August 27, 2009

Brain Picking: Inverview with Thea Munster (PART 2)

(organizer: Toronto Zombie Walk)

Click here for Part One of this interview

Thea Munster (pictured right) is the lead organizer of the seventh annual Toronto Zombie Walk (happening Oct 24, 2009). For September, however, she's helped organize the Toronto Zombie Walk: Special Director's Cut Edition (Sept 12)-- a zombie walk in honour and celebration of George A. Romero, featuring an appearance by the man himself to coincide with the premiere of his new film: Survival of the Dead.

In Part Two of my interview with Thea, we talk about her experiences on the set of George A. Romero's newest film and we cover my favorite subject: why zombies are awesome.

The Zed Word (ZW):
So, you got to visit the set of Diary of the Dead because of your zombie walk connections to Romero's people, but your connection to Romero didn't end there. You were actually cast as a zombie extra for his latest film, Survival of the Dead, which filmed nearby in Port Dover. How did that come about?

Thea Munster (TM):
I just wrote casting and told them about the TZW [Toronto Zombie Walk] and sent a picture of me in Zombie makeup. I was on set in Port Dover for 3 nights. I have been the hugest Romero fan since I was 12 and saw Night of the Living Dead, so it was truly one of the highlights of my life.

ZW: Were you made-up as a background zombie or a feature shot zombie?

TM: I was a background zombie. There was around 12 of us on the nights I was there, but they still spent over an hour on my makeup. I had bright orange hair at the time. They gave me a bouffant and a brown waitress costume.

All the make-up artists were amazing; the fellow who did my make up was Patrick Baxter. My whole face arms and legs were done up in air-brushed makeup, but I heard rumor that George had wanted to do grease paint makeup on zombies in the classic zombie tradition, but the idea was ixnayed.

ZW: Any interesting stories from the set?

Oh, so much! Most of the zombies in the foreground and the ones who get to be shot are stunt artists. They were missing a couple zombies, so a couple of people from our Background group got to be shot or blown up...that was really cool to watch! I always love watching how they pull off the special FX.

I was pleasantly surprised to learn that a lot of the blood spray effects used classic effect strategies with tubes, pumps and squibs, instead of digital blood in post production.

ZW: I'm very pleased to hear that. I have a strong aversion to CGI blood. It never looks right. What was the experience like shooting at the Port Dover location?

TM: First of all, the whole experience was very eerie. Everything was shot in the middle of the night. It was just starting to feel like Fall, and the nights were very long. By the end of my 3 days, I was hallucinating from tiredness, but it just went with the mood and helped me stay in character.

One morning, my friend and I were driving home from set and this woman kept cutting us off. My friend's car has tinted windows, so the other woman couldn't see in. When we pulled up at a stop light, my friend got out, ran up to the woman's car and started yelling at her through the window. The woman was terrified!!! I doubt she ever cut anyone else off again.

ZW: Ha! I've reported stories about roadsigns that warn motorists of zombies on the road, but angry zombies confronting motorists? That's a whole new danger. Do you think you'll make it into the finished film?

TM: The whole time I couldn't help feeling that my hair may have stood out a bit too much. I kept seeing the laser pointer flash on my orange bouffant, and the DOP [Director of Photography] kept referring to me as the girl with the hair..haha. So, hopefully, I'm not cut out. . . . Even if I'm not cut out, I'm sure I'll just be a speck in the background, but it was well worth every moment.

ZW: Even if you are reduced to a speck in the zombie horde, did you at least have occasion to take direction from George Romero?

TM: No. Most of the shots were very wide shots, George Romero was at least 50 feet away. He'd tell the Assistant Director what he wanted and the AD would come and tell us.

That's why I am very grateful for the time I spent on Diary of the Dead as well. For that one, I got to stand right behind him and watch him direct. And I can honestly say he is a man with a vision. He is also an incredibly nice guy who treats everyone with respect and often says "thank you" after "cut".

ZW: You already mentioned how Night of the Living Dead inspired you as a young girl, but what is it about zombies that has kept your interest?

I have always been attracted to monsters in a traditional sense. In the classic stories, they were outcasts who couldn't fit in with society. This always resonated with me. When I first saw zombies, in Night of the Living Dead, I loved that they were all different, but their strength is in their numbers. They are all individually terrifying, but walk together as a pack, in death, to eat humankind. To me, it's a really punk rock idea.

Thea Munster is the lead organizer of the Toronto Zombie Walk. Also, she is Assistant Editor on Ghostly Encounters and occasional performer for Carnival Diablo
Don't miss the very special Toronto Zombie Walk: Special Director's Cut Edition on September 12th!

VISIT for route information and start times!