolate… I eat two, and when it’s apparent no one else is having any more, I makes a move on them and eat another dozen.

Z Nation second unit

Half an hour for lunch.  Those that were filming prior to lunch hop back on their bus, and the rest of us jump on a second bus and drive out to a site with the 2nd camera unit directed by Juan Mas and Jade Warpenburg.

first Location

For the next 2 ½ hours, we march, shuffle, run, trample, moan, groan, and pace zombie-like up and down fields, through courtyards, across playgrounds, and over dirt mounds.  Juan runs us through a shot, and then immediately resets us and runs it again because the sun has suddenly ducked behind a cloud to give the scene different lighting or a long shadow is now cast across a piece of playground equipment that he thinks would give a cool effect.  He mixes up the order in which we are arranged, and takes close ups of feet and hands and bodies passing close by the camera.  “You see,” Juan explains with a grin when one of the extras asks what it is we’re doing, “if we film a credited actor in episode 1, and then reuse that footage in episode 2, we have to pay them twice.  But with extras, you signed away all your rights, so we can film you and then use you for commercials, opening or closing credits, digitally put you into a scene that needs more zombies, or whatever, and we only have to pay you one time!”

While you might feel ripped off to hear this in a normal job, as zombie extras, we all pick up on the word “commercials” and brighten up a bit with hope!  One of the guys among us is the only one wearing the bright orange jumpsuit of a convicted criminal, and he is ecstatic when Juan points out that “pretty much every time you see a zombie horde marching through a field, you’ll know that the one wearing orange is you!”

Alex Terzieff Z Nation

This idea of reusing zombies occurs a LOT in Z Nation.  If you look carefully you see Alex Terzieff and his stunt crew reappearing all throughout episode 1 – he’s the zombie in a yellow shirt that sticks his head out of the bus as it passes, and then chases Addy, Mack, and Doc up the hill.  He’s then fourth zombie on the right, waiting for them at the top of the hill, who then gets hit by the truck.  And he’s the second zombie into the room after the zombie soldier attacks the doctors.

truck

Around 2:30 Juan gets a call to bring us all over to the main site, and the excitement levels climb.  We drive to an old psychiatric hospital and march up three flights of stairs and pause at the top to wait while they film Harold Perrineau hunting around the floor and kicking through trash.  You can see these scenes at the end of the episode when Harold’s character, Hammond, is hunting down the zombie baby.  At the time, we had no idea what he was looking for.  That sequence was filmed at two locations – one with patchy walls, and ours with the green striped walls.

second Location

Harold retires to the temporary “Green Room” ahead of us, and as we file past, he nods to one or two of the zombie extras who shout out to him and wave.  An assistant director (AD) tells us “don’t talk to the talent!” and directs us into a room further down the hall that is stacked full of industrial office furniture.  As we are shuffling in, someone walks up and says, “I need 6 zombies”, and then grabs the last six guys in line (Ron, Brandon, Sean Dunn, Donald, and 2 guys whose names I don’t know ) before anyone can volunteer.

The rest of us join the zombie crew that had been out that morning, and we start comparing notes:  “What did you guys film?” they ask us, and we fill them in on our marching.  Most of them say they’ve just been “standing around all morning”, except for one of the guys that was strapped to a hospital gurney.  I realize that the opportunity to get on camera just left with the six other zombies, and I slowly wander out of the room and back down the hallway where we entered.

I can see the other guys down the hall, getting directions, and I have it in my mind to casually wander down and join in the group when a voice to my left asks, “How’s it going?”  I hadn’t noticed the guy standing there, so I’m a bit startled and say, “Hey…  What’s your role in all this?”

“I’m an Assistant Director.” He says.
“That sounds cool – what do you get to do?”
“Mostly, I just keep zombie extras from wandering into shots they aren’t supposed to be in.”

Bummer.

“Sounds like a pretty boring job.” I tell him with a grin, and he allows me to stand next to him while they film the scene off in the distance.

anthony

Watching the episode, I realize this is the scene where Murphy, played by Keith Allen, is strapped to a gurney and can’t escape as the zombies flood into the room and start to eat him alive!  “DON’T LEAVE ME TO THE ZOMBIES!” we hear him scream from down the hall.  “PIKE ME!  PIKE ME OR I WILL HUNT YOU DOWN AND EAT YOUR BRAINS MOTHER FUAAAAAAUGH!!”  And then the zombies push into the room.

Murphy

They reshoot this scene thirteen times.  Around the sixth retake, the AD comments, “You can hear his voice fading – they should have gone with one of the first three takes, but they will probably grab sound bites of his voice from the first couple takes, and edit it along with the shots they want for the final scene.”  He’s right.  By the final take, Murphy is only screaming obscenities much quieter than the original take, and the zombies burst into the room almost immediately.

