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That's a wrap! Zombie film's stressed-out crew in final push for gory ; MOVIE MASTERPIECE: After a year of hard work,compromise and pulling...

September 11, 2013


That's a wrap! Zombie film's stressed-out crew in final push for gory ; MOVIE MASTERPIECE: After a year of hard work,compromise and pulling infavours, 1,800 of the undead are tomake their last run

TWELVE months after the call went out for fresh blood in a new zombie movie - the cast and crew are within touching distance of the red carpet.

The final shoot of Welcome To Essex will see around 1,800 of the undead charging down Brentwood High Street on the last day of filming for one of the biggest lowbudget horror films in recent years. For Ryan Fleming, the 39-yearold director and creative force behind the film, it has been a lesson in compromises. Without any kind of significant budget - just Pounds 7,000, most of which was spent on fuel and transport - he has had to use whatever has been available. Much of the film's successful conclusion is thanks to a mass of contributors who have donated props and locations free of charge. But the result is the type of homemade film that every now and then catches the mood and the imagination - despite lacking the massive support of Hollywood and its deep pool of money.

Ryan, who is from Brentwood, said: The point of a film like this is that we can only use what we have - we don't have any kind of budget to spend on special effects or CGI so we have to go back to doing it the old fashioned way.

If we want a scene that has loads of zombies running down a street - we need to find enough people to make that happen.

Early on Sunday, September 15, the High Street will be closed between the Slug and Lettuce and Kings Road for around 1,800 extras to create what is expected to be some of the most impressive shots of Welcome To Essex - a zombie apocalypse set in and around Brentwood.

The film follows Ryley Dunn, played by Catherine Delaloye, who after a misjudged drunken fall that lands her unconscious, wakes up to find Brentwood overrun by zombies, streaming out of London and devouring anything and everything living that stands in their way.

Ryan said: She joins up with seven others and between them they have to make their way to Southend where they can escape off to an island.

All I can reveal is that some don't make it. It's essentially a road movie without cars.

We wanted to make a film that is both exciting and gory but we wanted to show a side of Essex and Brentwood that isn't just fake tan and celebrity - a side that is the real Essex, full of normal people. Ryan said his film was always going to be a super-low budget project but, with some small investment, Welcome To Essex has surpassed his expectations.

Schedules He said: It's been a learning curve for all of us - and really enjoyable. There are times when it has got a bit stressful - but that is all part of it. Overall, it has been great.

Ryan has joined up with Phil Scott, 40, an executive producer, and Laura Udall, who is making the film under the banner Smoking Monkey Productions.

He said: We had to compromise with a few things Because everything is free we have to work round people's schedules because they are doing other stuff. It has worked out fine for 90 per cent of the time.

But the main challenges are that if you need seven people in a shot you have to wait for all seven to be available.

And that is perhaps the most difficult part - organising everything. The only money spent was on camera equipment and an authentic British army-issue camouflage battledress and a decommissioned M4 carbine gun that some parts of the Special Forces use.

He said: If nothing else, they are accurate.

Ryan has said he has always wanted to make a zombie film.

If you've been at Brentwood station at 5am when people are swaying at the station it's not that far removed from a zombie film and where you could go with it.

It's been great fun but exhausting.

We hope that when we do the festival circuit that a distributor will pick it up and, if it does well enough, then another company will come back and see what we can do with more money.

The team of filmmakers all speak enthusiastically of the lessons they have learned since filming began in January.

But perhaps the most stand out member is Justin Becker, a former tattoo artist who has turned his hand to make-up and prosthetics and has now started working on major films over the past year with his new company Nightmare SFX.

The 41-year-old from Witham is responsible for the gory look and creeping flesh in the film. He has recently produced a zombie scene for CH5 reality show Big Brother, been involved in movies Warm Bodies with Nicholas Hoalt, as well as Dead Island and Death Walks. He said: This has been my dream since childhood. I've been obsessed all my life with tattoo and horror make-up. Now I'm a part-time tattooist and full-time make-up artist on the back of this film. It's all staring to happen. I'm just going to ride the wave.

It's been amazing. It's been a fast learning curve, that's for sure, but I've basically schooled myself in make-up artistry and now I've got connections all over the world.

It has given me a whole new trade, Justin added.

Craig Bridges, 28 from Brent, is the film's director of photography. Paul Inkersole, 28, from Romford, is the sound manager, Aaron Rushbrook, 35, from Brentwood, is the music manager.

Craig said: Its been stressful but all in all it's been good.

It's hard for me because I've got to make the film look like there is no power. And with a small budget that is very hard.

You've got to position the camera correctly so it shows no sign of life power.

Paul said: I've got a studio and I said I wanted to get involved and come and do the sound. Filming is new to me. The tricks are to get out of the way of the camera.

Aeroplanes and rain are the biggest problem. You can mask a lot with music and some sounds you just have to work around. We are going to have to do some voice sound in the studio.

Aaron Rushbrook is responsible for sourcing the music, which will be scored by professional musician Matt Early, who has worked with a lot of famous composers including German film composer Hans Zimmer.

