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The Cool Factor of Zombies…

 Normally we re-post a letter to the editor related to the vital issue of Zombie Voting Rights. Due to an unfortunate SqueeZ Cheese incident in the Crest Top Chronicle news office, Christian H. Smith is no longer allowed to operate technical equipment of any kind, and this week’s letter has been irretrievably lost.  We hope to resolve the situation quickly so that Crest Top community members can continue to make their voices heard across the “interwebby.”

Who knew zombies were so dang popular?! I mean, everybody knows the kids love them some sparkly, broody vampires. But zombies? Zombies are kinda gross and are pretty much the opposite of sparkly. And not so much with the broody romance, since, y’know, missing body parts and corpse stank is kind of a turn off for most folks.

But here is something about the notion of the walking dead that seems to alternately freak out and fascinate people. Remember when zombies were just slow and creepy (White Zombie) instead of those badass super fast 28 Days Later zombies? Yeah, I don’t like those fast ones. Actually, I’m fairly certain that I wouldn’t want to run into either variety in a dark alley, or even a brightly lit grocery store with a fully loaded shotgun and tons of extra ammo. No sir. Not me.

I’m still trying to figure out how we ended up making a zombie flick – even one that has a hefty dose of comedy in it – when I can’t stand to sit through horror movies.  They scare the hell out of me. Just ask Andrew about the time we watched “The Silence of the Lambs.” On Fast Forward. With the sound on mute.  It took about 30 minutes and it was one of the longest half hours of my life.

But here we are, just a few weeks out from shooting, and I’m the one telling Penelope, “More blood! There must be serious blood spurtage! And head wounds, yeah, that’s the ticket!” So Penelope is dutifully whipping up a whole gallon of fake blood and working out some lovely, nasty SFX to try out. And we are both laughing like loons and having a great time.

Zombies, man. Part freak out, part fascination, pure fun.

Who Wants To Be In A Movie?

This is an open call for people who’d like to be an extra in a real, live movie. Interested?

On Sunday, October 28th, 2012, the comic movie “Dead Votes Society” will be shooting its last scene on Prescott, AZ’s historic Courthouse Square.

We are looking for extras to be in this scene. We are looking for all ages and body types, both men and women. We are casting for the following characters:

  • Reporters
  • Press Photographers
  • TV News Camera Operators
  • Tourists visiting Arizona
  • Militia Members
  • Secret Service Agents

ALL PARTS ARE UNPAID PERFORMANCES. We will provide food during shooting and, oh yes, it is a chance to see yourself on the Big Screen in a real, live movie.

If you would like to know more, send an email to thedeadvotessociety@gmail.com and put “Extra” in the subject line. Our producer, or one of her staff, will contact you to answer your questions.

Because We Can!

One of the awesome things about making an indie movie is getting the chance to do some “inside” jokes and references. Dead Votes Society is adapted from a Coyote Radio Theater script written several years ago, but now is our chance to give some of those fab voice actors a chance for some screen time. And the really funny thing? They don’t actually have any lines. It’s one of those details that pretty much nobody but the writers and some hardcore CRT fans with great memories will recognize, but it makes me giggle. A lot.

Then there are the little things that make sense to us, but probably won’t mean anything to the average viewer when all is said and done. But you know what? If you’re gonna go to all the trouble of making a movie, you might as well throw in a few things just ’cause you wanna.

Another perk? Getting to play with fake blood! Andrew decided that he really, really needed to see if Ben Nye’s Stage Blood truly has a “zesty mint” flavor. He pronounced it “pleasant, but not too strong,” while Art Director/Production Designer Penelope Davis gave it the thumbs up for color and consistency. Our actors can rest easy. Our SFX blood is officially director tested and Production Designer approved.

Zombie Voting Good for Local Economy

Every Friday, this blog will re-post a letter to the editor of the “Crest Top Chronicle” newspaper, to provide a platform for voices from the community concerning some of the real issues raised by the short film “Dead Votes Society.” This week: local businesswoman Hester Morton.


