A few years back, I was an extra in an independent zombie movie called Deadlands 2: Trapped. No pay, but I did get free spaghetti made by the director’s mom. (Seriously). And an entry in IMDB.
But let’s start closer to the beginning.
“I’m just not going to be happy until there really is a Zombie Apocalypse.”
– Rick Higgins
I really don’t remember how I discovered this thing, but somehow the knowing that an independent film maker was going to shoot a zombie flick just an hour away from home became mine. Gary Ugarek had already directed and released the initial “Deadlands” thriller, and was going to film the sequel in Fredericksburg Virginia. And he needed extras. And I was his huckleberry.
We were scheduled to film two nights, starting at 9pm each night and running until 6am the next morning. We were setup in one of those local “small business slash semi-industrial” complexes that look like storage units with real doors. I’m guessing that maybe 20 of us showed up, some already in makeup, most of us not. We were all supposed to bring our own “costumes”, so I decided to un-retire an old 1980’s three piece suit and go as the un-businessman-dead.
Makeup was a semi ordeal, as we didn’t have a make up person. At first. A gal trickled in late, and another later. Neither was a real make up artist. They just happened to own makeup. So what they created was not exactly Oscars-worthy. But, I was only the talent, not the director, so what did I know.
My biggest takeaway was the (lack of) speed that filming takes. A couple of hours went by, with a car being positioned just so. Effects just right. And then a dozen takes (with 10 minutes between each). The zombie scenes didn’t happen until well after 3am. So lots of sitting and waiting and eating spaghetti in the meantime.
My other takeaway was that with a budget that didn’t even allow for catering from Subway, you get the actors who will work for free. Which means they are as much actors as the makeup people were makeup people. The two lead males thought that if they emphasized and altered the word “Fuck” in enough ways, Hollywood would come a-calling. Seriously. They had a semi-script, but felt that screaming “Fuck … some other lines … FUCKFUCK … maybe something briefly other than the eff word … FUCKKKKKK!” was going to get them fame, riches, and a date with Jennifer Aniston. Bottom line was they were not good actors. But again, I was just an extra, what did I know.
After the film was edited, I pored over each frame. (Which was easier with the sound off to avoid the fucks). Where was I? Anywhere? Bueller? Nope, I had made it exactly as far as the cutting room floor. But … I did get my entry in IMDB as promised!
It’s funny, because when that first became a reality, I spent the requisite dozens of dollars to allow me to post a photo and create a bio. Like I was soon going to add to my list of “Known For” entries. But when paying the renewal fees became less fulfilling than having the “Upgraded Profile”, I let it lapse. But still, that entry with my name exists to this day. 🙂
It was a fun experience, albeit one that was more boring than not. And I’m sure it was both exactly like, and completely different than, a “real” movie set. Would I do it again? Perhaps, but probably not. And certainly not for a spaghetti dinner out of a Prego bottle.
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And while you’re at it, perhaps head over to Amazon and pick up my new novel: Letters To A Dead Uncle. On the shelves and in the Kindle Store. It’s a travel novel, of sorts. Just me writing to my dearly departed Uncle Jimmy about my latest exploits. More details on the home page!