The Day I Became A Zombie

It was cold, there was snow on the ground and I was covered in blood. Not my usual Sunday morning antics… but not far off. As I stood there losing the feeling in my toes I tried to recall the events that had led me to a field in Frensham, in the Surrey Hills.

I've looked worse...

If you cast your mind (and mouse click) back to September of last year (2010) you may remember that I wrote a blog about wanting to become a zombie in a film, well with almost three months to the day of publishing that blog it happened.

It all came about because our old family friend Liam Kealy had read my blog and then seen an article on the South Today programme about a film crew needing extras as zombies in a scene they were about to shoot for a film called The Zombie Diaries 2: World of The Dead.

Commenting on my blog, Liam left the email address for the film and so I contacted them, firing off the email late on a Friday night and forgetting all about it.

I received a reply early the next evening, and in the email they asked if I would be available for filming the next day at 10am – a little over 12 hours away! I honestly thought that the filming would have been the next year, or at least had some more warning! I debated what to do, thinking it may be a little late to get off of work, and I also had no car as I had just sold mine.

The zombies gathering

So, I did what I do in most situations like this and rang my boss, Andy. Within five minutes I had the next day off and his Chrysler parked outside. Result.

The next morning I woke up early, packed a bag with some spare clothes and opened my front door… to what was possibly the coldest day in living history. Well, at 7am on a Sunday morning it certainly felt like it.

The Chrysler’s heated seats were flicked into full effect and I was at the Fishbourne ferry terminal in under ten minutes thanks to the quiet time of morning. I had a quick doze in the car on the way over; the heated seat warming me a treat… until I got to the other side and the car wouldn’t start as I’d run the battery down.

Five minutes later and – thanks to the helpful staff and a jump start – I was onto the mainland roads and heading an hour and a bit up the A3 to Surrey. I leave my car at Liam’s and he runs me half an hour down the road to my destination.

A field of the dead...

The rendezvous point was the Best Western Hotel at Frensham Pond. In Frensham. Next to a big pond. A big frozen pond. Complete with ‘DANGER!’ sign… by which a man was taking photographs of his child stood on the ice next to it. Twat.

In the hotel and I’m already starting to pass people with made-up faces, a handful in heavy prosthetic make-up complete with laceration marks and lots of blood.

I am ushered upstairs into the ‘Green Room’ which isn’t green at all, but it is where everyone is getting their make-up applied. I sit patiently and score big when selected by the hot make-up artist… but do you know how hard it is to chat up a beautiful girl when she’s putting make-up on/around your mouth?

Once we are all made-up we stand outside where around thirty zombies are puffing away on cigarettes. Many of us are in ripped and/or ruined clothes, and I’m thankful that I look like a zombie-bum, complete with beanie hat and body warmer. I might be dead, but I’m not cold… unlike the mere slip of a girl stood next to me who is wearing a thin top and leggings and shivering slightly. I am about to offer her one of my three tops when she mentions that’s she’s training to become a police woman so instead I let her freeze.

Final touches of make-up

Half an hour later and we’re walking in staggered mobs to the field where shooting will commence. I am in the second group and arrive to find the first gang already in position. Our ‘team’ is herded up a slope and we’re told to spread out and when the main cast run past us we have to start our shambling walk towards them.

Sounds easy enough. And it was. What was difficult was standing around for hours on end between takes as the cold and snow started to creep into shoes and socks. I struck up a conversation with the guy next to me and soon we were all chatting merrily.

The talk soon turns to food, as everyone is starving. Have you any idea how hard it is to eat a Mars Bar hidden up your sleeve while surrounded by dozens of people who are all hungry? Plus these people also look hungry enough to eat flesh…

The scene involves four military personnel running through the field and past our three batches of zombies; each group turning toward the sound of gun fire and advancing on them. As they rush past we follow them, which takes us through a patch of bracken, causing two people to fall on their faces, and one young lad was so determined not to ruin the scene he stayed in ‘character’ all the way down, even writhing around in the dirt and snow as one of the undead!

The fake blood was AWFUL to get out of my beard!

His effort is commendable, but once he hits the floor all that could be heard in our group is smothered laughter. Luckily I stuff a last bit of chocolate in my gob to keep me quiet and soon we are back in positions for another take.

“I wish we were getting paid for this,” I speak my thoughts a little louder than I intended.

A guy ten foot in front of me turns round and says; “We are. The release form you signed at the beginning states that we all get paid a pound… and that pound is kept for tea and biscuits.”

“What the…?” I protest loudly. “I never got tea and biscuits!”

And a lonely voice echoed through the glade, from a man that still remains nameless and faceless to me even now.

“Don’t worry mate,” he cried, “I had them for you!”

Which caused almost as much snickering as the zombie-fall-guy did.

Is that Peter Sutcliffe carrying the bucket...?

The filming continues and we do around four or five takes in total. For some reason I thought we might have had to do 30 or 40 attempts, but I guess I’ve been studying the films of Stanley Kubrick for too many years.

Eventually everything is ‘a wrap’, and the man-made mist has thinned out enough for us to stop, (Note: the man-made mist involved a bucket, leaves and sticks, a flame, and was carried out by a man who looked like the Yorkshire Ripper. See photo) but not until all 250(ish) of us have stood in a field and had several photos of our ‘tribe’ taken. I’m hoping one of these might end up on the website or dvd, as I’m not overly certain my 1 second of fame was caught on camera. (Note: You can see me in the final film!! But only just in the top right hand corner as the troops are hunkered down in a hole.)

Still, I have plenty of photos and I can now tick off the ‘be a zombie extra’ of my list of Thing To Do Before I Die. I’m proud of having done it, and it gave me an insight into an industry I’ve studied and watched for almost all my life.

And how many people can point to a film among their DVD collection and say…

“I was in that.”

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