Part Two! Quint visits the set of The Walking Dead! Darabont chat! Fast vs slow zombies? Plus much more!
Published at: June 24, 2010, 8:14 a.m. CST by quint
Ahoy, squirts! Quint here. With part two of my Walking Dead set visit report.
Read Part One here!
Now where did we leave off again? Oh, yeah…:
Lunch was called and I found myself sitting across from Mr. Darabont as we chowed down.
Talk wandered a bit, but I did ask some series questions… For instance, at what point will the series reach the prison? I expected maybe end of the first 6-episode season, but Darabont said the current plan is to reach the prison somewhere at the end of the second season. He really wants the first two seasons to be an on-the-road story.
He went on to say that he will be heavily involved in the series, but that right now the pilot is the only episode of Season One he’s directing. He did call overseeing the post on the show “a full time job” in and of itself. Don’t know who else is coming in to direct, but I know the person directing the second episode hails from Canada.
He also mentioned there will be a huge Walking Dead presence at Comic-Con this year. I suggested they do a zombie flash mob and I only got a sly smile in return, so we’ll see.
Then the age old (maybe more like decade old) zombie question. Fast or slow?
I was first asked my opinion. I said that I’ve always been a slow zombie guy, but I like those that have attacked this question scientifically. Meaning a fresh corpse would be faster before rigor set in, before the muscles atrophy and grow slower as they rot.
Frank compared his zombies to lions. After they eat they’re a little dopey, you can walk by them… but if they’re hungry you’re prey and they’re very dangerous.
Darabont said he’s put a lot of thought into it and decided to fall back to George A. Romero’s original NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD. He called it the “Book of Genesis” of his zombies here. People forget the first zombie we see in NOTLD is moving fairly quickly. He’s not running, but he shuffles after Barbara at a decent speed. That, Darabont feels, gives him a little liberty at having his zombies do a little more than a mummy-walk.
That said, you’re not going to see 28 Days Later stuff here. Look at the cemetery zombie from NOTLD, that’s the top speed.
Back on set the clouds had parted and the sun shone bright. Unfortunately that meant silks had to be erected to filter out the light so the new footage would match the rainy/cloudy previous footage.
Darabont volunteered that things like matching were a big test for directors. The instinct is to just move on. It’s frustrating to sit and wait when he has to make his day. On top of that, you can cite some of the best movies of all time as having horrible matching. Darabont mentioned both Jaws and Saving Private Ryan. In Jaws they were shooting on the ocean and didn’t have the luxury of waiting to match the sky… their production was much more dictated by when the shark was working. So if you watch that movie, you’ll see the skies go cloudy to bright and back again in one scene.
With Saving Private Ryan, Darabont pointed to the rescue coming in at the end after Hanks shoots the tank… how they are coming in during a pouring rain and arrived completely dry in the sunshine.
As the silks were being raised I noticed a new zombie: a woman whose left arm was missing below the elbow. They were able to hire an amputee to play one of the undead. Nicotero and his team had dangled tendons and gore down her arm so she looked the spitting image of one of Charlie Adlard’s zombies.
Sarah Wayne Callies, who is playing Rick’s wife Lori, came to set with her very cute and very large dog to watch the first zombie day. She hadn’t shot yet and seemed very squeamish about the zombies, a problem she admitted she needed to get over.
Although she did get a very cool picture, courtesy of Nicotero’s camera-work, of all the hero zombie extras petting her dog.
We chatted a bit about the character of Lori, a character I view as the most challenging in the ensemble. Lori’s constantly reacting in the books and could be seen as… well, a bit of a nag. She’s always telling Rick not to do something… and there are revelations that paint her in a fairly unflattering light. Yet, she’s gotta be able to anchor Rick.
Callies agreed and mentioned her and Darabont having long talks about Lori and her concerns of giving Lori enough real and caring moments so we can buy her and Rick as a genuine couple.
She also showed me a heart-shaped locket she has been wearing since getting the part. In it is a picture of young Chandler Riggs (GET LOW) who will be playing Carl, Rick and Lori’s child. I then brought up my theory that Carl is going to play a HUGE part of the book as it goes on. He’s already playing a larger role as he comes of age in the zombie apocalypse, but I think it’s going to go one step further in the near future. She didn’t comment on that, but said Riggs is going to be great in the role.
The next shot up was a low angle behind Rick as he walks up to the station and sees the No Gas sign banging in the wind. The low angle turns into a close up as Rick walks in and turns towards camera.
After the first take Frank called out perfect and he wanted to check the gate (meaning the camera crew checks the film gate to make sure it is clear of debris… you know when you see little hairs wavering at the edge of the frame when watching a movie? That means there was a dirty gate when shooting. Checking the gate is a last step before moving on to the next shot).
Cinematographer David Tattersall broke from the set and started making his way to the video village tent. Darabont noticed and called out “Oh, no! It’s Tattersall! He’s coming! Hide me!”
Smiling, Tattersall approached and conferred with Darabont. Apparently he wanted to make sure the sign flapping in the wind was dramatic enough. The idea is that the banging of the sign is going to drive the scene, giving it a very creepy vibe. Darabont agreed and they got a couple more takes as crew members aimed a fan at the sign so it swung and flapped dramatically enough.
On the last take Darabont called out “It’s just like the inside of my head!” and they moved on.
Now enter the little girl, fully zombied out. Outside of seeing her legs shuffle past the camera this was her first real shot.
They waited until after lunch to get all of her fully dressed shots because the contacts were full-eye and difficult for a little girl to put up with. Nicotero and his team needed about 40 minutes to prep her.
I’m not exactly sure how Darabont is going to present this scene. I saw him get enough coverage to play it in a few different ways. Either he can clue the audience in before Rick (that’s the way I vote) or he can keep her face hidden until she turns around and faces him.
This first shot was on little Addy with Rick rounding the car behind her, out of focus. She stops and does a dead-eyed stare right at camera as Rick cautiously approaches behind her. It’s a very close shot, so you see a lot of the detail of KNB’s work with the cheek rip and the contacts.
Her eyes rotate to the right, her head following them as she slowly… oh, so slowly… turns to face Rick. She takes her first step and Rick doesn’t move. When she gets close enough Rick pulls his revolver and aims at her head. CUT!
Denise Huth turns around at video village and announces to those in her immediate surroundings that “We’re all going to burn in hell.”
There was something electric about this shot. Sarah Wayne Callies had her hand over her mouth, eyes wide. She said this is almost too much for her and I thought “Oh boy, are you in for it! This is just the start.”
Don't know about you guys, but I love the tortured look to these zombies. There's something incredibly moving and terrifying about them appearing as tortured souls.
Thanks to AMC for the trip and the access, thanks to Darabont for putting up with bugging him on yet another set and thanks to you guys for following along.
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