Tuesday, April 12, 2011


When I got the job of writing Cockneys Vs Zombies, one of my first questions was "can I be a zombie extra?" It's something I've wanted to do for ages. Last Thursday, I finally got my wish.

It was another terrifyingly early start, getting a 5.30am train, and again I couldn't sleep the night before. Jodie came along to be a zombie too, as did my brother, nephew, and a friend. There were quite a few of us, the green room had set up a production line to do the zombie makeup, and we got sorted in record time. Because I wasn't playing the same character as my "man who walks across the room" from the week before, I had to look totally different. I was wearing a different outfit, and they really went to town on my zombie makeup, which you can see at this link here. (Note: that's not on set, the lighting and angles will be totally different in the finished film, please don't judge it by the quality of my phone camera!)

After that came Zombie School, where the brilliant Tristan (hello Tristan!) quickly showed us the best way of moving and acting like a zombie. A quick stroll down the road, and we were on the location. An entire street had been closed off to traffic, with several crashed cars, dead bodies, severed limbs, chunks of flesh, and pools of blood - it looked like a proper zombie apocalypse had kicked off. And once again, I got slightly overwhelmed.

When I visited the set of Severance, I got all emotional and tearful, as it suddenly hit home that they were really making my script. I get it to a certain extent on everything I write, and this time was the same, if slightly more emotional. It's been 5 years since Severance was released, and although I've been incredibly busy in TV since then, a couple of bad movie experiences had made me gunshy about doing another movie. Thankfully, if you choose to work with cool, smart, lovely people, then things go a lot better. This entire experience has been fantastic, incredibly creative and fun. And it all came flooding back suddenly, as I was standing in the closed off street. I wrote a full-on zombie outbreak, and here it was, happening right in front of me. You never get over that thrill of having your work filmed, it's always exciting and surreal.

Weirdly, the placement of the building, cars and white van was pretty much how I pictured it. I didn't specify exactly where on the street they would be, but they were in exactly the right place. Once the smoke machine started, and the zombies started shambling, it looked even more amazing. We did several takes of various things happening (trying not to drop spoilers here), then different angles.

At that point, the stunt co-ordinator Abbi came over to find a zombie and a victim to do a small stunt by a wall. Nobody was volunteering, so I got sort of volunteered for it, somehow. Without going into too many details, we both had to disappear over a wall and land on a mat. This required knee and shin pads for me, so I could go for it. Abbi talked us through it, and within seconds, we were performing the stunt. Not a huge stunt, not life threatening or even that dangerous, but it felt cool anyway. We got pretty good at it, and were quite pleased with ourselves - until we bumped into Annabel, who did a *terrifyingly* dangerous stunt the week before, in one take. Now *that* was a stunt. I can't wait until you see it, it's absolutely mental.

More takes happened, various angles, then lunch and several angles of the following scene. Again, I can't really say what we did, but a final stunt came very close to where Jodie was, and looked pretty scary. Funnily enough, the stunt driver was Derek Lea, who played the Paramedic Sleeper in my Torchwood season 2 episode "Sleeper", so I finally got to meet him and say hello - although I might not have been so polite if he'd accidentally killed my wife. I'd have told him what I thought in *no* uncertain terms, at the very least. Thankfully the stunt went without a hitch, and we were finally done.

It was a loooooong, long day, as before, and I still can't get over the hard working cast and crew who do this every day. I had a fantastic time, and even if I'm barely visible on screen, I'll still know I'm in there somewhere. Everything I write is special to me, but this will have an extra resonance, thanks to being able to physically help out on set. It's good to be back in the movie game.