Wednesday 25 August 2021


With the return of The Walking Dead this week, our resident US-based stellar scribe and comic book aficionado, Nick Smith, takes a well-earned break from reviewing all the things to talk about the inherent challenges of making a zombie horror B-movie during a pandemic.

It's not as easy as you might think.

Guest post by Nick Smith

It’s easy to watch a B-movie and ridicule the low budget, DIY production techniques. But making one is no laughing matter, as I was reminded when I agreed to produce a feature film about flesh-eating zombie bees called ZomBeez.

Executive Producer-Director-lead actress Elesia Marie had a good script that didn’t take itself too seriously, a strong cast and a determination to get her project picked up by the SyFy channel. There was only one drawback – we had no money.

While that salient fact has scuppered many movie projects, we soldiered stubbornly on, seeking funding and locations like a barn in the middle of nowhere (we found a farm specializing in ecotourism) and a school that wouldn’t mind being devastated by giant mutant anthophila (we secured an old school office building that was due to be torn down anyway).

Next, we jumped through a carnival’s worth of hoops dealing with the Screen Actors’ Guild (SAG), a union that has many rules to protect its actors from making movies. Er, I mean, to make sure they’re taken care of properly, with plenty of tea breaks, pensions and benefits, and fair billing in the credits.

SAG’s paperwork was tougher to take care of than any movie monster but we completed it while working on our next step – filming a proof of concept, in this case, a sequence from ZomBeez that we could use as a teaser trailer, showing the tone and basic concept of the film.

We got a permit to film in a woodland location where we could tell our mini-story about strange bees chasing a pair of hapless joggers. But before the running could happen, there was another unanticipated hurdle.

Our camera didn’t work.

Without a way to repair our Black Magic camera on site, we had to return it to the manufacturer and they couldn’t tell us how long it would be until we got it back. The only proof we would have for our Proof of Concept was proof that we were screwed.

We could have given up. We could have gone home and left the trees to the bees. Instead, a kind colleague lent us his gear and we were able to make our day.

We were almost ready to release our Proof of Concept to an impatient public with our rough footage, bloody makeup, and ‘bee’s eye view’ shots using a Ronin and a superimposed swarm. We needed one more ingredient – and that came from local rock band Nik Flagstar and his Dirty Mangy Dogs, best known for the theme tune to the show Nightmare Theatre. They created a super catchy original song for us and it added to the whole impression we wanted to make with the raw teaser sequence.

There was a lot more work to do. After we completed principal production of the movie this summer, Elesia got stuck into the editing process, rough-cutting a two-and-a-half-hour version of the film. We have to trim that down to 90 minutes, colour grade the footage, add digital effects and clean up the sound.

Only then will we have a finished product to show to distributors and channels like SyFy. We’re starting to talk to sales agents, the first of whom says he’s ‘a sucker for films like Zombeavers and Big Bad Bugs.’

There certainly seems to be an audience for this kind of B-movie.

I’ve focused on our challenges while making this movie but there have been many highlights too – the camaraderie of our cast and crew, the excitement of making a feature in our own neighbourhood instead of having to travel to a different state, the kindness of local businesses and organizations as we looked for locations. All this helps to motivate us as much – if not more – than any A-list movie buzz.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comments are moderated for spam. Stay on topic and do not embed links. Keep it family-friendly.

Thank you.