Its official, I (Emma, pictured below) have been infected by the progenitor virus well and truly! Tasked with hunting down willing humans for their flesh. It has now become an addiction, but how did I end up here?
I have been a massive fan of scare attractions since my first visit to Alton Towers Scarefest in 2012. I can still recall the feeling of squeezing through the “Carnival of Screams” and running through the “Zombies!” Scare Zone in sheer panic. Someone suggested I should be on the other side, scaring the customers instead. I liked the sound of that! However I am 100% no professional actor, I got a D in drama GCSE so had given up acting way back then! Surely I wouldn't be given the opportunity with such a limited background, but what's a girl to lose?
So off I head to auditions, knowing very little at all about scare acting, but with a shed load of enthusiasm. I got an email to say I was in! I was so surprised and a celebratory happy dance ensued as I showed my family (who think I'm super weird at this point). From the first night, when a customer fell flat on their back as I turned to scare them, I knew this was the most fun and rewarding job I would ever have. From there I have now completed four seasons scare acting and have taken on various roles such as 'serial killer hairdresser' and 'soul extraction voodooist' at the Xtreme Scream Park.
It's December 2019 and whilst everyone else is getting excited about Christmas, I'm mourning the end of the Halloween season. Another ten months to go before I get to scare the crap out of someone! Then January comes around, which is the most boring of months in this industry, and up pops a post on my Facebook feed from Zombie Infection are recruiting for the The Factory 2,0 at Sheffield. Am I applying? Don't think I even thought about it 2 seconds before clicking on “Apply now”.
Perfect! Scaring year round plus Zombies? Yes please, get me to this Audition Stat! Off I went to the Magna Science Adventure Centre. The sky was an ominous grey and the building stood tall with its creepy sounds echoing across the car park. This place is already decidedly awesome before I've even found the entrance.
We were greeted by a few lovely crew members who gave us numbers. (I got given number 1 = instant Panic!!). Then we met Greg Rudman the Director and immediately you can see the passion this guy has for Zombie Infection - Read his latest blog about the Corona Virus here. After a quick tour of this awesome venue we met some of the other actors showed us how to act like a Zombie and apply makeup. I have never felt so welcomed by such a friendly bunch of people. Greg allowed us to stay and try it out for ourselves. Instantly I was hooked! After 2 hours I was still buzzing and ready to go again but it was sadly time to go home.
A week later (which felt like a month) I received a message to say I had been selected to join the Crew at Zombie Infection Experience - Sheffield. Which prompted an even more enthusiastic Happy Dance (my family have started to accept my crazyness in recent years). With my first shift booked in now its time to prepare..
First things first, I need a kick-ass Zombie costume. But what will my character be wearing when the apocalypse kicks off? Now I do have experience creating characters, however I have a lot to learn about the Zombie Universe and so I decide my initial zombie character will be myself, as if the apocalypse was gong to happen today. Off down the charity shop and I have a nice new pair of jeans, shirt and jumper which are almost too nice to spoil. But to hell with that, I'm not the fastest runner, but I damn sure would've taken a few zombies out before I inevitably get eaten. Hence my clothing needs to reflect this, with some nice rips and dirt from climbing the garden fence, and the blood of the 3 zombies I shot trying to get milk from the local Asda. This is where a cheese-grater, some left over cold coffee (I'm a mum, there's always cold coffee about) and a quick mix of some old costume blood with black food colouring comes in handy. Stick it out on the washing line to dry for a bit (god knows what the neighbors think, but who cares?) and done.
Let's have a quick browse of YouTube and see what we can learn about Sfx Zombie Makeup. There's so many videos on there I resurface 2 hours later deciding latex is awesome and there's no need to paint yourself green like Shrek.
Of course I also need some of those cool zombie contact lenses all infected are asked to atleast try. It was a slight mission itself as I'm very short sighted and wear glasses, but I was so impressed with them when they arrived. The flooring at Sheffield Magna Centre is not the gentlest on the knees, but after being thought how to fall correctly and safe;y all I needed was some knee pads and that was sorted!.
Next, lets read the script so I know where I need to be. The Sheffield 2.0 event is the first in the "Zombie Infection Universe" story as it follows the creation of a new "Quarantine Zone". Click here to check out the full synopsis for the Factory 2.0 Zombie Experience in Sheffield.
Chuck that all in a bag with some energy drinks, water and snacks and I'm ready to go.
The Magna Science Centre looks and sounds super creepy upon arrival. Instantly love this group of guys, everyone helps carry all the various kit up to the safe room and pitches in getting all the equipment ready. It's time to get Zombified and get my scare hat on!
So you’d think I’d be a natural due to my background and make the transition from a scare maze to a zombie experience with very little effort. You couldn’t be more wrong! Acting for a Zombie Experience is on a whole new level compared to acting in Scare Attractions and here’s why.
So if you’ve ever visited a “Scare Maze”, you will pretty soon realise that they are not actually mazes at all. The are labyrinths. You go in the entrance, you go round in one direction and come out the exit. (Yes, I am aware there are a few out there were you do split up and go different routes, but you still end up in the same place at one point or another). Along the route you will encounter different sets and discover new Characters who will perform a set scare, mostly jump scares. This makes the job of a Scare Actor in an attraction relatively simple. Usually you will have a different lines so you aren’t repeating yourself 100 times. You will direct your scare at different people in the group each time to get varying reactions. It’s all in the timing of the scare. The most improvising you’ll actually do is if you get a customer who likes to have a bit of banter with the actors. You reset your scare and off you go again with the next group which will appear in the next 15 seconds or so from the same direction the last group did.
So the major difference here is that the Magna Centre is not a labyrinth. Its a HUGE building with multiple floors. Sounds echo from one end of the enormous factory walkway to the other (very handy for building atmosphere). From the very top floor which houses an enormous blimp you can see right down four levels to the bottom cave-like tunnels. Staying in character is of very high importance. The customers could be coming from any direction and you need to hunt them down. There is no set scares. You need to be constantly observing and listening to where the customers are, and use this, with the surroundings you have, to create your own jump scares. Improvisation is key. Working in teams is essential, you can use another zombie to distract from your jump scare and vice-versa. You also need to communicate with each other as to where customers are and ensure all bases are covered. And whilst that all sounds much more complicated, its a hell of a lot more fun!
So much fun that I went back and did it all again the next evening. Those stairs are a killer! Greg has given us so much insight into how we can improve and I'm so excited to act on it for next one. Now I'm off to finish watching this season of Black Summer on Netflix (for research purposes, I promise!) and see if these Zombies can teach me a thing or two. Whilst prepping some new zombie clothes ready for my next Zombie Experience event at "The Dungeon" at the famous York Dungeons!
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