My Awful Experiences During the Making of Fallen Soldiers: A Guest Post by Gavin G. Smith

We are delighted to welcome Gavin G. Smith back to the Gollancz Blog. Gavin G. Smith is the author of many brilliant SF books, most recently A Quantum Mythology. But this is not a blog post about Gavin G. Smith author, this is a blog post about Gavin G. Smith zombie. 

My Awful Experiences During the Making of Fallen Soldiers

(Or the misadventures of a hapless author at the hands of evil film makers.)

So I’m in a Napoleonic zombie film.  I didn’t mean to be.  This is how it happened.

This is Bill Thomas:

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Sorry, that’s Bill Thomas dressed as a giant cow man (we shouldn’t judge).  This is Bill Thomas: bill 2

He’s the one with the beard.  I’m assuming he’s directing in this picture but I haven’t ruled out time travel.  When he’s not dressed as a minotaur Bill is a film and TV director.  He started his career in film by setting fire to himself on the top of the Trocadero in London (this isn’t entirely true but we shouldn’t let things like truth get in the way of a good story).  Since then he has worked on numerous films including a number of the Harry Potter series and (sadly) the new Star Wars movie.  Bill’s first feature film Fallen Soldiers is out on DVD on Monday the 27th July.

This is Keira Gould:


Kiera was the First Assistant Director on Fallen Soldiers and one of the more violent zombies.  She has worked as an action performer, and in various other roles in front of, and behind the camera on films like Captain America: The First Avenger, The Dark Knight Rises (or Bane Was Right! as I like to call it), Rush and Thor: the Dark World.  She is also evil, which is why sometimes she looks like this:

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This is me after I foolishly turned up one weekend during the filming of Fallen Soldiers to help out:

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Everything is Kiera’s fault.  I’ve known Kiera for a number of years, and I had met Bill whilst doing event pyrotechnics, and we had worked with him doing pyro effects on a number of his short films.  Anyway hearing that Savage Media, Bill and Jason (the producer) Emery’s production company, were making a low budget horror film I cheerfully offered to help during a free weekend.  By help I meant do a bit of fetching and carrying.  ‘Pon turning up at the secret filming location (a farm in picturesque Buckinghamshire) I was met by 1st AD Kiera.  I hadn’t even gotten out of my car when she informed me that a number of the extras hadn’t turned up and I was going to be in a film.  Protestations that I had failed my GCSE drama exam fell upon deaf ears and I was sent to costume and makeup.

Day 1 found me as part of a French cannon crew getting beaten up and then killed by Matthew Neal, who plays the hero of the peace, John Cross.  Now I’m assuming if you’d been trained in stage fighting then a fight scene feels a lot less like actually being beaten up.  I’ve not been trained in stage fighting.  It felt a lot like getting beaten up and bounced off the hard, cold, unforgiving ground, with the added bonus of it happening take-after-take. Everyone else involved being at least ten years younger and a lot fitter than me didn’t help either.  I was an aching mess by the end of the day.

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 (Above: Shit was actually blowing up on this set!)

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 (Above: Jon Lee Pellet, Barnsley’s answer to Marlon Brando?)


After a night sharing the floor (No caravan?  I’m a published author goddamnit!  This doesn’t happen to Stephen King when he cameos!) with Jon Lee Pellet, who plays Hardy, Day 2 found me a physical, mental, emotional and possibly psychological wreck,  and began with the following conversation:

Bill: Hey Gav you’re comfortable being around explosives, right?

Gavin: Er…  (Nowadays my answer to this question is an emphatic no delivered without hesitation!)

Bill:  Cool, go and get dressed as Iron Dragoon and stand in front of that wagon full of explosives that we’re about to blow up.

Me:  Wait….what!?!

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I don’t think this picture quite does credit to the level of terror I was feeling at the time.  Let me explain: the gag was a wagonload of gunpowder getting hit be a cannon.  Boom!  The wagon goes up.  I am the hapless Iron Dragoon standing next to the wagon.  At the shout of action I run away and the wagon explodes.  I am, or certainly I was at the time, comfortable working with explosives and felt perfectly safe with them.  The visual effects technician on the film was a guy called Nick Lewis who I knew and had worked with before.  Now the rational part of me knew that I was in good hands.  Nick is very good at his job and I trust him implicitly (If I hadn’t I wouldn’t have done it.).  The less rational part of me was a bit more: I’M STANDING WITH MY BACK TO A WAGON FULL OF EXPLOSIVES!  And whilst you’re waiting for action to be called you have a lot of time to entertain such thoughts.  You’d pretty much have to be Daredevil for this not to bother you.  Bill shouted the A in action and by the time he reached the N I was half way across the field.

It was a broken and frightened man who went to beg the 1st AD to be allowed to go home that evening.

Anyway Fallen Soldiers is out on Monday the 27th of July and I think you should buy it, if for no other reason than to validate my suffering.  Actually if Sharpe meets Dawn of the Dead is your sort of thing then give it a go, it’s a brilliant film, and I’m in it.  Did I mention that…?

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Gavin G. Smith is the Dundee-born author of the hard edged, action-packed SF novels VeteranWar in HeavenThe Age of Scorpio and A Quantum Mythology, as well as the short story collection Crysis Escalation. He has collaborated with Stephen Deas as the composite personality Gavin Deas and co-written Elite: Wanted, and the shared world series Empires: Infiltration and Empires: Extraction. You can find out more about Gavin by visiting his website or following him on Twitter @gavingsmith