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Sound Advice About The Living Dead

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I’ve been editing a lot lately, and working at the Avid is something I’m very comfortable doing.  However, I must admit, long stretches of editing will burn me out.  When I start to hit a wall, shifting gears temporarily – for another gig, a burst of writing, or even meetings about future feature film projects – does me a lot of good.  Over the past couple of weeks, a welcomed break from my post-production workload came courtesy of filmmaker Chris Grega.

Director of Rhineland (2007) and last year’s Game Of The Year, Chris Grega is back behind the camera for a post-apocalyptic tale of life among the living dead called Sound Of Nothing.

Sound Of Nothing is in the final stages of post-production.  Over the past two weeks, Grega and his team jumped back into production mode to shoot a few days of post-production pickups; insert shots, reshoots, and a couple of new sequences to better stitch together the narrative.  It was only four days of shooting, but the cast and crew worked hard and functioned efficiently, so a ton was accomplished.  I joined the crew these additional days as a grip/electrician – not my usual position on a film set, but I took the job on to support Grega.  I’ve known him for years, and I’ve had many positive experiences working on many a film production with him.

Sounds of NothingThe first day of shooting was a low-key event with lead actor Robert Strasser (who appeared in Rhineland) and a skeleton crew.  We shot under the Chain Of Rocks Bridge in St. Louis – the same bridge used to shoot the ending of Escape From New York (1981).  After a company move to a second location, we shot into the night, expanding one of Sound Of Nothing’s action / chase scenes.

The second day amounted to sweeping crane shots of an abandoned building in St. Louis – shots that will be used to establish one of the main locations in the film.  On day three, we were in a farmhouse grabbing insert shots and some new dialog with the lead actors.  By the end of day three, I was pretty happy.  I was enjoying the work, I was appreciating the break from editing, and collaborating with Grega and his team was, again, shaping up to be a very positive experience.

There was only one problem:  I had not seen a single zombie.

Thankfully, that changed on day four.  On a cold and drizzly morning we began shooting in a mostly abandoned, very dilapidated industrial area of St. Louis.  The buildings were boarded up and crumbling.  The businesses had withered long ago and were blocked off by bent and rusty gates.  Broken glass and other debris littered the alleyways and sidewalks.  It was a perfect zombie apocalypse setting.  We shot a whole new sequence for the movie – a zombie attack scene.  Finally!  

Lead actor Strasser was back to battle the undead.  Making the day more enjoyable for me was the fact that the featured zombies were familiar faces – uh, at least until makeup effects artist Rachel Rieckenberg got hold of them.

Sounds of NothingFirst to hit the makeup chair and be transformed into an undead ghoul was Gus Stevenson, with whom I collaborated on my most recent film, Ratline (2011).  Gus created the music score for Ratline, and he played a small part in that movie.  He made a great zombie, lurching, snarling, and lunging at Strasser, attempting to turn him into dinner.

The other zombie cameo was provided by Eli DeGeer, who played a lead part in a feature-length drama / horror / experimental film I directed, China White Serpentine (2003).  We’ve worked together on numerous other projects, but if memory serves, she was never a reanimated corpse.  She played the star zombie on this final day of Sound Of Nothing pickups, and despite the fact that half of her face had been ripped off, she did an outstanding job.

To hear loud and clear updates about Sound Of Nothing, “like” 88mm Productions on ye ol’ Facebook.

Thanks for reading.

- Eric Stanze

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