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Eric and Brendan's Zombie Blog
Back in 2008, I was suffering from a complete lack of creativity when it came to making videos. I made one or two during the summer, but they were quick ideas and not very well thought out. Discouragement came from not having enough people to film with, to not having the budgets or equipment to do bigger projects. True, my Youtube page has never been the highest quality site in the world, but I always wanted my stuff to be good.
The biggest moment of realization came when I watched . I wasn't much for watching bloggers before and the very concept seemed alien to me. But there it was, a funny, smart movie that spent a good amount of time with its lead just looking into the camera. The best moments in the blog format came with the sudden cuts during long time changes, such as Captain Hammer throwing a car at Dr. Horrible's head. It was so simple, but it worked. Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog
The Mixing of Ideas
The effect that Joss Weadon's small project had on me was eye-opening. I didn't have to go big or go home. Things can just be funny as long as the performance and idea are clever. It was then that I realized what I had to do. I had to come up with a blog series, but one that was set in a genre-based world. This desire crossed with another interest at the time.
Since around 2002, I had been interested in the zombie sub-genre. Back then, it wasn't a huge craze like it is now. Up until a few years ago, zombie fiction was fairly scarce. There were the George Romero and other movies, there was the still starting out Walking Dead comic book and there were the books by Max Brooks. The Zombie Survival Guide and World War Z were the best books you could read on the genre. I devoured both of them like the monsters they featured.
With Dr. Horrible and zombies mixing around in my brain like a smoothie made of wacky hijinks and the undead, it was only inevitable that I would come up with the idea to do a zombie blog.
Recruiting Brendan and the Basement Setting
My friend, Brendan, agreed to help me with the video. The setup would be simple. We would play ourselves, or exaggerated versions of ourselves, trapped in a house during the zombie apocalypse. At the time, I was living with some friends and they had a house with a great basement for the set. During a week they were on vacation, we'd setup the camera in the cellar and film our blog. The set would be the same location every webisode, with us in two chairs talking about our lives and communication problems.
The idea, to me, was great. The series would be taking place during a zombie apocalypse but I wouldn't have to film any zombies! It would be cheap, it would be quick and I would have plenty to edit.
Filming and Ad-Lib
We filmed over the course of two days. The entire project would be improvised, with no scripts. The closest thing we had to a plan was thinking of the topics and issues we would cover. But that was as far as we got before I hit the record button on the camera.
I made sure we wore the same clothes throughout the entire series and didn't move the chairs. I wanted it to feel like we were stuck in the same place without hope of escape. The biggest challenge would be our conversations, as I didn't know if Brendan and I could ad-lib together without tripping over each other. To my surprise, Brendan was great and our back and forth was what I hoped it would be.
Throughout the series, we dealt with a bunch of different problems. We always were running out of food and supplies, there was never a way out, zombies were always getting into our yard and we missed the good old days of being able to order a pizza. Brendan started to go crazy and I was spending more and more time alone.
It's strange how a series can change in such short amount of time. It started out with me being the snarky one and Brendan being insane, but as the series progressed, Brendan would become a bigger jerk and I would get dumber. But, no matter our personality, we were learning to despise each other in whole new ways.
We had some great ideas; the power outage episode, the swords, the first of Brendan's insanity gag, the undead zombie baby conversation. These were the examples of what I wanted the show to be about.
Mistakes and Lessons Learned
I will be honest, the show is not amazing, but it's better than I thought it would be. There are moments that are great and have had people rolling in tears because of a simple line or action. Depending on the viewers taste, the improved dialog can either be annoying or darn impressive. Some lines don't make sense, but little does in the show.
Having worked on these videos, I learned a good amount about filming, editing, improv and serial storytelling. If I could, I would go back and write and plan more for each show. I wouldn't just separate huge chunks of filming into small episodes, but have a basic outline for each segment. While some episodes are strong, others are fillers at best. Some run too long and others aren't as funny as they should be.
I wish I could go back and film with an HD camera. Filming in a basement was was fun, but some episodes are darker than they should be. Oh, how I wish I could go back and color correct all my old videos!
Other things I would fix or strengthen would be to create a balanced and stable friendship between Brendan and myself. I think it works at times, but it gets a bit one sided and mean at times. I would probably include actually zombies, have us leave the basement every now and then, and bring in one or two other people if I could. I also wish I had a better haircut in these episodes. It kills me to have the problem hair for the whole thing.
In the end, we had a total of twenty-eight webisodes. Near the end of posting the whole series, I knew I needed to end it. Knowing nobody wins during a zombie apocalypse, I took a single frame of the empty chairs and kept it going for the whole episode, only to have the camera run out of power. It gave me the chance to say the series was done and Eric and Brendan were dead, but we could always come back if we had to. I'm glad we didn't.
Perhaps, if we had been more planned, it would have been better. But I was still proud of what we had and the final product. It taught me a great deal about this sort of work and helped my future videos be better. My other improvised supernatural series, Ghost Hunter Confessions, is flawed in different ways, but was helped by the mistakes and lessons I learned with my zombie blog.
I'm also glad to know I got to it right before the zombie fad hit full steam. The series might not be popular, but it saw the future. Now, I'm ready for the genre to disappear and take a long sleep, but at the time, it was fun to be part of it. If I ever return to the idea, it would be in a whole new format, but that's for the future to work out. For now, I'm happy to just reminisce and move onto the next project.