           Our fair city has been the center of a lot of nation-wide media attention recently.  As debate rages in the rest of the country about undead voting rights, here in Crest Top the matter has already been decided. Thanks to the foresight of our late and lamented Mayor Roscoe Sackenheimer, Crest Top is the only town in America where zombies already have the vote.

            Whatever your opinion of undead voting, the publicity surrounding the issue has been a boon to local businesses. Zombies are considered to be both “hip” and “cool,” and people are coming from all over the world to visit the place Holiday Road Magazine has called “The Premier Walking Dead Destination.”  The hotels, bars and restaurants on our own Historic Tequila Row® have seen a surge in zombie-related tourism. Local gun shops and survivalist supply stores report brisk business as well. I say anything, even a zombie plague, that brings in tourists and their dollars is by definition a good thing.

            While tourists might come for the zombies, they will no doubt stay for the local history and color. Crest Top has a proud tradition of pioneering civil liberties that began long before the zombie controversy. Did you know that the time of its founding, Crest Top was the first and only municipality in America to recognize same-sex marriage? Of course, this ended at about the same time the first women were admitted as citizens, but just a few decades later Crest Top broke down another Civil Rights barrier when horses were allowed to vote in the 1886 city elections. In fact, the horses just might have provided the swing vote that elected Virgil Sackenhiemer (Roscoe’s grandfather,) thus establishing a political dynasty that lasted well into the twenty-first century.   

            And now Crest Top leads the way towards liberty once again. Our city’s brave stance on individual freedom has attracted the attention of a Hollywood-type film production company, who has come to town to shoot a Major Motion Picture entitled “The Dead Votes Society.” I don’t have to tell you what a shot in the arm a movie can give to a town’s economy. So, despite niggling concerns about public health and how the entirety of Historic Tequila Row® tends to smell nowadays, I say zombies are good for business. And what’s good for business is good for Crest Top.


HESTER MORTON owns several local businesses, including THE MANOR saloon, the HOTEL MONTEZUMA, THE STAMPEDING BUFFALO fine arts and gift store and HESTER’S CONES ice cream parlor. The Crest Top Chamber of Commerce (of which she’s President) has awarded her the “Outstanding Local Businessperson” award for twelve years running. The views expressed here are hers alone and do not reflect those of the administrators of this blog or in fact of anyone, anywhere, ever.   

Sequence Out of Shooting

As we prepare for “Dead Votes Society”s October principal photography, I’m thinking about rehearsals and how to help our actors get ready.

Just today, it occurred to me that while most of them have acted for years with Prescott Center for the Arts, Blue Rose Theatre or other organizations, most of them haven’t done much film work.

One thing we’ll need to work on is this: most films are shot out of sequence. It can be a little strange for an actor who’s used to “starting at the beginning and continuing to the end” on the stage – but film is a different kind of theatre.

Since film has a moving viewpoint, the camera and tripod have to be picked up and moved each time the shot is from a new viewpoint. And, the lights have to change too, so the set is let for that viewpoint. Unless you light it for every viewpoint like a sitcom but . . . brr . . . let’s not think too much about what that would look like.

So, we have to move the camera. Which takes time. Many new film actors may not realize just how “hurry up and wait” a film set can be. You’re ready to move on to the next emotion or the follow up double-take to the joke you just made when . . . “Hold for airplane!” Or, “Can someone tape that cuculoris down? The wind is making the shadow move?” “Who’s got an extra C47?” And that acting moment is on hold.

To minimize the down time and to get through the shoot faster (time is still, sadly, money), the director and the DP will make a shot list and then group the shots by where the camera is shooting from.

So, for example, scene two in DVS has 8 shots. Half of them are a straight ahead “two shots” – meaning its just like a regular news broadcast, a shot of two people sitting behind a news desk.

Since half of the shots are from this angle, we shoot each of them and THEN move the camera and re-do the lighting for the next group of shots. That means the actors will perform minutes 1 thru 2 of the finished scene. Then we stop. Re-slate and they perform minutes 4 thru 6. After we move the camera and re-light the stage, then we get to minute 3 and so on.