With that, the zombies file down the hall, and I join them back in the room with everyone else where we wait for an hour, doing nothing.  Most of us catch quick naps while we can.

Around 3:30, they wake us all up and take us down the hall to walk thru the next scene.  This turns out to be the opening scene of the episode where Hammond and Valdez are chased down a hallway by fast zombies, and slam a prison gate shut, firing into the horde and keeping the zombies at bay.  First Unit shoots Hammond and Valdez a dozen times – camera following them, camera leading them, still camera that they run towards.  Then, Alex (who is not only the stunt coordinator for Z Nation but also one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet) walks us through our scene – hero zombies (Ron, Kevin, and Brandon) are put at the front of the horde, and then they arrange the rest of us in two lines to the right and left of the camera.  “Let me get the two tall zombies up front as well – you, and head wound.”  We film the same scene a couple more times, the zombie horde flowing around the camera in pursuit of the actors, before they change camera angles, and film us a couple of times running into the gate and smashing/pressing against it to get through to the actors on the other side.

Z Nation jail

Prior to each “ACTION!” call, the makeup crew walks around with squirt bottles of “blood”.  You pull out your lower lip; they squirt some in; you swish it around like mouthwash, and then burble it over your bottom lip to let it drool down your chin, your neck, and onto your shirt.  The syrup is rootbeer flavored which is okay with the first couple takes, but by the 50th or 60th shot, we all get really sick of it.

We film a front-on shot of the zombies trying to get through the gate for 15-20 minutes solid, no break.  My jaw is sore from growling, and my arm that reaches through the gate no longer has any feeling in my fingers ‘cause everyone(understandably) wants to get on camera, so those in the back push forward, mashing those of us in front against the bars.  It makes for an awesome visual effect of zombies wanting to get their potential victims, but it gets a bit claustrophobic.

Still, we keep growling and reaching and gnashing our teeth.

The camera zooms in for close-ups, and as it pans away from each of us, we take a second to stretch our faces and hands and arms to get blood flowing again before it pans back on us, and we kick back into zombie mode.

Ron as the hero zombie in this scene drops to his knees when he gets shot.  The special fx team replaces him with a mannequin that has a head painted to match his makeup.  One fx guy holds up the head and works the jaw from behind while a second fx guy sits behind him, working a tank of blood that flows through pipes into the dummy’s head.  They smear Vaseline on the bars, and as the camera rolls, push the zombie head through the bars, the skin peeling away from the skull like split citrus skin while blood drenches what’s left of the head as it pushes forward and continues to gnash it’s teeth and growl at the camera.  The shot doesn’t make it into the final episode, and instead, Ron dies by headshot and is edited out of the remainder of the scene.

Ron Starlynn

Finally, Alex turns the door hinge pin upside down, showing us how shaking the door will cause the pin to slowly fall out, to show the door slowly giving way to the zombie horde.  Of course, all the shaking in the world isn’t enough to get it to repeat the process once the camera starts to roll, and they finally move everyone out of the shot except for three of us to shake the door loose from its hinges.  After three more shots, they finally decide to slide the pin 3/4 of the way out and film the scene from there.  Alex rattles the door from just off camera, while we shake it from the far side, and the pin slides the rest of the way out for the shot.

Just after 5pm they call it a wrap and send us back to the waiting room while they replay everything and decide on whether or not they need more footage.  An hour later they decide they’ve got all they need, and they send us back to base camp to turn in wardrobe and get cleaned up.

First day of shooting done.
Z Nation has begun!

First Glimpse Of Z Nation Ep101

Tuesday, September 16th, 2014

Spoiler alert:  This post contains spoilers for the Z Nation Season 1 Episode 01, “Puppies and Kittens”, which aired Friday, Sept 12th on the SyFy Channel.  As a second disclaimer, I am somewhat biased to the Z Nation franchise having spent my time as a Zombie in the tv series, however, I like to think that doesn’t overly affect my opinions expressed below.

To set the mood, I liked this first glimpse of Z Nation.  While it didn’t contain top notch writing or acting, it was fun and enjoyable and of a higher standard than we’ve come to expect from The Asylum.  Closer to The Last Ship and The Strain than Sharknado 2.  It may have had its plot holes, and its moments of being “over the top”, but it wasn’t camp, and they didn’t jump the shark.

