Just in time for Halloween, Tina Teeter from the Syfy docu-series “Town of the Living Dead” shares her tips on all things zombie from playing undead to mixing up a perfect batch of zombie guts (hint: chocolate syrup and coffee grounds.)
What if zombies invaded your hometown? That really happened in Jasper, Alabama. Well, not really. . .it was more like a bunch of locals set their sideways stares on making their own zombie movie, and now six years into filming, they’ve turned Jasper with its cast of colorful characters into their own amateur version of The Walking Dead.
At the heart of the undead production is no-nonsense wife, mom, grandma and first-time producer Tina Teeter who says making a zombie movie with her daughter Catie, her lead actress, sounded like fun. But the problem for Tina, the “Mombie” of the bunch, and her fellow do-it-yourself filmmakers is that everyday life has gotten in the way of their filmmaking and they’re not quite sure if they’ll ever finish their movie.
A ragtag group of wannabe filmmakers. A quirky cast of Southern characters. A town of zombies! They may never finish their movie, but the crew is as ripe as a rotting corpse for their own unscripted reality show, “Town of the Living Dead,” that airs on Syfy.
We caught up with the Mombie to get a few pointers about zombie moviemaking, what makes a good zombie, and how to ward off a zombie attack if you ever come face to rotting face with one.
What are some of the craziest things that have happened during filming?
We have lost numerous phones in the lake. Police have been called a couple times. We was on the roof of a building downtown shooting a scene with guns and yelling and I failed to realize that we was straight across the alleyway from the courthouse where, of course, court was in session, so needless to say the police came rolling in and demanded we get down and was not happy with us at all, but I apologized profusely and we worked it out. We also had raccoons on set one day… it goes on and on.
What is “Zombie University”?
Zombie University is a brief class that my assistant Laura Bramblette teaches before we do a shoot with zombies about how to move and sound like a zombie.
What does it take to play a good zombie?
Dead stare and NO FRANKEN ARMS. And absolutely no smiling. We hate that.
Can anyone be a zombie?
Yes, we have had newborns and not-so newborns.
What is “Town of the Living Dead’s” recipe for zombie guts?
Ketchup, karo sryup, coffee grounds, red food coloring, chocolate sryup and lots of paper towels. We roll them up oblong without breaking the roll and either staple or tape them together then place in the blood mixture to soak.
What’s the key to making a good zombie movie?
I really don’t know. This is just our version of a zombie movie. I think the audience will decide if it’s good or not. I love the pure horror aspect of it, and if budget allowed, we would have really put more effects and things in it, but again this is the zombie movie we could afford to make…good or bad.
How do you think the city of Jasper feels about you and your movie crew?
I’m sure at times they wished we would just go away. I always tried to abide by the rules and not cause any trouble so that they didn’t hate us. We have been parading zombies around the streets of Jasper, Arley and Carbon Hill for a pretty good while and, thankfully, they put up with us and now just say, ‘Oh, yeah, the zombie movie.’
Do you watch zombie movies?
I never really did before no, but I find myself watching a lot of them now looking for the effects.
Any favorite movies, zombie or otherwise?
One of my favorite movies is an old black-and- white movie How Green Is My Valley, and I really liked Zombieland.
If you came face to face with a zombie, what would you do?
Get in his peripheral vision and move with him, then hit him in the head very very hard with whatever I could get my hands on. He’s gonna smell you and come for you even if you hide − got to take him out.
If/when you wrap this movie, would you make another one?
Well, we’d be silly to not do another one and use what we have learned doing this one, i.e. what not to do.
Any advice for a wannabe filmmaker?
Make a movie. If that’s what you want to do just do it. Maybe not a full-length zombie film right of the bat. Don’t worry about if it’s great or not just start something and don’t stop till it’s finished.
What would your second movie be about?
I would think zombies for the next one, but if we continue on we’d like to create a new creature. After all these years of practicing and trying to hone our skills I think we could greatly improve. This movie is a personal goal for us all to get it finished, good or bad. It’s kind of like being pushed out into the industry with your pants down around your ankles. We’ve never done anything before and we never expected anyone would ever care let alone want to help us. Syfy has been great to us and if we can just get done, they will air the movie. We are so close we can taste it. . .fingers crossed.