"The Zombie Club" Getting Real at Bridgeport Middle School; Full Teen Cast Takes Part in Wednesday Filming

By Julie Perine on July 11, 2019 via

“The Zombie Club” is getting real at Bridgeport Middle School. Wednesday morning, the full cast of teen actors assembled at the school cafeteria as JC Films President and Executive Producer Jason Campbell brought them up to speed on this week’s shoot.
“We shoot the film out of order and because it’s been hot and we’re spending time setting up plus there’s a lot of animation, CGI (3D computer graphics used for creating special effects) and super powers, we are really behind,” he said.
But the extra time spent has been well worth it and will pay off in the end, Campbell said.
“We’re taking a lot of time on these shots and it’s going to be a good movie. You can take a camera and start filming or you can sit down, light the scene and get it just how you want it,” he said. “Our director Aayron Moore is being very meticulous and we’re using a Netflix-approved camera, taking a lot of footage and there’s a lot of data going into the camera and it takes more time to process that.”
Actor Dean Cain – who portrays “Principal Mazza” – got into town Sunday night and shot 13-14 hours on Monday, Campbell said.
“He had about 14 pages to shoot and there was a lot to be done,” he said. “We finished filming in the Marriott parking lot at around 12:30 a.m.”
Campbell spoke to the student actors about the concept of the film.
“I’ve probably made 18 movies over the last six years – and that’s a lot,” he said. “People come to me from all over the country and say, ‘hey, turn my book into a film.’ My business is basically writing a script and making a film about something in a community or an issue like internet safety or others which come up.”
Now a resident of Bridgeport, Campbell said he has developed a love for and interest in the Harrison County community.
“Over the last six months, I’ve read in the newspaper and hear from people about bullying,” he said. “I didn’t really understand it because in my day, there was no social media or even cell phones.”
But the more educated he became about bullying, the more he wanted to try to change the culture through film.
“The numbers are staggering. One in three kids report bullying,” he said. “I got to meet with kids and hear some of the things that are going on and it’s just cruel. We have to do something.”
West Virginia ranks third in the nation for bullying, just behind Alabama and Louisiana, Campbell said.
“Yet, at the same time, West Virginia ranks in the top 10 percent of states spending the most money on anti-bullying messages,” he said. “There’s a problem to which many say they know the solution: It’s the parents or teachers – or we need to lock up kids and take away their phones. I don’t think there’s one magic bullet to solve this problem, but the power stands with the kids – the student body – and we’re going to be talking about that throughout the week. We want to have student-led Zombie Clubs all over the nation, starting here in West Virginia. I love our state and we always end up at the top of the list in all the bad areas. I wanted to do something to combat bullying – in a big way.”
Cain, who was recently appointed to a national anti-bullying organization, was immediately on board with the project. And the plan was to get as many kids involved as possible. At May auditions held at BMS, more than 400 individuals showed up, not only auditioning for the film, but sharing their own personal stories about bullying.
Through news outlets and social media, word spread fast about the project, garnering even more attention and participation.
“Others caught the vision. The Associated Press and other people starting hearing about this film and thought that a bunch of kids getting together to make a film about bullying was the coolest thing.”
Talented filmmakers, special effects artists and hair/makeup professionals expressed interest in being part of the film. The film evolved from Campbell’s original script into a tighter one with a different twist on the story.
Some of the student actors weighed in on why they want to be part of the film.
Reese Weaver, an upcoming Bridgeport High School freshman, said bullying is very widespread.
“There’s a lot of jealousy and hatred toward people,” she said. “Someone can be extremely jealous and that causes hatred and that causes them to be mean – because you want what they have or it could be the other way around: They don’t have what you have and it’s like they are lower than you. It’s stereotypical – that you are less than us or you’re not as pretty as we are or whatever – and you are an automatic target. It shouldn’t be that way. Everyone should be treated fairly.”
Weaver said she absolutely loves the concept of “The Zombie Club,” that kids from all walks of life and with diverse interests can come together to be friends and support each other.
From Wayne County, Faith Williams said she also became interested in appearing in the film when she heard it had an anti-bullying message.
“My sister had a lot of issues with bullying last year after she switched schools,” Williams said. “I was just standing by watching her be miserable like that. I hope this is a wakeup call for bullies and to show people who are bullied that they are not alone. This is something they can get through.”
Morgantown’s Carmella Lucci said she also loved the film’s message and the fact it was being made to help kids. She, also, has a friend who has been bullied his whole life.
Plus, Lucci is an actress, active in community theater, but has never been in a movie.
“One of my teachers who actually knew I really loved acting and theater sent my mom the link for the audition,” she said.
A 2019 graduate of Bridgeport High, Callia Byard is also a veteran of the local stage. She’s excited to delve into a new format of acting.
“I’ve never been in a movie before, so I think it will be a really cool experience.”
Teens interviewed and hundreds of others will portray friends/followers of the main student characters. Science geek Emma Reynolds is played by Erica Cottrill, a 2019 graduate of Bridgeport High School, and in the lead role of gothic Rita Lands is Jordan Kennedy-Rea, a rising BHS senior. Franco Maicas portrays athletic jock Justin Hershog, Levi Wolfe as hippie student Brad Stadder, Alec Miller as computer gamer Alex Butler and Lexi Bradley as cheerleader Madison Carter.
Playing Miss Walker, the cheer coach, is Krystian Leonard, Miss Berkeley County and third-runner up in the recent Miss West Virginia (Miss America system) pageant.
“When I heard about this film and it’s message about bullying, I thought it fit right in with my platform.”
Leonard travels the state, talking to kids about her non-profit organization ‘Shining Scars,” empowering those with physical and/or emotional scars.
Many things are falling into place and so far, the filming has been on target, Campbell said.
In addition to Cain, lead/supporting lead roles are held by JC Films veteran actors Tim Goodwin, Michael Sigler, Gary Lee Vincent, Katherine Shaw, Jeff Moore, Kathy Sanders, Becky Rosser and JoAnn F. Peterson.
Filming will continue throughout Saturday. Saturday morning, a Zombie Fun Run will take place at Bridgeport City Park. Runners and volunteers are encouraged to take part. Read more and sign up HERE.
Read an article about "The Zombie Club," posted earlier this week HERE
See a video clip of the filming below.

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