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Hide and Creep: Behind the Undead
© Kenn McCracken, Bryan Crowson, Kenneth Carter
May 10, 2006

The tongue-in-cheek zombie flick Hide and Creep (TV Guide calls it "delightfully cockamamy") was filmed in Alabama, the home state of a chunk of the RevolutionSF staff. In fact, part of it was filmed about five miles from my mom's house. Friends of ours filmed it and acted in it, and a flesh-ripping good time was had. So we asked them to talk about it. We think it's fun and we think you will, too.

Hide and Creep gets its world cable television premiere May 11 on the SciFi channel at 7 p.m., EST. That's right -- our friends and Starbuck, just two peas in a pod.

—Joe Crowe

Devil Took the Wheel
by Kenn McCracken

If there's one thing that stands out in my head about the days I spent on the sets of Hide and Creep, it's the cold. I remember standing in the cemetary just outside of Montevallo, Alabama, in particular, filming the scenes that feature the first meeting of Chuck, Chris, Michael, and the mysterious government agent F.

These scenes, along with others, spotlight Michael naked (having lost his pants in what may or may not have been an alien abduction the night prior), and we didn't have any sort of budget on this film. No special effects, no body doubles -- that's really Michael Shelton naked on screen.


RevolutionSF alumnus Kenn McCracken, coming to a SciFi Channel near you.
Here's a behind-the-scenes factoid to keep in mind when you watch the movie: It was around 20 degrees the day we shot those scenes. I was suffering from the peak of peripheral neuropathy at the time (a side effect of my CIPD, peripheral neuropathy is the loss of sensation in your extremities -- hands, feet, nose, etc.) -- walking only with the aid of a cane, since I couldn't feel when my feet had hit the ground and thus was prone to falling down a lot -- and within an hour, I could feel (through two pairs of socks, heavy boots, and nerves that worked as well as George Lucas' idea of prequels) the pain of the cold.

All this to say: Don't be too hard on Michael.

I had worked with directors Chance Shirley and Chuck Hartsell before, doing the score for their short film The Seven Year Switch; they, in turn, were kind enough to kick start my filmmaking resume by providing invaluable assistance with the making of my first short, Goodnight Moon. And that's the way the Birmingham film scene is -- lots of people with varying abilities and degrees of experience, pitching in to help out other people of varying abilities and degrees of experience.

The Crewless Productions group -- Chance, his wife Stacey, and Chuck -- had shot a couple of shorts prior to the undertaking of H&C, and so they knew what was coming; they're not called Crewless for nothing, and that's one of the reasons that working with them is so rewarding. Keep in mind that a big-budget film shoot is a unionized affair of specialties: Everyone has one job and one job only. Costumes, set, direction, camera. A small-budget independent film, on the other hand, has no such room for titles, and it's nice to see the director and producer doing the grunt work as much as anyone else.

My credit on H&C is for "Boom Operator" (guy who holds the microphone just out of frame) and "Sound Mixer" (which is misleading, since I didn't actually do any mixing that I can recall); I also knew in advance that I would have a small role in the film, as Chance had written myself and my (now ex) wife Melissa into the script playing ever-so-slight-deviations of ourselves.

Things change, of course; Melissa ended up getting one of the starring roles, and I play the complex bit part of Kenn, a guy who goes to a church for the first time in years to borrow money and curse a lot.

(Yeah, I know. Big stretch. And I still don't pull it off very convincingly. Though I did get the best death in the entire movie, hands-down. I won't spoil it for those who haven't seen it, but I will say that if I had to choose a way to go, this would be on the list.)


Kenn suffers for his art.
Over the course of the months of shooting (mostly weekends only), I also played three different zombies, shot behind-the-scenes footage, handled props, helped recruit extras, cleaned up fake blood, recorded sound effects, cleaned up audio in post, and recorded the soundtrack for the film with the Exhibit(s).

And everything I did, Chance did, too, and then some, as did Stacey, and Chuck, and everyone else involved with the film. It's nice to be a part of creative ventures where no one is a diva, and everyone involved is ready and willing to do any job (no matter how mundane or banal) to get the best end result possible.

All the hard work paid off. Hide and Creep debuted to a huge crowd at the opening night of the 2004 Sidewalk Film Festival, and has since gotten DVD distribution (there's something slightly surreal about popping in to a Blockbuster in Chicago and seeing your movie on the shelf), made it to tens if not twenties of Netflix queues across the world, and gotten reviews that range from scathing (those people just don't get it) to painfully flattering (those people got it -- it being the cash I and others sent along with the review copies). None of us got rich off of the movie, but that was never the point (at least, not for most of us).