It takes some getting used to. But its the only way to shoot a nine minute movie in “just” four days.

Faith Can Move Mountains – But Bring a Shovel!

It’s commonly held that a good movie starts with a good script. Seriously, without a good story to tell, why bother, right? The script is what inspires faith in a project. Without that faith, it’s mighty tough to keep finding new ways to approach the plethora of challenges are are bound to come up.

But just having faith ain’t gonna get ‘er done – you need a shovel, too. Okay, mostly it’s a metaphorical shovel, but it still boils down to laying the groundwork and thinking ahead. Otherwise you end up with an awesome script and a crappy movie.

Basically that means  more than an hour or two spent on the most convenient flat surface available – a kitchen table, desk, etc. – working out all the details. That may not sound like fun, but if you believe in the project (and I do!!!), then all that shovel work turns out to be (almost) as cool as shooting the movie. Oh, and besides that metaphorical shovel? Lots o’ coffee is a big plus, too…

*Andrew Johnson-Schmit working on the shot list.

Zombies are Real Americans

Every Friday, this blog will re-post a letter to the editor of the “Crest Top Chronicle” newspaper, to provide a platform for voices from the community concerning some of the real issues raised by the short film “Dead Votes Society.” This week: Representative Serena Paltry.


            I would like to suggest that the author of the Friday, Aug. 31, letter to the editor (so-called “celebrity” Don Murphy) read a certain document crafted by our founding fathers. I mean, what gives him the right to poke fun at people, be they alive or be they undead, for exorcising their God-given right to vote? That right was outlined almost a hundred years ago in the timeless US Constitution, right there in the Amendments. I’ll look it up and get back to you on which one.

            What Mr. Murphy and his liberal elite cohorts don’t seem to get is that the right to vote is inalienable. That means even aliens can’t take it away. These are the same lamestream media dunderheads who gave me such heat in the newspapers and magazines for endorsing Blaine Walpole to serve in Arizona’s 31st District, just because Blaine happens to be one of the walking dead. Well, let me tell you, Blaine is a true American, which is more than I can say for Don Murphy. I’ve never once seen him in public without his lapel flag pin, and every time he hears our sacred national anthem, he puts his hand on his heart. Right on his heart, in fact, because he’s got a big old hole in his chest. Not too many Americans can claim to be that patriotic.

            In fact, the rights of the undead to vote, and for folks like Blaine to hold public office are precisely the sorts of things our brave men and women in the military have fought and died to protect. To deny zombies these fundamental rights is a direct slap in the face of the troops. I don’t know about you, but I simply refuse to stand idolly by and allow our valiant soldiers to be smacked around like that.

            In closing, I’d just like to say that God is after all the one who chose in His Infinite Wisdom to bring the dead back to life- like a million hungry little Lazaruses. Who should we trust in these trying times, God or some pervy pothead DJ who pals around with known vampires? I trust my beautiful fellow Americans to make the right choice. You betcha I do.


      SERENA PALTRY represents Arizona’s 9th District in the United States House of Representatives. She is also the author of PALTRY SUNNY: A LIFE IN POLITICS, the star of her own reality series FRESH PALTRY and a frequent commentator on ARIZONA CABLE NEWS EXPRESS. Any resemblance to any living person who shares her initials is entirely coincidental. The views expressed here are hers alone and do not reflect those of the administrators of this blog or in fact of anyone, anywhere, ever. 

When Work Is Fun, Is it still Work?

After a long “holiday” weekend filled with spread sheets, phone calls, emails, Facebook messages, playing with video cameras, spit-balling, story boarding and long, long talks with Andrew, I’ve come to the simple conclusion that making this lil’ zombie flick is a whole lotta work. The plus side is that I’m having a whole lotta fun.

When Andrew asked me to take on the producer job for this project, I had to ask him just what the hell a movie producer did. “Pretty much everything,” he said. He explained it in more depth, as he is wont to do, but that simple statement actually summed it up nicely.

