Wednesday 25 May 2011

A day in the life of a Zombie

How I got to be a zombie in OUTPOST: BLACK SUN
By Steven Uden

On the 24th of March I was contacted by a Facebook friend about a competition they had seen to be in OUTPOST: BLACK SUN as a Nazi Zombie. Knowing what a massive zombie fan I am they thought this would definitely be my kind of thing. (and they were not wrong!) So I went over to “Prepared To Be Scared” page and put up a picture of myself -suitably zombied up of course.

What then began is the biggest on-line campaign I've ever organized. I set up an events page and invited everyone of my 300+ friends to help me out, (of which I would say 80% are people I've met through various zombie related events or low budget zombie films I've worked on). I also contacted a few 'zombie news' websites asking if they could help me out. Basically contacted anyone I thought I could squeeze a comment out of!

I really had no expectations as to how many comments I'd end up with, so I was amazed that by the end of the first day I'd managed to reach 100 comments! Cut to several days later, after countless plugs by friends, sites and myself and I'd managed to reach a unbelievable 252 unique comments.

Shortly after the end of the competition I was contacted to say that I was the winner and over the next few days information was passed back and forth between me, my guest and our contacts over at Prepared to Be Scared and Icon (who are linked with films such as '30 Days Of Night', 'Let Me In' and 'Pandorum'.)

So that we would be there in time for an early start on Sunday, we got the train up to Glasgow from Nottingham the day before. This in itself was quite exciting for me because I'd never had an opportunity to visit Scotland before. The train journey went as well as could be expected and took just over 6hrs, so my time was divided between reading Fangoria, or chatting and playing Zombie Fluxx with my guest Dave.

We arrived at our hotel and shortly after met the lovely Sarah – our contact and chaperone of sorts from Icon who would be coming to set with us on the Sunday. She's also Icon's DVD Production Manager - so she gets to sort out all the cool extras that go on their DVDs, such as the 'making of' and commentaries. For the rest of the evening though, me and Dave decided not to waste an opportunity to check out the local night life, and went out for a few drinks.

The next morning we were up early and headed down for breakfast, where we met Icon’s other guests Paul and Maria, who were journalists from 'Nuts' magazine - Paul was also going to be a Nazi Zombie for the day.

After breakfast we got into our taxi and headed over to the set where we had some brief introductions before heading off to the room being used as the costume department.

The costumes were very authentic and you could see a lot of work had gone into aging them, and making them look as creepy and grimy as possible. Everything was hand-picked for us, working out what would look the best on each individual. There was certainly a lot of attention paid to detail.

After we'd got kitted out in several layers of Nazi military uniform, we headed off to a room where all the extras could wait before being called to the make-up trailer to get their zombie faces done. This again gave us time to catch up on reading, chat to the other extras, or watch the original OUTPOST, which had been set up on a portable DVD player. Seeing a bunch of Nazi zombies all crowded round this little screen watching, well... Nazi zombies, was a bit surreal.

This time also gave me an opportunity to speak with Kieran, one of the producers on OUTPOST: BLACK SUN, who had come to hang out with the extras for a bit. I could tell whilst speaking to him that he was incredibly enthusiastic about the project, sadly I can't say too much about our discussion as the film crew want to keep a tight lid on the project for now (which is the same reason why I can't post any pictures till the films released)!

Having already been interested in the horror make-up and SFX side of things, I was like a kid in a candy shop when it came time for me to go to the make-up trailer. This was like a dream come true for me, getting to hang out with the SFX crew on a full-budget feature film!

I'd taken my teeth along with me to the set on the off chance they could be used, and to see what the FX dept thought of them. If you've seen any of my zombie pictures in the last few years, you'll know what I mean when I say ‘my teeth’ - I had them custom made by a SFX team in Leeds called 2BaldiesFX a while back.

Because of the sheer number of extras on set that day, and because my fat head was too big to fit into the pre-made full-overhead zombie masks - some latex, some foam latex - the alternative suggestion was just applying a basic face paint. However the Lead Make-up artist, Chris - who I had the pleasure of talking with about his work for a while – thought he might be able to involve my teeth. He found a zombie face prosthetic which, fortunately, fit reasonably well on my own face, and managed to tear it in such a way that it looked like a massive chunk of flesh had been torn out of my cheek with my own prosthetic teeth exposed underneath. I wish I could post a picture because it was truly awesome job that Chris whipped up in in what felt like no time at all.

So as you can imagine this was also a pretty unique look among the other extras. Before we got on set we were talked to by Carter – the fight coordinator on OUTPOST: BLACK SUN – and walked through the scene and what we needed to do... again, sorry, I can't give too many details away here.

When it came time to film the scene we were all led into a giant warehouse that contained several different sets, but we could only see the plain wood backs and scaffolding. It's times like this when excitement hits you again and you have one of those “I'm actually going to be in a major film!” moments.

The set itself looked awesome, and I really can't wait to see what it looks like on film. For the majority of the time though we were left with about 20 other Nazi zombie extras in a corridor that looked like something out of ‘Alien 3’, just off the side of the main set. Each time they'd set up for a different shot, they'd have people from makeup come in to check the zombies – which in my case was great because the teeth would need to come out occasionally to stop my face from hurting, and would need to be re-bloodied.

The wait between shots sometimes felt like forever and under the costumes everyone was really warm, so we'd all end up sitting on the floor in this eerie corridor trying to cool off whilst we weren't needed. I think the irony is that we were told that it was really cold on set, and so we should consider wearing clothes under our costumes. At the same time we'd all be trying to be as quiet as possible, as filming was still going on outside.

Actually shooting our scenes though more than made up for it, and I was fortunate enough to end up in the second row of Nazi zombies (the first row were actors) so there’s a reasonable chance I might end up with some screen time too!

After a long day we wrapped at about 7pm and everyone walked back to the costume dept to hand in their uniforms and their masks back to the make-up crew and clean up any extra make-up. I was helped to get my zombie face unglued which took a bit longer to take off than everyone else's.

As I walked off set though I was stopped by Carter and given a blank round that had been fired from one of the guns on the set at some point during filming – a souvenir of my day on set which shall be a treasured item in my zombie collection! So many thanks to him for that, it was a nice finish to an excellent day.

I can't thank the people over at Icon and Prepared to be Scared enough for looking after us so well for the duration of our stay and for the opportunity to be in - what I am sure is going to be - an awesome zombie film!
The year is 1945, the closing stages of WW2, and a German scientist by the name of Klausener is working on a frightening new technology that has the power to create an immortal Nazi army. Flash forward to present day, and a NATO task force is hurriedly deployed to Eastern Europe, where a sinister enemy appears to be mercilessly killing everything in its path. But this is no ordinary foe. Only Helena, a gutsy investigator on the trail of the notorious war-criminal Klausener, accepts the reality of that they are facing a battalion of Nazi Storm-Troopers, a veritable zombie army on the march. With the help of Wallace, a man who's been chasing Nazi secrets for years, the two of them team up with a Special Forces Unit to venture deep behind enemy lines. Their mission to fight their way back to the source of this evil army and prevent the seemingly inevitable rise of the 4th Reich.
Find out more at the official website.

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