Mack, Garnett, Addy, Warren, Doc, Cassandra, and Murphy - Z Nation

I really enjoyed Michael Welch’s Mack and Russell Hodgkinson’s Doc – not only great characters, but backed up by some really solid acting.  Both actors felt like they already had a handle on their character, and brought that out.  Anastasia Baranova’s Addy has potential, but I feel a lot of that is the ability to play off Welch’s character.  Sketchy and Skeezy, played by locals Mark Carr and Doug Dawson, made an all too quick appearance, and I hope to see more of them as secondary characters, but given the storyline of travelling across the US, I doubt they will reappear.

Sketchy, Skeezy, and Doc - Z Nation

On a behind the scenes side of things, I’m partial to Nat Zang’s 10K even though there isn’t enough exposure for the character in the first episode to validate this opinion – not only is he a nice guy on set the couple of times I’ve run into him, but also the character development that occurs in future episodes really fleshes out his character into a great member of the group puzzle.  I thought it was also a bit early to really make a call on Pisay Pao’s character given this appearance, but as an actress, she did a good job in her first television appearance.

Nat Zang as 10K - Z Nation  Pisay Pao as Cassandra - Z Nation

I think I was hoping for more from the veterans – Kellita Smith, Tom Everett Scott, and Harold Perrineau.  I felt their characters were over-dramatic, but then, that may stem from the expectations I put on them as actors.  Harold would jump in place for about 10 seconds prior to each scene to get pumped up, so his breathy, hurried delivery was a definite decision either on his or the director’s part.

The special effects weren’t over the top, but had a nice level of zombie gore without appearing cheap.  Zombie extras in episode 1 agreed to possibly wearing contacts, but the episode was filmed without them, and all our eyes were CGI enhanced in post-production.  Same with the blood splatters from gunfire, truck collisions, claw hammers, and the infamous Z Whacker!  I say infamous, because having died by Z Whacker is one of the things that is well known among the Zombie extras on set.  As far as status goes, death by Z Whacker or Claw Hammer ranks WELL above gunfire, yet it’s still a gruesome possible ending obtainable by Zombie extras as opposed to something like Death by Automobile which was reserved solely for the series’ stunt team.

Z Whacker - Z Nation

You’re going to hear about the plot holes (What made the baby suddenly turn zombie?  Why did turning zombie instantly dislocate and shred the inmate’s jaw?), but the plot holes in movies such as X-Men 3 weren’t enough to keep me from seeing future X-Men movies, nor keep those films from being better.  Similarly, I enjoyed the first episode of Z Nation enough to continue watching to see how the characters and storyline play out.

Z Nation – Diary Of A Zombie Extra

Wednesday, September 10th, 2014

It’s early April, and I’m talking to the Building Manager, Tony, about the 12th man prank and whether or not we want to build another Christmas Elevator this year.  We start discussing my plans for this year’s Haunted House when Tony asks, “Are you going to try out for the new zombie movie they’re filming in Spokane?”

“Wait… What zombie movie??!”

“It’s called ‘Z Nation’ or something.  Like ‘World War Z’ or ‘The Walking Dead’.  Google it – someone’ll have all the details on the web.”

Z Nation promo teaser poster

Sure enough, The Asylum, the film studio that produced such B-Grade movie classics as Mega Piranha, Mega Shark vs Giant Octopus, and Sharknado (surprisingly, NOT called Mega Shark Hurricane), is looking for extras to be zombies in their upcoming TV series, Z Nation for the SyFy Channel.

Awesome!

Multiple websites have published the same press release and links to Casting Agencies being used to supply extras for the series.  There are three of them that show up again and again.  I apply to all of them, and start texting and emailing local friends to see who’s interested in coming along.

 

It’s late April, and one of the casting agencies emails me about their upcoming “Zombie Camp”.  They have different sign-up times for fast and slow zombies, and to come out and meet with the series’ various directors, producers, and casting director.  There aren’t any other details than location, dates, and times.

I start checking to see who else has gotten a notice, and forwarding it to anyone that hasn’t.  Turns out that while many of my mates are interested in the idea, no one is really interested in making the trip to Spokane except Wren.  We book a fast zombie time slot in the afternoon.

Lincoln Center Spokane

 

It’s early May, and Zombie Camp actually turns out to be tryouts.  Every 45 minutes, from 8am until 5pm with a half hour break for lunch, the production team from The Asylum takes a group of approximately 70 zombie hopefuls and puts them through their zombie paces, looking for that undead “something” that catches the director’s eye and sky rockets the potential undead poster child into fame and stardom.

zombie extras wannabes hopefuls

Wren and I show up at The Lincoln Center in Spokane soon after lunch where we write down our contact details, receive a number, pose for a photo, and wait as other potential extras wander in.  You can hear muffled groans and noises coming from behind the closed double doors behind the sign-up table, and while no one explicitly says we aren’t allowed in to watch the other tryouts, no one attempts to open the doors and watch the competition.  Wren wanders through the building and finds a back stair case to an upper level that oversees the auditorium where the tryouts are being held, and we quietly find a place to sit and watch the other candidates.

