Enjoy comedy? How about zombies? How about zombidies? Sure, there’s Shaun of the Dead. As enjoyable as it was, it lacked, in my opinion, a crucial element of the zombie comedy – recognizable zombie characters. Enter For Zombies, a YouTube channel, web site and Twitter feed created by zombies for zombies including how-to videos and advice for both humans and zombies alike.
The concept was hatched last July on a warm sunny day while both barbequing and home brewing beer on my patio. A few friends and neighbors were over including Sanj, a fellow b-movie aficionado and zombie enthusiast. We also both share an interest in grilling and home brewing. Maybe it was the heat, maybe it was the beer, but conversation turned to zombies. Perhaps it was encouraged by the garden zombie prominently displayed in my yard. We thought we could combine our shared interest in brewing, grilling and zombies and For Zombies was born risen.
We had no idea where we were going to take it, but we knew we were going to start with separate how-to videos featuring our two favorite patio sports. Sanj has more experience with grilling and I’ve been actively home brewing for the last seven years with ever more pleasing results. We invited friends and neighbors to participate a month later following that fateful conversation.
It’s one thing to come up with an idea. It’s quite another to make it happen. There were logistics to consider: what to grill, how to film, how to edit, where to publish, etc. Some answers were simple. I already own a Canon 5D Mk II, from a long-abiding interest in photography, which is fully capable of shooting in full HD. It comes with a built-in microphone. That may be fine for shooting web-cam style videos where you’re physically close to the camera, but it’s insufficient for outdoor work. We opted for the RØDE VideoMic. While spending about $150 on a microphone isn’t cheap, it is less expensive than other comparable options and did a fine job.
We also knew we wanted to shoot in black and white in homage to George Romero’s landmark master peice, Night of the Living Dead. As a bit of trivia, his decision was driven by the lack of budget for color rather than a conscious stylistic decision. Nonetheless, it worked and allowed for more implied gore without fear of censorship. In our case, it helped hide the fact that we barely knew what we were doing.
Other decisions were not as straight forward. We started with using Windows Movie Maker and quickly found that it was good enough for home movies, but fell short of what we wanted to accomplish. We moved on to PowerDirector, from Cyberlink, for the first two cuts. It supports basic video editing with multiple audio tracks for both music and speech (I use this term loosely). Of course, zombies can’t articulate more than a groan. We had to use captions. While PowerDirector supported our initial efforts, we quickly outgrew it – more on that in a future article.
Early on, we knew we didn’t want to use any copyrighted material. One of Sanj’s friends, Shmoolie, kindly put together our title music, Zombie Bossa Nova and has continued to contribute custom music to fit our various projects.
With some advice from Pete Clines, who I had interviewed about his book, Ex-Heroes, we put together our first attempt at special effects using panty hose, corn syrup, chocolate sauce and personal lubricant. It may sounds like an illicit night in Tijuana, but it makes for fairly convincing intestines we later used when eviscerating our perennial victim, hapless Bob. You may notice that in both of our debut videos the same human comes to help the zombies and is rewarded with disembowelment for his efforts. We had planned ahead for it without anticipating the long-term impact. This would become a running gag in later productions. South Park has its Kenny. We have our Bob.
I had already planned on brewing a pumpkin ale for an upcoming Halloween party in October. It’s one I had done annually for the last five years and a good option one to do for “Brewing for Zombies.” I could concentrate more on filming rather than getting the brew just right. Sanj, on the other hand, had a more difficult task. We considered grilling brains. What else would zombies grill? Organ meats came to mind. Sanj was able to procure a beef heart from a local butcher on special order. It was cheaper than we expected. Apparently, there isn’t much call for offal. Who knew?
On the day of filming, the weather was perfect and everyone who said they would be there arrived on time. It went as smoothly as could be expected for a first effort. Looking back, four months later, we can both see our rough edges. We’ve clearly progressed and will share what we learned about filming, video editing and other topics in upcoming articles. Thanks for reading and stay tuned!