In the end, we helped Chance and Chuck and Stacey make their first feature film -- and as a short filmmaker, I'll be quick to point out that's a huge accomplishment, in and of itself. That the film is fun to watch, even after spending as much time as we all did reading and rereading subsequent drafts of the script, getting up at 4:30 a.m. (after playing gigs until 2 a.m. the night before) to drive fifty miles to backwoods Alabama locations in sometimes brutal cold, and watching edit after edit of the movie; that's a miracle.

Not quite on par with coming back from the dead, but hey -- at least none of us have a hunger for human flesh.

Not one that's associated with being undead, at least.

I Was A Middle-Aged Gazebo Zombie
By Kenneth Carter

My ex-wife had always said I was dead inside. Now was my chance to finally prove it. My friend Chuck Hartsell was making a movie. But not just any movie. He was making a zombie movie named Hide and Creep.

He called me up and told me he had the perfect part for me to play -- the pivotal role of a "Gazebo Zombie."

Needless to say, I was a more than a little apprehensive about taking on such an important part. Could I pull it off? What would be my motivation? Would there be snacks?

I immediately began to piece together my character. I found some old clothes and shredded them. After all, I wasn't going to be just some run-of-the-mill gazebo zombie. In my mind, my off-screen transformation into a flesh-eating supernatural creature would have come at great anguish and pain.

I arrived at a small business in Leeds near dusk. The scene was to take place outside the Thorsby Police Department (for which the small business was doubling). As I prepared myself inwardly, I was also transformed outwardly. White makeup was applied to my face. More black makeup turned my eyes into lifeless pits. And then, I was splashed and slathered with fake blood. I would have thought it too cool, but I was already darkening my soul with the single-minded directive of the living dead.

As my fellow gazebo zombies and I slowly marched beneath a, well, a gazebo, my face remained blank despite the sudden epiphany of how my character was named.

My scene comes at the climax of the movie. At the time where all is revealed -- the moment the protagonists realize how to defeat the evil, undead horde.

But try not to clutter your head too much with such revelatory thoughts, or you'll miss my big scene.

Oh yeah, and don't blink either.

Behind the Scenes with "Doug the Bartender"
by Bryan Crowson

I stood behind the bar with a dishrag and a pistol close at hand -- tools of the trade for a bartender. I searched the depths of my soul for my motivation . . . yes, there it is, the inner bartender that lies deep within the psyche.

I had shed the trappings of my normal self and become "Doug the Bartender," a man who believes unflinchingly in the God-given rights to drink, watch TV and bear arms. It was my first step into a larger world, the chance to practice my craft before the camera for the filming of Hide and Creep.

My theatrical experience was finally paying off. I earned the trophies for of "Best Actor" in both the junior and senior class plays in 1980 and 1981 at Bibb County High School, with all the respect and acclaim that come with the title. I took an acting class at Auburn University from a teacher who had previously taught Victoria Jackson, but this sullen thespian failed to recognize my native talent. Consequently, I was discouraged, and my yearning for the stage had lain dormant for more than 20 years.

Then my friend Chuck Hartsell, one of the driving forces behind Hide and Creep, invited me to be an extra in the film. I showed up on a Sunday at a Fultondale bar to film a scene. Another friend of mine and Chuck's, Shawn Ryan, was to be in the scene, too.

Then an opportunity arrived like a free beer: The dude who was supposed to play Doug the Bartender didn't show up. Chuck put two pages of script into my hands.


RevolutionSF contributor Bryan Crowson makes his mark on Tinseltown. (Fultondale, anyway.)
Could I learn two pages of dialogue in 20 minutes? You bet I could. I began reading, although I was somewhat distracted by the spectacle of scantily clad women being adorned with ghoulish zombie makeup.

We were in position. Me behind the bar. The scantily clad barmaid standing nearby. Shawn, who had lived the life of "Man at Bar" and was no stranger to his character's wants and needs, wore his role like a glove. He stared, mesmerized and unblinking, at the fetching barmaid.

Action! I slid into character and performed my part. I even interpreted the role and ad-libbed a bit, deliberately mispronouncing "ak-ee-hol" as I thought Doug might for comic effect. The directors seemed to like it and didn't object. They really knew how to get the best out of their actors.

My only regret was that I was unable to hang around for a later scene and be one of the men devoured by topless zombie women in the bar. It remains one of my goals, as an actor.

I hope the Sci-Fi Channel doesn't delete my scene when Hide and Creep is on television Thursday night, because of the scantily clad barmaid. If they do, you can still see my compelling performance by renting or buying the movie. Just tell them Doug sent you.

See co-director Chance Shirley's account of casting me as Doug here.


 
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