TRAVERSE CITY — Most days Brian Dawson is a mild-mannered veterinarian. Others he’s a flesh-eating zombie.
Dawson, of Grayling, won a “featured zombie” role in the short film “Thaw of the Dead” by making a contribution to help fund the film. His role — in chilling make-up effects from head to chest — is a thrill Dawson won’t soon forget.
“They kind of jokingly called me the Fishtown Alpha Zombie,” said Dawson, a Houghton Lake veterinarian whose scene was shot in the Leland Historic District colloquially known as Fishtown. “I was fortunate because I was the only zombie that day. So the special effects crew got to do a lot of work on me. My role was to be bonked on the head by a character called AJ and dragged off. About four hours in the makeup chair for 30 seconds on camera.”
The short film was co-written and directed by David Marek of Traverse City, a founder of The Treefort Collective movie and television studio and director of more than 20 short and feature films including “Somewhere West.” The 2011 movie is winner of eight Best Feature Film awards at film festivals. Marek also directs the Motion Picture Arts program at Interlochen Arts Camp.
“Thaw of the Dead” revolves around a stranded group of survivors who test their humanity while trying to escape a zombie apocalypse caused by a fatal water-borne bacteria that also reanimates the dead. It was shot March 27-April 1 at Grand Traverse and Leelanau County locations including the Boardman River and its Sabin Dam building, where the survivors hole up.
“It has these huge, 18-feet windows so the light came in from both sides,” said Marek, who also shot in downtown and “midtown” Traverse City, including the pedestrian bridge.
He and Director of Photography/Co-Writer Matthew Dayton, also of The Treefort Collective, were inspired to make the film after teaming up with the non-profit Traverse City Zombie Run to produce a series of short promotional videos for the 5k race.