(Posted April 9, 2012)

A still from "Showtime" reveals Juniata students in full zombie makeup.
A still from "Showtime" reveals Juniata students in full zombie makeup.

HUNTINGDON, Pa. -- The thing to remember about zombies is that they're brain-dead hulks prone to staggering around aimlessly, so it's doubly amazing that a group of Juniata College filmmakers were able to enliven the living dead long enough to complete a movie that won the college a $12,000 prize.

Juniata earned first place recognition for "Showtime," a zombie film created for "Show Us Your ETC," a contest sponsored by ETC Inc. (Electronic Theatre Controls) ETC is a company specializing in theatre lighting and for first prize the firm bestowed a theatrical lighting board on Juniata's film team, which will control all lighting and effects lighting in the Suzanne von Liebig Theatre. The equipment is worth more than $12,000.

"This was filmed right before finals in December (2011) so many people on campus were walking around like zombies anyway," says Gus Redmond, a sophomore from Bethesda, Md. studying technical theatre and design. Redmond actually was the originator of the project when he discovered the online contest on the ETC website and proposed centering the film on zombies. "The great thing about zombies is that you can have them do anything and it's believable," he adds.

Once Redmond came up with the concept, he and the rest of Juniata's theatrical technical crew pitched the concept to Andy Waplinger, a senior from Dallastown, Pa. studying digital media arts. "I liked the dry wit of their approach to the zombie apocalypse," says the filmmaker, who cites "Zombieland" and "Shaun of the Dead" as his inspirations for the film. The project was a collaborative effort in writing and conceptualization, with at least a dozen students making contributions to the final product.

Waplinger says the eight cast members and 20-plus extras filmed over three nights, for about six hours each night. Most of the main cast features students who normally work behind the scenes as technical crew for the college's theatrical productions. Redmond is featured in the film as an intense-looking zombie fighter clearly inspired by Rambo. "I think it's fun to watch because you can tell we're not used to performing," he says.

"This was filmed right before finals in December (2011) so many people on campus were walking around like zombies anyway."

Gus Redmond, a sophomore from Bethesda, Md.

ETC announced the winners of the contest March 30 with a taped "award ceremony" hosted by CEO Fred Foster. Juniata received the first place notification, edging out the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music (2nd place) and California Institute of the Arts (3rd place). In all, 55 universities, colleges and high schools submitted films for consideration.

"It's the first contest I've entered and the first contest I've won -- with a very cool prize," says director/writer/cinematographer Waplinger, who was relieved not to have to make an acceptance speech.

The films were judged by CEO Foster, Jon Ironside, an IT specialist at ETC and Richard Pilbrow, a professional lighting designer and author. "I loved (Juniata's) video," Ironside said in a press release posted on the company's website. "It was funny, had a good story, incorporated ETC in a creative way and had great production values. And who doesn't love zombies?"

Contact April Feagley at feaglea@juniata.edu or (814) 641-3131 for more information.