This is a story I have been holding for five months. It’s not that I didn’t want to talk about it. It’s because I signed a non disclosure agreement that said I couldn’t discuss anything I saw until…….NOW!!!!!! Ya ready?!??! I was on set with The Walking Dead!!!!!! That’s right!!!! I was a part of Season Eight, episode three and four. Let me hit you with the back story.
Back in April I received a random phone call from a guy who identified himself and said, “I am with The Walking Dead. We are looking for a location to film on and we like your place.” Of course I thought I was being punked but agreed to let him in. The guy had credentials and I googled him. OH SNAP!!!!! He is who he says he is. He tells me how the team is looking for a local set to film scenes of The Walking Dead and this location is perfect. He asks a bunch of questions to determine property rights, land use etc. and then tells me he wants to bring the Director and team out to see if they like the lot. A couple of days later I am standing face to face with some of the biggest people responsible for The Walking Dead. They tell us what they want to do, how long it will take and after the legal stuff is worked out they decide to film starting in June. This cannot be happening!!!!!
If you don’t know, I am a die hard (pun intended) Walking Dead fan. I have never missed an episode and I have even gone on Netflix and re watched the first six seasons before starting season seven just to make sure I didn’t miss anything. I know, crazy, so to have an opportunity to be a part of the show is quite honestly….an honor.
During the filming I was given a tour and let me tell you, there is a lot of prep work that goes into the show plus you would be surprised at how many people are involved. To me the most intriguing people weren’t just the actors or the directors. It was the set designers, the location scouts, the make up artists, the armory people, camera people, even the hostess. Yes there is a hostess, at least that’s what I called her. She really is a publicist that shows you the inner structure of the show but her job is so cool that she appears more hostessy (is that a word) than publicist.
I am sitting there watching them set up shots, build munitions walls, place blood strategically around the building, and rehearse scenes over and over. It is amazing. Then Carol walks in and suddenly this gets surreal. I stutter a little as I ask the publicist, “That’s Carol. Can I get an autograph?” The answer is no and she explains that she is in character and is not to be disturbed. That makes sense. Do you want to be interrupted at your desk while you are working? I ask who else will be there and she tells me Ezekiel may come in but his scene work will be more outside than inside. Dang it, I am on the inside location set. I won’t get to see all of the players.
Carol sits down and rehearses her lines and after a few minutes she gets up and heads to a spot where she is prepped for the scene. Action!!!! There are screams, a man says "We need some help here", another guy says what the hell followed by gunshots and then CUT. It’s over just like that. I am watching on the monitors and they are saying something like good cut or whatever…man I don’t know…all I know is I am watching the filming of The Walking Dead!!!!!!
The crew reassembles near the recording equipment then heads out a door for a break. The Publicist asks if I want something to eat. Oh heck yeah. I heard about movie set food being catered by top notch chefs. I want some filet mignon, taters and whatever movie stars eat for dessert EXCEPT there is nothing like that to eat. Instead there are healthy snacks, protein type foods, fruits, veggies and water. WATER??? What the walking dead is going on here? Where’s the real food? Turns out they have stuff to keep people hydrated and energized, no heavy meals and carbonated beverages which slows you down. Dang.
While on break I see opportunities to talk to people for my story but after getting over being star struck I focused more on the behind the scenes people. For example I met a guy who worked for the Ford Plant in Hapeville. When it shut down he decided to become an electrician. That led him to getting a power generator truck to do jobs around Atlanta WHICH eventually landed him the gig as the main guy responsible for all the power supplies and hooks ups needed on sets. Imagine that, a man who was a line worker at Ford, was laid off due to the plant closing. He reinvented himself and now his hard work has him with the most popular show on television. What did he attribute that success to? His words, “God”
I continued my conversation with the Publicist and she told me that there are days that they will work 14-16 hour days just to get one shot perfect, that they work in 100 plus degree heat, rain and the dead of night (get it? LOL) just to make sure the show has as much realism as possible. She pointed out the photographer and told me what she does. Do you know how they maintain continuity from one shooting day to the next? The photographer takes pictures of each character after they have been clothed and made up. They photograph every nuance of the character to ensure that everything is replicated the next day down to how a specific sweat stain looks on a pant leg. WOW.
After break they start setting up another scene to be shot. Pay attention to when gunfire rains down on Ezekiel and the team into the chemical bone yard in episode three. See that open grate where the muzzle flash is coming from? That grate is not actually open. It is sealed shut but the effects department digitally opened it and added muzzle flash. The actual gunfire came from an entirely different building that was in a different location. The effects team built a replica of the grate in the other building and put a green screen in front of it. They lit it up with so much light I felt like I was standing next to the sun. In episode four you will see the saviors breaking down the machine gun that will fire down on Ezekiel and Carol. When they shoot at Ezekiel the effects team digitally imprints it to match the actor’s movements on the open field. Two different scenes, two different shots meshed into one. That is awesome work.
You’re probably asking, “Why don’t I see you as an extra?” I tried to get put in the show. I tried to get my brother and my daughter put in the show BUT there is a process and it’s not simply getting made up to look like a fighter or a zombie. The Walking Dead has a casting crew and a “Zombie School”. Yup, zombie school. These are real actors with real skills and I have never acted a day in my life but who knows maybe they will let me play a part one day.