By co-director and co-creator of Zomblogalypse, Miles Watts.
Thirteen weeks ago, my fellow filmmakers and I sat down for a production meeting and noted that in twelve weeks’ time, we had planned to begin shooting our next movie. We had a script but no budget to speak of. Five years before that, we were all in Cannes, pitching the same movie to a sales agent and then, on the way home, being snapped up by a major film studio. This was all in 2013. So why are we only now making the film in 2018?
Time is a funny thing. “Pain is temporary, film is forever” is the saying, so in the end it doesn’t matter when you make your movie, as long as you eventually make it. With Zomblog, it was pure stubbornness that birthed it and, much like the zombies that populate the ‘Zomblogverse’, it was because we refused to lie down and die.
The film industry is a funny thing too. Getting studio backing and a sales agent is something every film craves and needs if it’s going to survive in the big wide world where thousands of movie thumbnails flit casually past your Netflix menu. But in a changing industry, getting representation is not the be-all and end-all - initially anyway - and oftentimes the involvement of ‘the industry’ is not the spark your movie needs: conversely, the whole filmmaking system can actually be the thing that initially dampens the spirits. We’re a found footage zombie horror comedy: after years of hearing, “zombies don’t sell,” “zombies are out/in again,” “horror is dead,” and “whatever you do, don’t do horror comedy,” we decided to ignore everyone with an opinion on the matter and just make the damn film we thought worth making.
Flash forward to 2 June 2018 and we’re on the set of our movie: a co-production by MilesTone Films, Grunt Productions and One&Other Creative that managed to find private funding from a number of angelic friends and supporters, not to mention the help of an entire community, from cafes to antique shops to agencies. Three years of rewrites with a Hollywood studio and script development help - from Coffee Films’ producer Steve Piper - did not yield a script any of us were completely happy with, so we went back to the source of what made us make Zomblog: it began a decade ago as a quick, cheap web series for me and my filmmaking mates Tony Hipwell and Hannah Bungard to do between the movies we were planning. Unlike feature films, a web series (when we began this journey, anyway) was a low budget way for filmmakers to create something and get it seen. Well, now that we’re making the movie version, some things have changed but the ethos stays the same: we’re getting this film made if it kills us.
So here we sit on the Zomblog set, filled with quirky antique props carefully selected by set designer Vicky Parry from Bar Farm Antiques, in an empty office building provided by Blank Canvas, whose job it is to find unused spaces for artists. Looking around the set, you can see the three areas created specifically for the three main characters of the film and embellished by the cast and our art department’s Natalie Roe: my cinematic alter ego Miles’ attempt to force some sense of dignity onto the apocalypse with a gramophone and a comfy armchair; Hannah’s frantic knitting projects from mug warmers to blankets keeping her sane; Tony’s army camp in the corner of the room containing his own private arsenal. We have arrived, we are blogging York’s own personal zombie apocalypse.
The film was co-written by myself, Hannah and Tony, and the three of us are also producing, directing and acting in the movie. Mostly because it’s our baby and no-one else can really do it. But we’ve had a marvellously talented crew helping us make it happen, and a few more camera toys than when we began: advances in technology have gifted us 4K resolution cameras to ensure our film is ‘future proof,’ drones for sweeping aerial shots and a cheap alternative to the cumbersome Steadicams of filmmaking yore. But it’s all still done in the original handheld Zomblog style, albeit a little less nausea-inducing to watch.
As I write this, we’ve just wrapped nine days of the first block of filming. We’ve already filmed several scenes with zombies (created by a team including DDFX Studio) a lot of character stuff, done scenes in York Library (which now serves as the Zomblog HQ) and started to bring the other human characters (actors Andy Dunn, Andrina Carroll, Anna Rogers, Lindsay Whitwell and Arron Dennis, to name but a few) onboard. With One&Other’s Luke Downing on Assistant Director and Assistant Camera duties, we are in good hands and the shoot is a creative, fun, slightly anarchic place where anything goes. As it should be.
This is my fifth feature film, and we feel like knackered old pros at this now. I’ve reached the stage where, despite the hard work and years of prep it takes to make a film, this one feels like playing Cops and Robbers for money. Like our last film Whoops!, this film has a five figure budget: just enough to get it made. After we wrap, following several weekends of zombie carnage throughout the summer, we’ll be sending the Zomblog Movie into the big wide world to go further than any previous film we’ve made. Then we can get some closure and move on to even bigger projects. For now, let’s make the damn thing. Zomblog is go!
You can watch the entire web series HERE and sign up to be a zombie for future shoot dates on the Facebook page, where you can also get news and pictures every day from the set. First on-set video reports are coming soon…Zomblogalypse website