Tag Archives: The Walking Dead

Special Effects Wizard Greg Nicotero on The Walking Dead and Other Projects

Special Effects Wizard Greg Nicotero, appearing at the Walker Stalkers conference, Atlanta, Georgia November 2, 2013

Special effects artist Greg Nicotero, appearing at the Walker Stalkers conference, Atlanta, Georgia November 2, 2013

The Walking Dead producer Greg Nicotero sat for a panel discussion at the Westin Peachtree Plaza in Atlanta, Georgia, November 2, 2013 at Walker Stalkers Con, a gathering of fans of the show The Walking Dead. In addition to convention organizers Eric Nordhoff and James Frazier, hundreds of fans turned out to ask him questions about his work. Following is part of that discussion. Check back for more.

Eric: Is Walking Dead the only thing that’s consuming you, or are you looking forward to something during the hiatus? Is there something that you want to kind of talk about, coming up?

Greg: Well, yeah, it’s a pretty full-time job. And actually after last year, when we went on hiatus, we shot til December 1 last year, and then we edited the rest of season 3, and then we opened the writers’ room in January. So Walking Dead is kind of a full time job, you know, all the guys that work here, we go back to KNB [the special effects company he founded in 1988 — see previous post]. Last year we did Sin City 2 during the hiatus, the year before we did Django Unchained during the hiatus, (shouts) so there’s been a lot of things here and there, but then once I’m here, it’s pretty much we’re here. You know, there’s a guy named Carey Jones who runs KNB when I’m gone, and like this summer we did Spiderman and we did Transformers and we’ve done a couple of things, we did Machete Kills, and I think three people saw it (crowd goes awww) – and two of them are in this room. (laughter) Thanks, I owe you eight bucks. So it, you know, we’re going, Robert is doing a – we’re doing a From Dusk til Dawn TV series. (shouts) And it’s really, the scripts are great. We’re sort of taking the movie and stretching that concept, so they start shooting on Monday so we’re designing stuff for that. So we’ll probably all go in January down to Austin and I’ll direct a couple of those. At least one of those, for now. And then back here again. It was funny when we got renewed for season 5. I sent a note to all the actors saying congratulations, and I said “yeah, who would have thought that 29 years later, zombies are still kickin’ ass,” and I put a photo of me and Bob from Day of the Dead into the email. Just it’s like me, 20 years old, big bushy beard, like “this is great, I’m a zombie,” with Bob {Kurtzman, now a partner at KNB]. And it’s really amazing that all this time and we’re still doing what we love.

Eric: Awesome. I know you’ve brought with you some photos so we’re going to go through those. Are we going to do the webisodes?

Greg: I don’t know. We’ll go through and see –

Eric: How many of you watched the webisodes? (some shouts)

Greg: The webisodes are something that we do in between seasons. It’s like an appetizer, for when the show starts. Season 1, we did the backstory of Bicycle Girl, season 2 we had a standalone story, and then this year we had one that was a little more related to the first episode. We have two days to shoot them. We shoot them for really, virtually no money. We get great actors and it’s stories that I’ve written and they’re really fun to do, and they’re kind of fun, so maybe – they’re like 22 minutes, so we’ll see. If you guys have a lot of questions we can maybe show them later.

Greg cont’d: So what I did put together, though, it’s a little slide show. It’s very challenging in terms of releasing photos on the Internet. You know, I’m not on Twitter, I’m not on Facebook. It’s really, we’re very particular about what pictures get released. So one of the things that you guys really don’t often get is a chance to see behind-the-scenes photos. I’m one of the few people that’s allowed to have a camera on set, so I take thousands and thousands of pictures. But for this, what I wanted to do was just show you guys some pictures of some walkers and some of the guys doing the makeups that you really don’t get a chance to see. So we’ll just go and – let’s start with the first picture and then we’ll just skip through.

zombiebicyclegirl1

So of course this was season one, that’s Bicycle Girl, Melissa Cowan, that makeup was sculpted by Jaremy Aiello, I think all four of us worked on this makeup, right, Andy, Jake, and Karen. We had a front prosthetic, a back prosthetic, full arms, it really was, this was an amazing moment. You know, Frank Darabont who directed this episode and literally got the show on its feet, came over to me while we were shooting it and said to me, “this is . . . I’ve never seen anything like this.” So to be able to create this character, it really was a great group effort. And a lot of people, I think one of the biggest compliments, a lot of people said, how did you do it? Did you bury her legs? So the next photo will show you.

