Saturday, August 11, 2007

I, Zombie

"Well, I'll bet you I'm gonna be a big star
Might win an Oscar you can't never tell
The movies gonna make me a big star
'Cause I can play the part so well
" -- Act Naturally, The Beatles

1: Lewis and Clark:
Joey B. and I drove the wilds of southern New Jersey this morning, fast and furious, to make it to the designated meet up spot with the rest of the cast and crew of the- as-yet-unnamed-movie.

Trying his best to live up to the wild movie star image, Joey showed up at my door saying that he'd been out all night, and just got back. Happily, he is young, and a night of carousing did not dampen his spirits or energy level. That was a good thing, because I needed him to navigate while I drove.

We were so proud of our ourselves when we found the rendezvous spot in downtown Millville, NJ.

"We did it!" Joey said triumphantly.

"Yeah, just like Sacco and Vanzetti", I replied.

"No, you mean, Watson and Holmes", he said.

"No, not them, you know, those two explorer guys, what were there names", I fumbled.

"Ben and Jerry", Joey offered.

"Lewis and Clark!", I exclaimed, happy that at least one brain cell was functioning early this morning.

2: Donuts and Coffee:
A small but energetic crowd met us at the Super Wawa . Fueled by caffeine and sugar, everyone seemed in great spirits, including the director, our own, Mr.Evil Chicken I've known Mr. E.C. for a few years, and a greater guy you'll never meet. He brought Mrs. Evil Chicken with him, and his daughters (three little red-headed moppets, the middle one would also be playing a zombie this morning).

Like the great auteur's of film before him, Hitchcock, DeMille and Kubrick; Mr. E.C. gave us a rundown of his vision and of what to expect during the day's shoot. When he saw that his crew was bouncing off the walls with sugar induced energy he gave the word and we all got back into out cars and formed a caravan to the actual shooting location.

3: Psycho Beach Party:
We followed the lead car off the main road and soon found ourselves banging down a dirt path heading deep into the New Jersey Pine Barrens. I prayed that the shocks on the car would hold as this was indeed, "a bumpy ride".

After what seemed like twenty minutes, our sojourn ended and cars and vans parked in the dirt and we were then introduced to Mr. E.C.'s partner in crime (and film making), B, who told us to follow him to the location of the first bit of filming of the day...

... as we walked a sandy trail, and came over a small hill, I was shocked to see a gorgeous lake and beach, completely devoid of people. This was the hidden beauty of New Jersey, the kind of places that no one really knows about. It was so gorgeous, I just wanted to sit on the beach and just spend my day skipping rocks across the water. But that would have to wait for another time.

The cameraman shot us corpses from several vantage points, and then Mr. E.C. took still shots of all of us (so that he could, through movie magic, make it look like the beach was littered with dozens of bodies later on in post production).

When the director called, "Cut!" I was about to stand up but was told not to. Me, Merci, Joey B, and Mr. E.C.' s daughter, Little Red were in the next few scenes.

Still in the sand, the next shot was one when the "Wreck Master" (played by our own, Dr. Freud), comes across our dead bodies and searches them for money.

This was my first close up!

As the good doctor is looking for my money belt, he had to roll me over and look at me and then rip me off. We did the scene several times, and each time I had to remember how my arm fell to the ground when I was rolled over for continuity's sake. Luckily, I am a quick study, and after the fourth shot (two from the front angle, one from far away, and one from the left), the director called cut, and once more I sat up and once more was told to remain down, as I was also in the next scene. "I can't work under these conditions!" I exclaimed. "I'll be in my trailer!" -- laughter from the other corpses and then we shot the next scene.

Little Reds' corpse was to be dragged away by a couple of undertakers. I had to remain where I was during the whole thing. They shot it about three times until they got it right.

This time when the director yelled, cut, I finally was able to get up. Just then one of the other dead body players, Dee Dee, said, "Hey Pax, remember in our day, we shot everything on a closed set!"

"You're right, Dee Dee", I laughed, "DeMille would have never put us through this!"

"All I know, is that our names had better be ABOVE the title!",
she added.

4: Exploring:
Done at the beach, we moved on to the next location just a few feet away, and while another scene was being shot, Merci and I took a gander around us and set out exploring some of the woods.

We came across an abandoned train track and wondered out-loud to each other what railway ran through here. Then we found, what we figured was an old bridge and explored it, the both of us taking pictures.

Fearing that if we wandered far off, that we might end up all Blair Witch-lost, we made our way back and watched as Dr. Freud and several other cast members filmed another scene.

5: I, Zombie:
Mrs. Evil Chicken did our makeup. She told us that a good foundation for zombie skin is a heavy dose of moisturizing cream followed by a lot of corn starch.

Suddenly, Joey, Merci and I were powdering our mugs with corn starch while Little Reds was having the rest of her make up being applied by her mother. As the air filled with white powder, we joked about the galmour of movie making. Then I sat for Mrs. Evil Chicken who finished up my makeup with black and blue powders and some eye make up. I looked hideous -- moreso than normal!

Some still photos of all the zombies were shot including a "family portrait".

After stills, we had some green-screen shots to do. Pretty much each one of us had to do our undead shtick.

I went first; left arm outstretched, right leg dragging dead behind me. I channeled every reanimated corpse in every grade z horror film I'd ever seen. I think I did i decent job.

Joey went next. He was great, his head lolling side to side, moaning, body wracked in spasms. Then Merci (who claims she's never seen a zombie film) did a fabulous turn, her arms outreached, eyes fluttering half open- she looked like Vampira in Plan 9 from Outer Space.

Finally it was Little Reds turn, and damn this kid just stole the show. She lurched forward, convulsed, jerked her head to the side and then lurched forward again. A round of applause went up for the miniature flesh eater!

After the green screen we retreated back to the woods to shoot. This time, the four of us shambled out of the brush towards the Wreck Master, who we are after for stealing our loot.

After a couple of holdups, we zombies did an impromptu Thriller dance, but then it was back to business.

This time, we each had to stumble through the woods and come right up to the camera. We did that a couple of times and then we waited, again watching Little Reds shoot her scene. Damn, that kid looked downright scary out there in the woods!

Finally, our "money shot"; since we had drowned, the director figured that our bodies are filled with water, so he wants to get a shot of us, water shooting from our mouths. Figuring that it would look more like a "spit take", we opt instead to just open our mouths, and let the water just run from our mouths.

We were each given a bottle of water, filled our mouths, and one by one, emerged from the woods, in zombie-mode, opened our mouths and groaned while water ran down our chins.

Mrs. Evil Chicken, who was watching the filming said, "Oh god, that is the most disgusting thing I've ever seen."

And that is music to a zombie's ears.

6: Cut, End Scene:
We were done by 11:30, and spent the next few minutes taking off our makeup and changing out of ,our now, filthy clothing.

B told us that that the movie will be done by September (ours was just one of the vignettes in a film that explores legends of the New Jersey Pinelands), and will be released on DVD in October. And Mr. E.C. was full of thanks to everyone for just being there.

Back in our cars, Joey and I followed Merci and Dr. Freud through the dirty back road, back out to civilization.

Once we got our bearings and knew where we were going, Joey and I chatted about the entire experience, agreeing that no matter what happens with this movie, this had to be one of the most unique Saturday's either of us had in a very long time.

"This could be the start of something big", Joey said.

"Yeah, we could be the Affleck and Damon of zombie movies", I added.

"Nah, more like Ben and Jerry", he said.

"Or Lewis and Clark", I laughed.

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