Zombies, Star Trek, and Silver MacGuffins

 

It started with a zombie movie.

Since I was a kid, I wanted to be involved with making films, but I never thought it was possible to shoot a movie in our little town.

All that changed in the summer of 2014, when an aspiring young local filmmaker named John M. Ware made a movie in Jasper. It was called Thr33 Days Dead (that’s how it’s spelled), and the making of it was the subject of a Syfy TV reality series called Town of the Living Dead. Through sheer luck, I was put in contact with the right people. Some friends and I played parts in this film, a feat that still amazes me to this day.

My first day on set was a Thursday morning. I reported to the makeup tent, set up on the town square, to be made up as a zombie. Under an ashen sky pregnant with the promise of rain, the Syfy film crew was shooting footage for the TOLD TV series, their shoulder cameras wrapped in clear plastic.

As soon as my makeup was done, the sky did open and lo, the bottom did fall out. Noah could have made a bundle selling rides on the ark that day. A group of us local thespians waited out the flood by huddling under an overhang across the street at Los Reyes Grill. An hour later, we looked like escapees from the Addams Family cemetery. The Syfy folks took us to lunch at Black Rock Bistro around 2 p.m., and our appearance attracted some attention from the customers. The looks on their faces as a dozen rain-drenched zombies paraded in and sat down were priceless.

I came back to play a zombie several times, and even got to “die” onscreen by way of a shotgun blast. I also had a small speaking role as a shocked TV news anchor.

One of my favorite memories from that time is meeting actor Robert Englund, the original Freddy Krueger in the Nightmare on Elm Street movies, who was filming a surprise guest appearance on the TOLD TV series. We had a nice chat about his role as “Willie” on the 1980s mini-series V. He was very energetic and happily posed for a photo with me.

In August 2014, we filmed scenes at Walker County Lake that featured dozens of zombies. I remember feeling a bit down because that was my last day on set. I thought I’d never get to do any acting after that. I was wrong.

A few months later, I did two episodes of Project: Afterlife, a TV series about real people who have apparently died and been revived. In one, I played a doctor who pronounces a man dead, but later revives him.

Not long after that, I became involved with Potemkin Pictures, a group in Pelham that produces Star Trek fan films. I’ve played several characters, including two Klingons and a Vulcan, written one script, contributed as story editor on another, and served as both director and second camera operator on one. You can view all of them free on YouTube.

About two years ago, I had an idea for a short film I wanted to make, so I sat down and wrote a script. The story focused on a married couple, David and Catherine Abrams, who had lost their young son four years prior. David, a professor of quantum physics, had become an alcoholic. I decided to play David myself, as well as direct. The film, Son of David, is also available on YouTube. I’ve written more about it in a previous blog: http://78mag.com/2018/05/making-son-of-david/

 

Being immersed for months in the dramatic subject matter of that film was draining, and I was ready for something more lighthearted. I’ve always liked the Hardy Boys books, so I began writing another script about two teenage boys who find a silver briefcase in a park. I wanted it to incorporate more humor, but my first draft was a bit over the top. I revised it, removing the silly, Monty Python-esque tone in favor of making the humor more realistic. I called it The Silver MacGuffin for a reason.The briefcase is silver, and “MacGuffin” is a term coined by Alfred Hitchcock that refers to a plot device in the story. (Example: in the movie Mission Impossible 3, the MacGuffin is the rabbit’s foot.) We shot most of The Silver MacGuffin in Oakman in November 2017. It is still being edited, and I hope to release it on YouTube before this year is over.

About two years ago, I was writing an article on a local paranormal investigator. We did his interview in Old Dora, an abandoned part of the town. Dotted with decrepit, crumbling buildings, the landscape reminded me of a Twilight Zone episode. Inspired, I wrote a script called Relics, which takes place years after a nuclear war. The main character, Saul, finds old objects and sells them for money. I’ve already cast the roles and am working on a filming date.

To be fair, most of the credit goes to John Ware and Thr33 Days Dead. I didn’t realize that dreams can come true until I was staggering through the streets of Jasper with a horde of flesh-hungry zombies, covered in makeup, sweat, and movie blood.

I’m ready for my close-up, Mr. Spielberg. 78

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