Saturday, April 17, 2010

The Magnificent Dead

A few years ago I took on my first serious film acting gig. It was an independent horror film by Shane Scott called "The Magnificent Dead". At the time I was living alone and working days with a short commute. I'd been very active in community theater productions since 1981, and I got the word about the film through contacts at the theater. I was cast as an extra in this zombie/vampire/western. No pay, of course. We shot for several weeks through the end of February and May. It was cold, windy, even rainy at times. Most of the film was shot at Luck, Texas, Willie Nelson's movie town out on his ranch. We put in a lot of hours, waiting, freezing, acting, and waiting some more. It was a learning experience. We put in several all-nighters. I found myself grabbing a half hour nap and going in to work in the morning, then dashing out again to the set after work. Since it was a vampire sort of thing, we shot mostly at night. 
Our green-room was in a barn. Snack food, a couple of space heaters, folding chairs. All conversation would stop while filming was going on out in the street. I felt lucky to find several old friends in the cast whom I had worked with in theater in past years. 
A couple of favorite memories:
A bitterly cold and windy night. Several actors taking turns huddling around a heater in the saloon between takes. Two or three of the most hideous and evil vampire "bad guys" gallantly giving up their places near the heater to women coming back inside from a take. 
Another cold night (among many). The scene being shot is of the evil vampires rampaging and violently gathering up the townspeople. One of the vampires taking time before the scene is shot to play with two children, entertain them, become friends with them, then when it's "action" he is carrying the same two kids screaming and kicking across the street. "Cut" is called, they come back and play some more before doing it again!
The only pay for the whole thing was a t-shirt, a cast party at the end, and hopefully, when it is finally released, a copy of the DVD. After waiting several years, we finally got to see the mostly finished product a couple of months ago. There is still some work to do on it, but I was very surprised at the huge improvement in quality between this film and Shane's first film. What I did get out of it was the chance to see up close how at least one director makes a movie. It gave me the itch to make one myself someday.
"The Magnificent Dead" watch for it! (Oh, and watch closely for my three or four seconds of it! I was lucky, I was one of the townspeople who survived!"

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