School of the Dead by MARISA BRENIZER

During my long career as a film student, I got the chance to try on a variety of hats – director, editor, producer, grip, and wallflower.

Also, because the Film/TV department was ridiculously minuscule at my humble community college, nearly every film student was inevitably asked to act. Being one of the only females in film class, I was often begged to play the part of the love interest, the witty sidekick, or the bitch. Predictably, most of these student films were of the action/gangster/crime variety. Weary of being involved in another shoot ’em up, I was dying for something a little more…interesting.

Lo and behold, one cold winter’s day, I got my wish. I happened upon a flyer posted by some of the more adventurous students (i.e. the advanced film class). They were shooting a piece called “School of the Dead” and desperately needed some extras. Not fully understanding what I was in for, I showed up to the shoot excitedly.

In the wee hours of the morning, the campus was foggy and deserted. I soon spotted the film crew and the other extras. Suddenly very shy, I contemplated hightailing it to the nearest bathroom – once again, I was one of the only females in sight. I was spotted, however, and beckoned to the “makeup station” (which presumably consisted of two cosmetology majors who looked less than pleased to be slathering grey face paint on amateur actors in the cold of winter).

 

When I finally looked (un)dead enough, I was instructed to join the other actors and was prompted to “act like a zombie.” Mentally referencing every zombie movie I’d ever seen, I quickly assumed the stance; foot-dragging limply behind me, a glassy (but hungry) gaze, and Thriller inspired arm movements. Once I got more comfortable with the role, however, I shed the stereotypical elements and had fun with it.

The best part was when the director asked me to pretend to have a conversation on my cell phone while in character. I looked at him blankly – how (and why) would a zombie hold a conversation? He instructed me to grunt into the phone as if I were arguing with a boyfriend. We were, after all, supposed to be “undead” students, and what do students do most? No, not that. Talk on the phone in between classes in order to avoid socially awkward situations, of course!

I did my best impression of an angry (albeit very monotonous) girlfriend arguing with her deadbeat boyfriend. 

After taking part in the inevitable “Oh look – they’re alive! Let’s go chase them!” scene with the regular human actors, I called it a day. At this point, the campus was quickly filling up with morning students, most of whom nearly spilled their macchiatos once they caught a glimpse of their anachronistic classmates.

Although I didn’t stay in character after we wrapped, I did keep the makeup on longer than I had to. It was fun walking into the Girl’s restroom like nothing was amiss, ignoring the tentative stares. It was even more delicious to make the long drive home, shocking the general public with the sight of my ghoulish face, which stood out in odd contrast with my mundane sedan (which, coincidentally, often towed the line between the living and the dead).

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