Last year, when a good friend of ours told us he was making a zombie film and needed extras to play the part, both myself and my husband jumped at the opportunity to be daubed in corpse paint.
A little bit of background: Both my husband and I are fans of zombie movies. Our idea of the ultimate in Friday evening entertainment is finding the trashiest B-grade horror film, especially if it features zombies, then vegging out at home.
My husband also has this, erm... quirk. He knows it freaks me out when he pretends to be a shambling undead corpse, and he chases me about the house, delighting in my screams of anguish.
So... on Saturday evening, Thomas and I willingly allowed a bunch of makeup artists to apply greasepaint and fake gore, then shambled about the location for that night's shooting, from midnight to about 3.30am.
There's something so liberating about wearing makeup, even if one is made up to look like the undead. It's almost as if one is able to draw on the persona of the character you are pretending to be. When the time came and the director shouted "Action!" Nerine didn't exist anymore. It was as if a fog shrouded my critical thinking and I was that bloodthirsty, gorey creature out for a good night's killing.
A lot of the time we stood around doing nothing, but there were those priceless moments when we were in full swing and, I can tell you this much, it was intensely liberating.
Afterward, the lead actress approached me to tell me that we were the best zombies she'd had the "pleasure" of working with during the shoot. She'd been genuinely afraid. This was echoed later when the director called to thank us for our time. He'd seen that Thomas and I were really good... zombies. (Errr, should I take that as a compliment?)
Thomas told me later this was one of the few times he didn't need to act.
Oh, my... (What have I married?)
But what I'd like to get at is when writing some creature or being that is totally alien, it is vital that an author shove aside those human thoughts and emotions, and really get into the creature's head.
Feel the beast, and the madness that lurks and itches just beneath the skin, and let it out when creating prose. This experience of being able to step outside one's self into a totally alien environment, if translated, will succeed in showing readers (or an audience) another world, and it will come across as authentic.
Of course it's all make-believe but hell, it's sometimes fun being scared.
A little epilogue... Thomas and I had nowhere to get cleaned up after the shoot. We had a 30km drive back to the far south peninsula and I was so relieved there were no road blocks set up. I had this horror of explaining to a police officer what was really going on behind the red corn syrup and greasepaint.
For anyone curious to know a little more about the indie horror movie that's currently being filmed in Cape Town, South Africa, go check out: