Derby girls and zombies seem to go hand in hand. A search of Two Evils will find many zombie related names, like Aneta Brains from Savannah Derby Devils. There is a zombie roller derby game in the works, countless zombie-themed derby bouts, a short film (seen below), and even a full length movie pitting derby girls against a zombie invasion.
Why do derby girls seem to have such a tie to the walking dead? Maybe it’s because many of us have an affinity for horror. Maybe we see it as another way to be intimidating and get away from a cute girl image. Maybe it’s just because zombies are kind of popular right now. There isn’t a single correct answer, but like many of my peers, I found myself involved in zombie shenanigans earlier this year.
The Asylum puts out a lot of mockbusters on Netflix and as Redbox rentals. (You may have also heard about them recently because of this.) With Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter coming out in the summer, The Asylum rushed to film ALvZ as soon as possible. The majority of the filming happened at Fort Pulaski where parts of The Conspirator had also been filmed. My friend Ryan Watterson put me in touch with the right people, and I was able to score a zombie role (actually two zombie roles).
So what does being a zombie in a film involve? In my case, it meant getting fantastic makeup and blood work done by Darla Clarkson and Renonda Anderson (this included wearing whiteout contact lenses that turned everyone into moving blobs), and then waiting around around until the zombie wrangler (David Rousseau) led me and the rest of the stumbling horde to our places.
Now don’t think I’m complaining. I loved every moment of it, even the uncomfortable moments when the sun went down, the temperature dropped, and the sand gnats came out. (You have to love the irony of zombies getting eaten alive by sand gnats.) Because of ALvZ, I got to meet a ton of interesting people, hear some cool stories about filming The Conspirator from a few zombies who were also extras in that film, and my decapitated head made the front page of Savannah Morning News (below the fold but it still counts).
ALvZ was a low budget film, so I didn’t get paid in money. Instead, I was paid in new friends and experience.
The first day on set I was told to attack one of the Secret Service Agents who would then cut off my head. After numerous takes and lots of blood spatter, fellow zombie, Rebecca Etheridge, and I waited on a bench for whatever else we were needed. It was late, and we were a little hungry. Since both of us were wearing the white contact lenses, we couldn’t exactly walk off in search of food. Secret Service Agents Ron Ogden and Nathaniel Grauwelman came to our rescue with crackers and conversation.
On another night, I was walking out of the fort after being wrapped. Bill Oberst, Jr., who played Lincoln, was shooting a scene where his character is rallying the survivors and planning their next move. I stepped behind a column to watch for a bit. The movie is called Abraham Lincoln vs Zombies. No one harbored delusions of being nominated for a Academy Award, but Oberst delivered his speech with such passion and conviction that, by the end, I was ready to join him and fight zombies.
The last day on set, the zombie horde spent most of the time near the gunpowder magazine or just outside the fort. Since it wasn’t a closed set, tourists were wandering around. When you’re covered in fake blood and told to stay where you are, leering and growling at tourists does help pass the time. If you had a friend vacationing in Savannah in late February or early March who came back talking about zombies at Fort Pulaski, your friend isn’t insane. That really happened. Those who weren’t absolutely terrified asked for pictures. One of the tourists I posed with happened to be a vacationing derby girl. (We spread like a zombie plague.)
As the sun set that day, we were outside the fort stumbling after Lincoln, a few agents and some survivors. After each take, I had to be led back to my start point by two other zombies because, without direct sunlight, I couldn’t see anything and was a little worried about falling into the moat.
All these moments were kind of fun because I have some amazing stories. (Seriously. How many people can claim to have seeing-eye zombies?) I’m not a zombie in real life or derby life, but for a bit, I got to play one in a low budget horror movie. Check one off the bucket list.
If you’d like to follow some of the actors and crew involved:
Ron Ogden: keep your eyes peeled for him in a certain NBC show about the future.
- Nathaniel Grauwelman: he has a few projects in the works. He’s also a cosplayer, so you may spot him at a convention. Nerd love!
Jason Vail: currently promoting his film Gut.
Rebecca Etheridge and David Harland Rousseau: both are very active in the Savannah film scene in front of and behind the camera.
Bill Oberst, Jr.: don’t let the creepy pictures on his page fool you. He’s a super nice guy. You may catch him in one of many upcoming horror movies or at a horror convention in your area.
Renonda Anderson: still being awesome and working her makeup magic.
Darla Clarkson: she’s expanding her involvement behind the camera.