Bicycle Girl with blue tarp

Bicycle Girl with blue leggings on

(laughter) So when we shot it on set, that’s what it looked like. She had little blue leggings on, and the visual effects guys went in and erased her legs. Now, originally when we designed it, I wanted to bury her legs in the ground and do it like all practical, but we shot in a park, about 15 minutes from here, and they were like, “no you can’t dig a hole in the park, are you an idiot.” Well, first of all yes, and second of all, can we dig a hole. So this is what we ended up doing, and Stargate ended up erasing her legs, and so we shot elements of the bones and intestines that dragged along, and they put it together. So this was a great example of a great performer that brought the makeup to life, because you know, the guys will tell you that any makeup that you do, it’s only as good as the performer. You know, you get Mickey Rourke in Sin City, when he’s playing Marv, and he has a presence about him, but if you have people that feel inhibited by the makeup, then it doesn’t work. So one of the things that we strive to do during the show is to make sure that people really bring the characters to life.

James: But when you do a zombie like this, maybe not necessarily just Bicycle Girl, but when you’re on set and you’re creating a zombie, do you ever just like go “man, this is gonna be one of those iconic zombies – I know it’s gonna – you just see the uniqueness or something in it and you go, “this is gonna be one people talk about.”

Greg: Yeah, I think so. The interesting part is, a lot of times when the actors come into the makeup trailer, which is a tribute to these guys, it’s kind of like a blank canvas. You know, they walk in they sort of look at the face, and they kind of assess, like, oh I think I want to use this piece, or these dentures. So each zombie really is completely unique. We can bring the same actor in ten times and they will look different every single time because it’s what artist’s chair they sit in and what the artist really is able to do. On days we have 150 zombies, it’s really challenging to do a lot of makeups because we have volume, but on days we have 8, 10, 12 walkers, you can really get in and detail them out. It also has a lot to do with how they’re shot, some directors on the show tend not to shoot closeups of the walkers. Everybody always criticizes me and says well, you always have the best zombies in your episode, and I’m like, well number one, if they gave me shitty zombies then that would be bad. Oh, I just swore, sorry.

Hollywood Went Down to Georgia

Atlanta's Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre, used in The Walking Dead as the Centers for Disease Control. Photo:  http://walkingdeadlocations.com Atlanta’s Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre, used in The Walking Dead as the Centers for Disease Control. Photo: http://walkingdeadlocations.com

In prepping for this weekend’s Walker Stalkers convention I contacted Stefanie Paupeck, Communications Manager for the Georgia Department of Economic Development, to talk about how the state lures members of the entertainment industry to Georgia. Her department does a lot of hard work to bring filmmakers, TV producers, and members of the music business to the Peachtree State.

I asked Stephanie my questions via email, and she was kind enough to provide some thorough answers.

Has Atlanta seen a rise in tourist numbers or tourism dollars since The Walking Dead started airing? What are the places people are coming to see?

We have seen an increase in film-induced tourism.

To attract event more visitors interested in Georgia’s entertainment industry, the state also launched a brand new website on March 26, 2013, http://www.ComeTourGeorgia.com. The new interactive website promotes Georgia’s film and music history, film tours, Georgia-filmed productions, film locations, destinations, festivals and other events. By increasing visitation to entertainment-related destinations across the state, the website will enhance the film industry’s long-term impact on Georgia tourism.

