Monday, October 20, 2014

Two Tickets For... Visits the 2014 Atlanta Walker Stalker Con: Greg Nicotero (Part 2)

Andrew: Hello dear readers! This past Saturday, Sarah and I were able to attend the 2014 Atlanta Walker Stalker Con, a horror/sci-fi convention focused primarily on the hit AMC show The Walking Dead. This post is the second half of our coverage of The Walking Dead executive producer/director/special makeup effects supervisor Greg Nicotero's panel. If you missed the first half, you can read it HERE


- A fan asked about Nicotero's preparation when he directs an episode and about AMC's notoriously stingy budgetary concerns. He explains that for season premieres, mid-season finales, mid-season premieres and season finales directors are given nine days to shoot. Nicotero says he traditionally gets his copy of the script, will jot down his own notes, and then storyboards how he wants to shoot scenes. Nicotero claims episode 9 of this season, which he directed, is one of the best they've ever done, that he can't wait until the audience can see it in February, and that some scenes ended up exactly as he had storyboarded it earlier that week.

Nicotero followed this up by telling an anecdote of one particular episode he directed where he neglected to make his shot list upon originally receiving the script like normal, and how he waited until the morning of shooting to hastily make his "sh*tty shot list" and how Andrew Lincoln came up to him as he was doing so and gave him crap for doing it right before shooting that day's footage.

- A fan asked Nicotero if he has nightmares, and if so, what are they about? Nicotero answers that he does have nightmares, and when he does they're about his kids, because they're back in Los Angeles while he's in Atlanta and he worries about them. He said he'll wake up from a nightmare and call his wife to make sure they're okay, to which his wife will confirm they're just fine and then chastises him for waking her up at 5:00am her time.

Nicotero continued talking about his kids, explaining that they were 5 years old when the show started, and that they've played with tons of creepy things their father has made for the show, such as the zombie heads in The Governor's apartment. He also joked that when his son goes off to college "He'll be like, 'My dad worked on The Walking Dead. I know Norman Reedus.' He's gonna get LAID!" This obviously got tons of laughter from the crowd.

The Walking Dead executive producer/director/special makeup effects supervisor Greg Nicotero explains to his panel's crowd how he and the show-runners look at the show and feel a responsibility to the audience to do fresh things.
Photo by Sarah Keck/Two Tickets For...

- A fan asked if the rate at which the zombies decay on the show will eventually hit the point where they're all completely decayed, unmovable and non-threats to the characters. "They'll never fall apart," Nicotero said. "I just want to give you guys something cool to look at."

Nicotero followed up on this by discussing how he and the show-runners look at the show, telling a story of exec producer Scott Gimple saying to Nicotero recently, "You told me 2 or 3 years ago that we have a responsibility to continue to up our game on the show. And you were absolutely right."

Nicotero said, "We don't want to repeat gags, we don't want to repeat character beats…we have a responsibility to you to keep it fresh." When he mentions that the season 5 premiere had 22 million viewers when you include DVR watchers, he said of the pressure, "It's hard! (But) we do it cuz it's what the show deserves."

- I missed what prompted this part of the discussion, but Nicotero brought up a moment in the season premiere that he was warned was almost too much - and that was the scene where the Terminus guy wearing a Detroit Tigers hat had his hands around Baby Judith's neck.

Nicotero said he was a little concerned about the scene, including the logistics of it, but once they put the baby who played Judith in that scene in the cooler she immediately started crying because she hated it so much. "She started crying and I was like, 'Let's start rolling!!!'" But because the actual hands in the shot are those of the infant's father, the baby started to calm down at the touch of her father, so they were only able to get their shot in one take. Nicotero says the baby started looking around all chill, and when he saw her looking around he told the actor to hold up the fake knife he was holding into the camera frame, and when he did the baby immediately looked right at it, and Nicotero got an improvised shot that made it into the episode.

- A fan asked how many gallons of fake blood they used in the premiere. While Nicotero didn't specifically answer how many was used in the premiere, he did say, "We use a lot. We did an episode were we used about 150 gallons, but on average we use 20 gallons an episode."

- A fan and aspiring screenwriter asked for any advice coming from a director, to which Nicotero suggested the young man check out a website called Drew's Script-o-rama, where there are tons of actual film scripts you can view. He suggested the fan check out those scripts and see how they're different than writing a short story or prose. We checked out the website and it's pretty neat. TONS of scripts. Definitely worth checking out.

- A fan asked Nicotero about his relationship with fellow Hollywood makeup/special effects legend Rob Bottin (who did the makeup/special effects on one of my all-time favorite horror films, John Carpenter's The Thing). Nicotero mentioned that he had dinner with Bottin about 3 years ago and gushed that, "He's such an amazing, ingenious guy." 

Nicotero told a story of that dinner where Bottin explained a technique he had used to film a werewolf transformation that he described as "an intermediate process." Bottin had a particularly rigged lamp for the shot that gave off certain light, and he would move the lamp away and then back in the shot, and while doing so he would take the actors out of the frame and add more makeup. Doing this technique he was able to make his transformation all in one shot.

Nicotero said that with computers and digital technology it's easier to make things like that, but "If you watch The Thing or Aliens, those are real things, miniatures or guys in suits." He says while they use digital effects for some things now, he misses the days "When you agonized over 'How are we going to do this?!'"

This zombie from the show's pilot, whom Nicotero has dubbed "Bicycle Girl," is his all-time favorite of series so far. To achieve the missing legs, they had the actress wear blue stockings that were digitally erased.

- What has been Nicotero's favorite zombie they've created on the show? The female half-zombie Rick comes across in a park in the show's pilot, whom he refers to as "Bicycle Girl." "That was our first zombie out of the gates, we had to capture AMC's imagination," he said. Nicotero went on to explain that they originally were going to dig a hole in the park's ground and bury her legs, but they weren't allowed to do so. Instead they put blue stockings on her legs and digitally erased them.

- A 7-year-old girl named Brooke asked Nicotero where they get the fake arms and other body parts they use on the show. He explained to her that he has a crew back in Los Angeles that make the parts out of rubber and ship them to the set in Georgia. After finishing his answer, Nicotero asked the girl if she watches the show. She does. Then he asks her if the show scares her, to which she truthfully answered, "Not really." This response garners laughs from the whole crowd and prompts Nicotero to cry, "Then I've failed you! My sole goal now is to scare the heck out of you."

A: Overall, I'd say that the Nicotero panel was my favorite of the day simply because of all the detail he went into. It doesn't hurt that I've been a fan of his work in film since I was a child, so to listen to him talk about his craft in person was a real treat.

Sarah: It was a great panel, and a funny one, too! We'll share more about Greg Nicotero and our experience with him in another post later this week, so keep an eye out for that one! Tomorrow we'll be posting our coverage of what was definitely the most anticipated panel of the day, the "Bromance" panel with Andrew Lincoln and Norman Reedus!

A: So come on back tomorrow to check that one out! And if you missed the first part of our Nicotero coverage or our Introduction to the Walker Stalker Con, just click on the links below! And as always, thanks for reading!

More Coverage from Two Tickets For…'s Trip to Walker Stalker Con:
 - Walker Stalker Con Introduction
 - Greg Nicotero Panel, Part 1

Photo Courtesy: AMC

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