Chapter 1: Optimism
What the hell was I thinking! A survival horror road-movie set in French speaking West Africa by British filmmakers, with an American lead played by a Vegan Canadian.
Yes, it sounds a little problematic on paper I’ll admit, but it wouldn’t be that bad would it?
Surely, with a bit of luck on our side we’d have ourselves an adventure to tell our kids about, if we ever had kids that is, and a unique film to boot.
Chapter 2: Warning Signs
So we had to ‘do our deal’ on the film stock and processing.
We knew it was going to be tough getting the film in and out of Africa without x-ray, which might have destroyed or damaged it irreparably, and we also had to deal with the fact that it would need to remain refrigerated the entire trip across the planes of Africa.
Chapter 3: X-Rays & Muggings
I know one thing for sure and that’s that no one knows anything. Including me. No one truly knows what will make a film successful.
Some films seem to have all the right ingredients but still don’t work and then there’s an unexpected hit that doesn’t sound like much on paper but somehow becomes far greater than the apparent sum of it’s parts and rises up to become a success. No one really knows. That’s all I really know for sure.
Chapter 4: Staying Focussed
At this stage, the only one person who managed to remain upbeat was our lead actor Rob. Rob was like our very own Mr Motivator.
We would come back from the port each day empty handed and Rob would offer us a hug and ‘pep talk’ the lot of us into remaining positive. He would say ‘Stay focussed on the goal, and take active steps towards it’ he would actually have us saying that out loud in unison. .
Chapter 5: Armed Police & A Ransom
It wasn’t long before we experienced our first encounters with armed police.
At first I was in the front of the Land Rover with Jon driving, but it soon became apparent that our two foreign faces were as tempting as a mobile candy shop and we would get stopped every few miles.
Chapter 6: Green
Things were further concerning us on our way to the base. When we had come over for the location recce, everything was dry and dusty.
It had the perfect look. But now, all we could see in the light of day was green. Trees, bushes, long grass.
Chapter 7: The First Real Death
After wrapping on another gruelling shoot, Marie, took Rob and a couple of others back to the accommodation in the Land Rover.
She was travelling at a fair speed on the long dusty road when suddenly a child ran out into the road right in her path. She spun the wheel, just avoiding the child, but instead, the Land Rover’s sturdy and ironically named ‘ bull bars’ ploughed into a cow at the side of the road.
Chapter 8: Sacrifice
It’s not everyday that a real cannibal visits your set but we were filming a scene in some corn in a remote location where Murphy ends up a little lost and is attacked by one of the dead.
After calling cut on a shot, our translator beckoned me over saying I must meet this guy on the bike. Having shaken his hand the translator went on to tell us excitedly how this man eats people but only if they are already dead and not too decomposed.
Chapter 9: The Accused
It was brought to my attention by what appeared to be a newly formed ‘committee’ that a couple of days off that had been ‘promised’ had not been ‘forthcoming’, and I stood accused.
This, after we had all sat around for nearly two weeks at the beginning of it all essentially having an all expenses paid holiday (admittedly an extremely dull vacation, but we had not been shooting at least) partly funded by my frequent trips to the nearest ATM to empty my personal accounts. It felt like an assault.
Chapter 10: A Bit On The Side
By this time in the production, I literally had a bad shoulder from handing over cash.
The movement of lifting my shoulder up followed by the dipping movement to get hold of the cash, ending with the outstretching of the arm, had been so frequent that it now physically hurt .
Chapter 11: Life & Death
Anne has arrived again for her next trip and that was good news.
I think Anne had in some ways taken on the persona of her doctor character as she seemed to go about making sure people were OK and always seemed to have medicine with her of some kind.
She had a package from back home, which she quickly handed to me.
Chapter 12: War
It’s morning and Anne tells me that Jon has something important to tell me.
She has a concerned look on her face, which worries me, and I already know, whatever it is Jon wants to tell me, it’s not going be a barrel of laughs.
Chapter 13: Showdown
It was only a matter of time before Rob’s newfound temperament came up against Jon’s with fiery consequences and the time had come for that to happen…
There had been the odd ‘exchange’ between them every now and then but either party had let it go.
Chapter 14: Rescued
Although my local phone had also gone during the border exchange, Amuda had just enough credit to text someone back home to call us back.
That someone was Barbara who was back in Accra. We calculated that we could only make it as far as a particular town 40 miles ahead of us, hundreds of miles short of our destination but Barbara called around her address book of clients to find someone who might live near that town who could help us.
Chapter 15: Jon Ford
So I knew there and then that I wanted to make a Zombie movie. First things first I needed to learn how to make films.
Yes that’s the reason I started. It was so we could make The Dead. I started writing script ideas in the mid 1980s but all these ideas were about artistic images and nightmares I’d had. My whole career as a filmmaker, up to that point had all been just practice for this movie. Everything I did was just moving one step closer to realizing my dream. The Dead had become my holy grail.
Chapter 16: Rob Freeman
When I first read the script for The Dead I am shut in a room.I am an actor. Rob Freeman - Superman’s coach, Scully’s alien lover, now reading for Murphy the anti hero who crosses the African continent dodging the rising dead.
As an actor I work the journeyman’s route, popping up in films here and there working the mix. But I’m not long for that way before I need to go and ride a country; run a few mountains, sleep under the stars, live like the characters I want to play. And Murphy is one of those characters.