Zombies Anyone?


Starting the day! Zombie’s ahoy!

Whenever I teach, whether it be at Capilano University or any other spot, I tell the students to keep an eye on their local message boards. There are always people that need help with their film projects. It could be a director, a producer or a costume designer trying to establish themselves with an independent feature, a short or a music video. Whatever the reason and whatever the project, these are great opportunities to learn and hone the many different skills we use in our jobs… and to build your resume.

These are often volunteer positions and usually hard work… but I guarantee everything you do will be truly appreciated.

Case in point; just before I left Vancouver to come to my current show in Calgary, I helped a friend who wrote, produced and is staring in her one-woman show called, Dusty Shoes. She needed a bouffon style costume. On the weekends and between work projects I spent some time with her and her director. We discussed the script and what she needed in a costume. This outfit was more than just a costume for her, it was to be the life representation of her alter-ego character Madame Rouge, and she hoped that we could create something special. My friend now has a costume that she and Madame Rouge are both very happy with… and more importantly, because we took the time to do it right and from the heart, the costume is now integral to the character and the show.


Sharing stage with Trilby, Madame Rogue Steps in tune.

What did I get out of volunteering to build this costume? Plenty.

It has been years since I have had the opportunity to build something this elaborate. Being on set allows me to organize, coordinate, work with many costumes and actors, but I don’t get much of a chance to sew. It felt so great to hunt for the fabric, build the body structure and drape dresses. My stitching fingers where a little rusty! So I added a little oil and dug in… it was fabulous! It was such a pleasure to be able to spend some time creating life out of a flat piece of fabric again.


My friend, Kevin Harrison, helping me build the body structure for Madame Rouge, Bottom’s up!


She is ready for her close up! Looking marvelous Madame!

My reward; the delight of my friend Trilby… and her audiences at the Fringe Festivals!


On stage in all her glory!

Volunteering can be about more than getting a credit on your resume, or learning something new. It can also be about dusting off some closeted skills or promoting what other talents you have hidden away.

A few weeks ago while I was driving to Calgary, I was looking at the stunning scenery and I thought to myself, ‘I should go see the Hoodoos. I haven’t been there since I was a kid.’ The other day I was talking to one of our young costumers and she mentioned that she was designing a Zombie movie, “Breakdown Lane” this weekend… and they’re shooting their big scene on Saturday in the Hoodoos! Humm, fate?


Drumheller, Stunning!

I jumped at the chance and volunteered. I mean really I couldn’t pass up Zombies and Hoodoos!

So yesterday, after a full week of work, I packed my kit into my car and drove two hours northeast of Calgary to help create zombies.


Odessa getting ready for the Zombie attack!

It was a ton of work. There was only Odessa and myself. (Odessa is the costume designer… and entire Costume Department!) We dirtied, shredded and distressed 154 people in two and half hours. I was covered in breakdown powders, oil and coffee (used that as vomit) and had a wonderful time.


Volunteers are welcome at any age, at any time. I am sure that making mommy dirty… and her not getting mad… is a first and a last!

All the crew there were volunteering; wardrobe, makeup, PA’s and all the background Zombies. There were entire families that came and camped for the weekend just so that they could be in the movie. Everybody was so excited! Many had come in with their clothing already ripped, dirty and bloody. I loved finding out how they made their blood and what they used for their breakdown. Even though the lineups for all of the Zombies to get hair, makeup and costumed were very long, a positive atmosphere stayed throughout the day. Everybody finally made it to set and had a great time.


Makeup getting down to the dirty business!

So again, what did I get from a long day of being covered in filth after a long week of working on another show?


Our first shot of the day! My little helper is on camera with his mother!

I was reminded that this is fun. People do this work because they love movies and are really excited to be apart of them. It also feels nice to be thanked so many times from different people just for showing up. All I did was volunteer a few hours of my day off, but to the producer, director and designer of the show… who put there hearts and souls into this project… the little bit of time I gave made a big difference.


We did it! On camera and looking good! ‘Breakdown Lane’
Director: Bob Schultz, Producer: Signe Olynyk

Volunteering can make a difference to you and to others in so many ways. If you have the chance… jump at it! Try out new skills, re-establish old skills and share what you can with others.

Who knows what fabulous opportunity could be waiting for you around the next corner… Zombies anyone?


Had to finish with a shot of my little helper! Starting to Volunteer early!

5 thoughts on “Zombies Anyone?

  1. Dawn, I can’t thank you enough for your collaboration, creation, and amazing talent. Your costume, Madame Rouge, is KEY to my performance. We have had 5 shows, and it’s been a big success. Last night someone stopped me and said she was amazed at the outfit. I LOVE it. You’re with me all the time. I’m glad you enjoyed the process. I’m very fortunate. 🙂 Onto Edmonton Fringe!

  2. Wow, you are the best costumer EVER!!!!! I love the Madame Rouge costume – nice work!!! So nice that you volunteer so much even when you are working all the time! How do you have the energy???? And I can’t believe you’re in Calgary + Jeff + I haven’t seen you yet! It’s been a crazy busy summer that is going by too fast!

    • The days just seem to fly by!! It is the last few days before camera. Fittings, productions meeting, tech scout, dying, breakdown, fittings, dying….oh dear I am beginning to repeat myself!! You get it! Lets get together soon!! Looking forward to some fabulous costumer stories to share!!

  3. Dawn, thank you so much for coming out to help with our zombie thriller, ‘Breakdown Lane’. We had more than 150 zombies to costume, bus to set, and put into full zombie makeup and I don’t know how we would have done this without you or Odessa. You guys did a fantastic job! Thank you so much for supporting indie film, and helping to zombify our awesome hordes of zombies! Awesome work – thank you again for all your help!

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