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Thursday, 05 November 2015 11:32

In YouTube sitcom, zombies take on a life of their own

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STATELINE NEWS -- Imagine living in a world where zombies walk among us, act like us and are confronted with the same day-to-day situations as we are.

Wyatt Elliott and Kris Williamson have.

Their production company, Notebook Entertainment, has created such a world. Elliott and Williamson direct and produce a monthly web series called "The Deadersons," about a city of zombies that tries to associate with a neighboring city of the living after the apocalypse. The series is inspired by the 1960s television series "The Munsters" and "The Addams Family."

"The Deadersons" can be viewed on Notebook Entertainment’s website, Notebookmovies.com, and on Notebook’s YouTube channel and Facebook page.

Williamson admits she was in a bit of a fog when she developed the idea for "The Deadersons" while lying in bed during a hospital stay.

"I was on all kinds of pain meds, and I would come in and out of consciousness and there would be a TV, and it would always be on the old TV network so I would dream in black and white. I woke up and texted (Elliott) saying wouldn’t it be awesome if there was a sitcom about a family of zombies, and we just took it from there,"

Williamson said. "(Elliott) said, ‘Well, write something and send me a script.’ So, I did and we just started to make it happen."

Elliott said even though the program is based on some 1960s series, there still are plenty of references to current pop culture, which younger audiences would appreciate.

"We have all kinds of references to movies and TV shows," Elliott said. "People relate to the ‘Munsters,’ so it’s a throwback to the 1960s with a black-and-white soundtrack. We had an episode where all the teen zombies were in detention, so it was an homage to ‘The Breakfast Club.’ People respond to that type of thing. It’s something they recognize within the new parameters we’re creating."

New episodes of the series drop online the first Sunday of each month. The first episode aired June 7, and the midseason finale, which will be a Christmas episode, is set to air in December.

Williamson said she is excited about the response the program has received.

"We figured it would take a year of ‘The Deadersons’ before anyone would start watching. Then the first episode aired, and we started getting all these calls," Williamson said. "We were mentioned on the radio on several different stations."

Elliott said several businesses have asked about doing paid commercials during the program.

The series includes a core cast of six actors who portray the Deaderson family and a friend to the daughter. The actors were found though Facebook and from in-person auditions, which were held earlier in the year.  Williamson said the actors are dedicated to the program.

"It’s a commitment right now. They’re doing it for the love of it," Williamson said. "We can’t afford to pay them right now, so they’re as dedicated as we are, which is awesome, which is what we want in our cast. Not only are they great actors, they’re very dedicated."

Eric Reed of Rockford, who portrays Donnie Deaderson, said he enjoys playing the big brother of the family.

"I like it because it’s entertaining people. The people who I work with are great. My goal is to make people laugh," Reed said. "I make my siblings’ lives miserable. (Donnie) doesn’t think about the consequences until they catch up with him. I’m kind of the comic relief of the show."

Valerie Meachum of Elgin portrays Donna Deaderson, the mother.

Meachum said her character is based on Donna Reed.

"It’s like being in an old-fashioned sitcom," Meachum said. "I grew up watching re-runs of ‘I Love Lucy’ and ‘Donna Reed.’ It’s fun for me to play the housewife. It’s a fun character, plus we’re zombies."

Meachum said she has enjoyed being involved and working with Williamson and Elliott.

"It’s always fun. Kris and Wyatt work with a skeleton budget, but they make it work. They get it done," Meachum said. "It’s an ongoing series, so the story develops as it goes along. It’s been a lot of fun."

"The Deadersons" also includes a cast of supporting actors, who often are local celebrities.

Williamson said it takes about a month to film an episode of "The Deadersons." Filming usually takes place two to three times a week.

"It really depends on our schedules and the actors’ schedules," Williamson said. "This month, I had to take 20 different people’s schedules and figure out how to film it. Everyone is in other shows, and we don’t pay them so we can’t demand that they be here. So, we have to try to work around everyone’s schedules."

The series has been filmed in several locations in northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin, including Rockford, Beloit, Roscoe, Freeport and Belvidere.

"It’s a show that’s spanning all the way across the Stateline, and it’s started to grow outward, as well, in both directions," Elliott said. "The band Sunspot from Madison wrote the original song for us that is the theme for our episodes."

Elliott said he hopes the series continues and plans to have it eventually air twice a month.

"We have found our calling, and this is definitely what we want to do," Elliott said. "‘The Deadersons,’ I think, is one of those things that’s just going to grow more. We’ve already been talking about what we’re going to do if we get picked up, because the attention is only going to keep growing."

Besides "The Deadersons," Notebook Entertainment produces other web series including "F My Life," which has about 200 episodes.

"It’s basically about anything that can go wrong in life," Elliott said. "It’s like a misery-loves-company kind of thing."

Williamson said they also produce a program called "Notebook Entertainment Weekly," which includes interviews featuring actors from "The Deadersons" and "F My Life."

Notebook Entertainment also is in the process of filming a short horror movie called "Gingerman," which is about a red-headed serial killer.

"It’s my homage to the first ‘Halloween’ movie, the first ‘Friday the 13th’ movie and the first ‘Nightmare on Elm Street,’ all the original slashers," Williamson said.

Elliott said they also have produced videos for other companies.

"If this goes the way I want it to, this could become a company to hire," Elliott said. "If somebody needs us to do something for them, we’re going to do it as long as we can fit it in our schedule. Our first big client wants us to do a Web series for them. Big things are coming."

Elliott said he has been involved with filmmaking since 2006.

"I’ve always been a creator or storyteller of some kind, whether it was drawing comic books or writing scripts," Elliott said. "I never thought I would be writing films. A friend of mine started making movies and I started watching him."

Elliott said the first film he worked on was "John Rainbow," which was a parody of John Rambo being an interior decorator.

"John Rainbow has appeared in all my films since then as an interior decorator," Elliott said. "That’s how I got started, and I never looked back. I kept making films after that. It’s my creative outlet. I’m passionate about it. I’m completely self-taught from editing to script writing to special effects. I’m getting into everything."

Williamson also describes herself as a self-taught filmmaker.

"I like anything creative, kids books, writing, drawing, I just did it," Williamson said. "In high school, I did theater. In college, I got into art. In my mid-20s, a friend of mine was making movies, and he asked me if I wanted to be in a film and it just went from there. I was looking for creativity. With (‘The Deadersons’), I get to write, I get to do the make-up, anything creative is my domain."

 

Cast

Derek Cook (David), Naperville
Valerie Meachum (Donna), Elgin
Eric Reed (Donnie). Loves Park
Jennifer Lenius (Delia). Mt. Prospect
Aaron Burleson (Dennis), Rockford
Tori Clark (Stacey), Rockford

 

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