He said: We are up and coming so we want some up and coming bands. Phil Scott, 40, the owner of GT Design in Brentwood High Street, said: Ryan approached me for my business acumen.

I'm a company director, I know my way around business.

Welcome To Essex is the first film for Smoking Monkey Productions which is now looking at films about a robbery, a comedy and a romcom for their next project.

Phil added: There has definitely been moments of stress. But it's no different to any working relationship, one day you're having an argument and the next you'll be having a beer. We are all mates. I've quite enjoyed doing it on a shoestring because these are the sort of lessons you can take into a subsequent project.

And we are really grateful for the help we have had. Without them we wouldn't have been able to do it.

The biggest supporters, without a shadow of a doubt, are Hopefield Animal Sanctuary and Eclipse Night Club.

We are all very proud of the film. How many people can say they have made a zombie movie? Paul Clark, 29, from Brentwood, is the line producer, responsible for the scheduling.

He said: We've all had a brilliant time. Some days it's very hard when you have been working for 23 hours a day, but at the end it's all been worth it.

I would love to do this as a career. Laura added: It's testament to what can be done if you want to.

Anyone who has got a dream to write a book or shoot a film - if you have got like-minded people all working together there is nothing to stop you.

And the project has created such a buzz.

Cast biographies JONATHAN WALKER, 37, has had a few casual acting roles in movies over the years and decided the next step is to tackle zombies in his old home town.

He auditioned for a few roles in Welcome To Essex but, realising he couldn't do them all, settled on the character of Essex Traffic Policeman Rex Files.

Jonathan said: Rex Files is lazy. He was born lazy and he'd die lazy. This is something Rex knew and he was fine with it.

One day though, all that changed. Every copper in his hometown of Harlow was sent to Brentwood, about 20 miles down the road, to assist the military in a mass evacuation of London.

Rex didn't know this though, as he was in the toilet when the briefing was given. He went along, however, and soon saw something he'd never forget, no matter how long he lived.

SOPHIE JONES, 23, trained at Leicester College of Performing Arts where she obtained a Trinity National Diploma in musical theatre. She is now living the dream, attending auditions, doing professional modelling work, dance shows and acting.

She plays Charmaine Danielle-Moody, a boutique owner from Romford who realised early on that her stunning good looks would get her far in life.

Now a wag, her footballer husband had dropped her off in Brentwood one afternoon when she noticed the sky was full of helicopters all flying away from nearby London.

ROBERT EVANS, 40, cut his acting teeth at the Italia Conti Stage School and also at Harlequin Stage School.

He also spent his formative acting years with the Theatre Royal Stratford East Youth Theatre, as well as two devised pieces in conjunction with Spare Tyre Theatre Company and started out his acting career in the Docklands Youth.

He is currently portraying Jake Blues in a tribute band to the sounds of The Blues Brothers called Blues Soul Revue.

His character Mike Rider was walking back from the bank one day when he saw what looked like a mass brawl just up the road.

He wasn't going to turn down this opportunity for some excitement.

Cast biographies CATHERINE DELALOYE who, plays Ryley Dunn, the intrepid female lead, was born in Switzerland and raised in California, before moving to London to pursue a career in acting and modelling.

Splitting her time between working in movies and her beloved pets, The 25-year-old soon came to the attention of the makers of Welcome To Essex and landed the main role of Ryley Dunn, the loner with a mysterious past who finds herself caught up in the unfolding apocalypse devouring Britain.

You should watch it because we are all putting in so much effort to make it amazing and who wouldn't want to see something amazing? she said.

Three other films that are in the pipeline for her include 18 Years Later (2013), About Time (2013) and The Double (2013).

It's been an adventure, Catherine said. We are all learning from each other.

GREG BURRIDGE is a wrestler by trade - appearing in his special guise as the Chav Lock.

But for Welcome to Essex he swapped a pair of fury dice on his shorts for camouflage as Sgt Jerry Ahern - the leader of a band of survivors hoping to escape the legions of infected.

Greg who also fights as The Pukka One and The Cockney Crusader, helps lead the desperate band escaping the wave of zombies.

Originally from Upminster, the 32-year-old became involved in the film after hearing about it through Facebook.

SARAH-GRACE NEAL, 23, from Tollesbury, has been performing on stage from a young age but this is her first film.

She said: It's been really crazy. It has taken a long time to get to the end but it's been a great experience.

Sarah Grace, who plays Jessica Sloane, is one of the band of survivors trying to make it to safety without being devoured. Sarah- Grace added: I really enjoy the intimacy of the camera so I want to do more. I am looking at it as a way to open some doors.

MUZZY TAHIR plays an unemployed car audio technician, Muzzy Scolari. In the film. Muzzy is on his way through Brentwood when he gets caught in the mayhem. The 30-year-old Londoner has always been involved in music and has been in several bands, but this is his first acting job and he hopes there will be many more to come.

He said: Everyone has been really welcoming and very professional.

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