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Guest blog: Ay up me Duck of the Dead

It all started as a conversation in a pub beer garden with a group of game developers debating zombie films. The discussion quickly moved on to how a game is actually developed and the possible similarities between the two. So, we decided to pool our skills, write a script and produce a short zombie film. We called the film ‘Ay up me Duck of the Dead’ as I’m originally from London and loved the fact that some bus drivers in Nottingham would always greet me by saying ‘Ay up me duck’. As the film was being made in Nottingham, it simply made sense to use the local saying in the title.

Twelve months later, Ay up me Duck of the Dead found its way into a DVD case and has been watched all over the world.

Of course, it was never that simple and we found ourselves encountering all sorts of problems and hitches along the way.

First of all we found a couple of actors, Joe Deuchar, a Monumental Games employee with no acting experience and Dani Reeve, who worked in a local café, but with no experience. However, they were both keen, so the next step was to find our zombies. After creating a website, the Evening Post picked up on the story and gave us a half page feature, which generated lots of local interest. BBC Nottingham also loved the idea and featured us quite a few times, even asking us to visit them for a piece on the radio. Why they made us dress us as zombies for a radio show is still beyond me, especially as we had to walk through the streets of Nottingham for a 9am slot, getting very strange looks from the general public.

Most of the filming took place in the Lace Market and Nottingham’s Market Square around 6am on Sunday mornings, mainly because we were able to create the look and feel of a deserted city. We had more than 40 people turn up for the zombie roles during the shoot, making some great new friends along the way, with many of the undead cast now working with us on our next film.

Most of the filming went smoothly enough although there were a few times when it all went wrong. At 6am on a certain Sunday morning, we had over 30 zombies, all made up and ready to go, only to receive a call from our lead actress to say she was ill! We had to improvise, not wanting to disappoint the zombie hoard and shot as many cut scenes as possible that morning, many of which were used in the final cut. After location hunting, we also found a perfect area for some of the final scenes in the Lace Market. Once again, at 6am make up was applied, lines were rehearsed and the equipment was checked, only to find that homeless people had moved a double bed into the alley we were supposed to shoot in! It’s amazing how quickly homeless people leave an area when they wake up to see 30 plus zombies staring at them!

Post production, the bit where the film is edited, music and effects are added, took four months longer than expected. We encountered numerous issues and because we didn’t have professional film making experience, this was a whole new learning curve.

But, we got there eventually and since the film was released, it’s gained a bit of a cult following in the USA, although they haven’t got a clue what ‘Ay up me Duck’ actually means!

We gained so much knowledge from making this film and although we’ve now gone back to making computer games, I’ve recently started work on a full length feature film called ‘Zombie Hood’. The production team for this film is already in place, bringing in local talent from Nottingham and the East Midlands, including some of the local colleges, with auditions taking place in Nottingham next month.

More information on Zombie Hood can be found here.

More background about our guest blogger, Steve Best.

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