Sunday, 25 March 2012

Re-shoots and scores

Rule #1 – get your monster in early.

So speaks Gentleman Jim Eaves; only one of the many pieces of sage feedback arising from an early viewing of the very first assembly of the movie when Jake and I cut it together last year. Audiences expect it, distributors demand it, and who are we to argue?

The only problem is that we already have an opening sequence. A montage of shots of the highly athletic Georgia Winters running through an empty school just after the outbreak, escaping from terrors unseen. And in filming this we also nearly lost Rob-the-camera-assist to a horrific wheelchair accident (producers’ note – people wearing flip-flops should be subject to a maximum speed restriction akin to a brisk walk). While Georgia bounds, sprints and cowers with great panache and energy, it’s just a little too lacking in actual monsters. Our bad – it looked OK on paper, but blows on a TV.

The solution – a whole new opening sequence, only peripherally related to the rest of the film. Monsters, soldiers, plenty of guns, and a completely different but equally gorgeous young actress to act scared and scream a bit.

So, after gathering as many prop guns as we could legitimately find, recruiting a serving marine freshly back from Afghanistan, coercing people with a jeep and a model plane to join in the silliness, and then bringing in the services of a fabulously talented young Slovakian actress who initially read for the role of Harden, last weekend we took off to some private woodland just outside Winchester called Spinney Hollow for an impromptu day of running around in the forest.

Spinney Hollow featured early in the Zombie Resurrection story. After going to watch the Evil Dead there as part of the 2011 Winchester Film Festival, and then finding out that one of the actresses that came and did the original table-read with us back in April last year is good pals with the owners, Spinney Hollow was originally planned to be the location of our week in the woods. That is until a subsequent visit highlighted some disturbingly high levels of distant traffic noise, and the even more disturbing frequent yelps from baboons at Marwell Zoo. The baboons we could have readily integrated into our post-apocalyptic universe; the M3 sadly not.

But it turns out that it’s nigh-on perfect to double as a non-specific Eastern European terrorist camp.

And so we document the first zombie attack at the start of the outbreak; the formative experiences of an apocalyptic world into which we then drop our characters 15 months later. Just under three minutes of screen time that partly resembles a game of Call of Duty and partly resembles a significant grading ball-ache if we want to make it appear to be night time. And it looks great. A hint at the zombie backstory (which is expounded on later in the movie), a genuine jump, and a load of terrific screaming.

So, a massive thanks again to Captain-Jamie-the-marine and Kate-the-scream for a very entertaining day showing off their acting prowess, Baz-the-jeep for turning up with what I now know to refer to as the ‘green fleet’ and repeatedly driving up and down bumpy forest paths at enormous speeds, Chris-the-propeller for gathering our film’s opening five seconds from the front of his model plane, Heidi-the-make-up for turning the lovely Ms Korbelova into a piece of bloodied steak, Ian-the-throat for taking a number of quiet knives to the neck, Rob-the-camera for his rapid induction into boom operating, and Charlie-the-production-assistant for everything else that needed doing. And an especially enormous shout-out to Kate and Geoff from Spinney for turning over their forest hive to a bunch of children playing at being soldiers in the woods. Only with better toys.

And when you come to watch the DVD, the especially keenly-sighted amongst you may well recognise Jake and me taking a couple of well-targeted bullets to our respective heads outside the encampment. At eight metres I’m happy that our performances as non-specific Eastern European terrorists are beyond reproach, but I may have spent too long cultivating my baddie beard. Splattered.

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