Tryouts are “simple”:  After everyone files in and takes a seat, the first five applicants line up perpendicular to a table where the directors and production team sit.  30 feet in front of them stands a woman with a tambourine while a guy with a bodhrán stands immediately behind them.  The woman shakes the tambourine, and the zombie wannabes shuffle towards her in their best, slow zombie impersonation.  As the closest one gets near her, the guy with the bodhrán starts tapping out a beat.  Extras are to stop; look towards the new sound, and when the director shouts “NOW!”, ‘fast zombie’ towards the guy until he stops banging his drum.  The process repeats, and the next five applicants have their turn.

zombie tryouts for Z Nation SyFy channel

Here’s the problem – if you have a higher number, you’re able to sit and watch everyone else, gauge the responses of the production team, and get a better idea of what may work to get you in as a zombie for the Z Nation series.  Lower numbers don’t have that luxury, so they’ve got to go “all in” from the start and hope for the best.

zombie tryouts

My slow zombie sucks.

I’m kind of a moderate shamble (more like “Warm Bodies” than “Walking Dead”), and I reach the tambourine lady WAY before everyone else.

As the casting director shouts “NOW!” for fast zombie, I dead sprint at the drummer, screeching and passing everyone else which has him suddenly screaming, “DON’T TOUCH THE CAMERAMAN!!  DON’T TOUCH THE CAMERAMAN!!”  I reckon the poor guy got tackled by some overzealous zombie wannabe in at least one of the previous auditions.

And then that’s it.
3 minutes, and you’re done.
“Thanks for coming!  We’ll be in touch.”

No coaching or even suggestion of what they’re looking for in their zombies other than the reactions you can glean from the casting group if you happen to have a later number.  Hope you left your best on the floor.

We watch higher numbers shamble and screech and moan and run across the auditorium floor, and I think of so many things I could have done different… better…  I drive home in a mild state of depression.

So it’s surprising to receive a call-back on Monday.

The casting agency asks about “any skills you may have, any previous acting you may have done, your measurements (height, weight, shoe size, shirt size, etc)”, and whether or not I’m available in two weeks time to come back and “do your zombie” in wardrobe in front of the production team again.  Heck yeah!!

I send in my measurements.  Fill out some paperwork.  And the day before I’m to appear on set, I get a call from the agency.  “You’re really this tall?  These are your actual measurements?”  I’m not THAT tall, but it seems there aren’t a lot of extras over 6’ that tried out.  So when I confirm my measurements they simply ask, “Can you just show up on Monday instead for the first day of shooting for episode 1?”

And I have a slight break-down and go nuts!
AWESOME!!
I’M GONNA’ BE A ZOMBIE ON TV!!

And the reality is, the only people that pay attention to the extras in a film are the extras themselves, their friends and family, and the directors who don’t want them to screw up the actual talent being filmed.

(“See that arm hanging out from behind the tree that just flashed past?  THAT WAS MY ARM!!”)

But it’s cool!  And you can’t have a zombie apocalypse film without lots of zombies, so I’m more than happy to be one of them!  And this takes my desire to build and be a part of something big that entertains others to a whole new level and audience!

In 1996, I sat on the roof of the Regent Theatre during my lunch break, watching Jackie Chan film Mr. Nice Guy.  They reshot the same scene over and over and over, trying to get it just right; changing choreography and camera angles.  I thought then that the reality of filming was much more boring than I had imagined, and throughout the 2014 summer, I learn first hand that there is a LOT of standing around, doing nothing on the set of a TV series.

But it’s all worth it.

The first Z Nation TV commercial airs on July 30th during the premiere of Sharknado 2.  It’s the first glimpse I have of the finished production of the show, and it looks MUCH less campy or B-Grade than I had expected it to be – it actually looks GOOD!  A TV series that I’d like to watch!

I catch a flashing glimpse of ME on screen, and have to grab the remote to rewind it and watch it again… and then freak out a little bit when we confirm it is me.  On screen.  As a zombie!

Yes.  One of dozens of zombies that only flash across the screen in the time it takes you to blink.  But there I am!  And for one, brief moment, I think “life doesn’t get much better than THIS!”

 What we all want is to be valued members of a winning team on an inspiring mission.
~ Graham Weston