Seven things we learnt while making a zombie reality TV series
Sebastian Grant is the producer of I Survived a Zombie Apocalypse. Here, he shares the seven key things that working on the terrifying reality TV series has taught him and the production team.
Respect the zombie genre
The I Survived a Zombie Apocalypse team immersed themselves in everything zombie related, including the films Dawn of the Dead, Shaun of the Dead and 28 Days Later, the zombie books World War Z (not the film) and the Zombie Survival Guide, the TV series The Walking Dead, The Returned and In the Flesh, and games The Last of Us and Resident Evil.
The show is an homage to all of the above from the location to the casting, with small little nods and references to our favourites that hopefully zombie fans will spot.
Have a backstory
Like any good zombie classic it’s essential to have a backstory about how the zombie outbreak came about and a few basic scientific facts for how the infection turns people in to zombies. We had the idea of mobile phones turning people in to zombies and Matt Mogk from the Zombie Research Society helped us create a story where that might happen: a new wifi phone signal that manages to mutate bacteria that already exists in your eyes in to a brain melting virus that turns people in to zombies. Try putting a houseplant next to your internet router for a few weeks and see what happens!
The show wasn’t cast like a usual reality show. We tried to take elements from a cast that might appear in a typical zombie drama: mother of the group, the alpha male, the good looking one, the funny one, the innocent, the lazy one, the one with a secret... Watch the profiles to see what who we found.
Scaring is easy
Imagine being abandoned in the middle of nowhere in a spooky derelict shopping centre with no one around. In the dark. We were quite scared when we first went to see the location in broad daylight. Now imagine there are a load of zombies shuffling about the place trying to catch you. Add the prize of a holiday if contestants can stick it out for seven days and avoid those zombies and it makes the situation pretty tense.
Dying is hard
This is the first reality series where contestants are eliminated by being killed. And slight spoiler alert: a lot of contestants get killed. We had a whole team of special effects and make up experts who were on standby if someone was caught. They were called the 'Death Squad Unit'. After each eliminated contestant had calmed down we filmed their death scene. There are five distinct phases: the capture, the bring down, the struggle, the moment of death and the feast. RIP.
Blood is sweet
We used over 200 litres of fake blood. It is fundamentally golden syrup and raspberry sauce. It tastes good. We also had a wide array of limbs, organs, body tissue and general matter – all supplied by special effects company, Artem.
Being a zombie isn't easy
We cast 73 zombies in Scotland. They were all put through workshops on how to move, sound, get up, keep warm, catch survivors and how to play the games safely. They were cast for different elements within the series – crawling zombies, blind zombies, chained zombies. They had to do a lot of standing around in the cold. The wardrobe and make up process for the zombies who feature most in the series took about three hours each.