Visitors are traveling to communities across Georgia. It is safe to say that almost every city has seen some of type of production activity. You can find movie tours in Atlanta, Senoia, Savannah, Covington, Conyers, Peachtree City and more. For example, Senoia (The Walking Dead, Driving Miss Daisy, Drop Dead Diva), Savannah (home to 10 Academy award-winning films, Forrest Gump, Midnight in the Garden of Good & Evil, Conspirator), Juliette (Fried Green Tomatoes), Covington (Vampire Diaries, In the Heat of the Night, the Dukes of Hazzard), Tybee Island (The Last Song), Jekyll Island (Legend of Bagger Vance) and many more. We anticipate an increase in visitors to Georgia when the Georgia-filmed “Hunger Games” premieres on Nov. 22.

Here are a few facts about film-induced tourism:

· Seventy-five percent of Newton County’s tourism is TV/movie related. Thousands of tourists come solely because “The Dukes of Hazzard,” “In the Heat of the Night” and “Vampire Diaries” were shot in Covington.

· The award-winning film “Fried Green Tomatoes” single-handedly revived the town of Juliette. Visitors travel from around the world to eat at the infamous Whistle Stop Café.

The real-life Whistle Stop Cafe, Juliette, GA. Photo: www.roadtripmemories.com.

The real-life Whistle Stop Cafe, Juliette, GA. Photo: http://www.roadtripmemories.com.

· And, Tybee Island saw an 11 percent increase in summer business in 2010 – thanks to the release of Disney’s “The Last Song” which was shot on the island.

· Downtown Senoia has experienced an amazing revitalization since welcoming “The Walking Dead” to this small southern town. In 1980, there were five businesses in Senoia. Today, there are 46.

I see from the website that Georgia brought in about $3.1 billion from the entertainment industry in 2012. Who benefits from those dollars? Where do they go?

Georgia-lensed productions generated an economic impact of $3.1 billion in the state during the 2012 fiscal year (July 1, 2011 – June 30, 2012), a 29% increase from FY11. The economic impact is determined based on the direct spend that each production had in Georgia. So, fiscal year 2012 saw record investment in the state by the entertainment industry, with more than $879.8 million in direct spending. The direct spend is the money that a production spends in Georgia while filming a production. Georgia was home to 333 feature films; television movies and series; commercials; and music videos that were shot across the state during FY12.

Can you describe some of the ways Georgia works to attract and aid producers to coming to the state to work?

Production companies are picking locations based on the entire package – incentives, accessibility, crew base, infrastructure and quality of life. We have it all, so it makes us the perfect filming location.

The state’s Camera Ready Community Program has been a huge asset in recruiting and supporting productions. Camera Ready was created to enhance Georgia’s statewide resources for the growing number of film and television productions. Launched in October 2010, the program now includes 142 counties across the state.

What is Georgia’s most-used filming location (or, if more than one, some of the most popular)?

Atlanta definitely has the most activity because of its proximity to the airport, soundstages and crew. However, we don’t keep a running list of percentages in each community in terms of activity. As far as the most-used filming location – it is hard to pick just one since people use sound stages, private homes or buildings, state buildings like the Georgia Archives building and such. Savannah is a popular filming destination. Our Capitol building in downtown Atlanta has been used in numerous productions. Sweetwater State Park has also become popular with filmmakers.

How long has Georgia had a specific office to attract entertainment productions to the state?

The Georgia Film Office was founded by then-Governor Jimmy Carter in 1973 due to the impact that the film “Deliverance” had in the northeast Georgia Mountains. In fact, we are celebrating our 40th anniversary this year.

More about Georgia’s entertainment-industry office here.

The Mercer Williams house, Savannah. Used in Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. Photo: http://www.city-data.com/articles/The-Mercer-Williams-House-Museum.html

The Mercer Williams house, Savannah. Used in Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. Photo: http://www.city-data.com/articles/The-Mercer-Williams-House-Museum.html