Truthfully, I probably should have been a little more intimidated, but having helped out doing “pretty much everything” for the past 3 years for the Tsunami on the Square festival, I didn’t blink. Instead, I just thought, “Okay, I can do this.”

I’m not sure I expected just how much I would enjoy it. We’ve done plenty of other crazy ambitious projects in the past, but Dead Votes is just…different, somehow. Yes, coordinating availabilities for cast, crew, production peeps and locations is a bit like herding feral cats. And yes, there are still a million details to work out in the midst of all the other things in life that demand attention (like the amount of dog hair decorating my carpets or the mini-mountain of laundry that is currently occupying my bathroom), but, I don’t seem to mind all the work one teeny tiny bit.

Will this insanely positive attitude hold? Ask me again when we’re hip deep in zombies on the first day of shooting. But I bet ya a dollar I’ll still be loving every minute of it.

Meet the DP: Forrest Sandefer

The great director Akira Kurosawa used to say that a script is the flag a crew will follow as they battle to make a movie.

I think we feel pretty good about the script for “Dead Votes Society.”

But a script can only lead. One person on the crew who the ability to follow that lead and take the movie even farther is the cinematographer (or DP, for director of photography).

Far from being just a camera op, the DP, by definition, is an artist, breathing the script to life with light.

Next to editing or direction itself, there is no greater case of Green! No, Blue! Ahhhh! than cinematography in movies. Do we need another f stop? Maybe we need more light? Diffused? How? Bounced? With what?

Comedies, like “DVS,” have a special need for a good DP. The overly (and evenly) lit comedy is a cliche that must die in our lifetime. While a nice bright set makes for an easy to follow comedy, it also makes for nothing more.

And comedy PLUS something else – beauty (the color schemes of Pedro Almodovar, the ditzy smile of Carol Lombard), formal elements (the absurd symmetry of Jacques Tati,  the character names of W.C. Fields) or sense of place (Steve Martin’s sunny SoCal in “LA Story,” the three story house in “Arsenic and Old Lace“) gives you a real thing of wonder. 

So, the DP – important person. We now have a DP. Ladies and Gentlemen, Forrest Sandefer. 

We’ll hear from Forrest and the rest of the DVS crew as we get into the shoot, but right now I wanted to share some of his previous work with you. Enjoy!

Welcome aboard, Forrest!

At Last, A Celebrity Weighs in On Zombie Voting

Every Friday, this blog will re-post a letter to the editor of the “Crest Top Chronicle” newspaper, to provide a platform for voices from the community concerning some of the real issues raised by the short film “Dead Votes Society.” This week: local celebrity DJ Don Murphy. 

  When I first heard about the latest culture war kerfuffle to bubble its way up into what passes for national conversation, I thought it had to be the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard. And I’ve actually listened to Mitt Romney’s early-90’s rap album (Latter Day Trippin’.) I mean, zombies? Really? First they made Wal-Mart smell even worse than it did before, and now we’re going to let them vote?

      But, thinking about it, I realized it might not be such a bad thing. It’s well known that zombies tend to vote Republican. (Vampires lean Democrat. Werewolves will vote for anybody who has bacon in their pocket.) Finally, people of color could find a home in the GOP. Of course, that color is a gangrenous blackish green, but still . . . progress.

      Is it a coincidence that they held the Republican National Convention in Florida, the face-eating capital of the world? This is, after all, the party of Abraham Lincoln who, as history has recently revealed, was a legendary vampire hunter, but who was strangely silent on the whole zombie issue.

In short, I say sure, let ‘em vote. Just so long as it keeps them out of the Wal-Mart. I’ve got to get down there to stock up on bottled water and cheap shotgun ammo.

DON MURPHY was once the top-rated nationally syndicated “shock jock” in the country, a man who Howard Stern once called “The Don.” He lost his job following the infamous “incident,” which there’s no need to recap in a family-friendly blog. Now he can be heard only on Crest Top’s own KCRT community radio, where he hosts the popular “Murphy in the Morning” drive-time show. The views expressed here are his alone and do not reflect those of the administrators of this blog or in fact of anyone, anywhere, ever.