Slice-and-dice work consumes zombie film team

The zombie apocalypse is long over for most of the good folks of Brownsville. But for Scott Smith and Debbie Jensen, it's just beginning.

Smith and Jensen, executive producers at LB Productions in Brownsville, are carotid-artery deep in the post-production work for their zombie movie, "Sick-n-Contagious."

The two had hoped by now to be finished with the movie, which attracted 150 mid-valley zombie extras and wrapped up most of its filming in late April. But the work suffered from personnel changes and the belated realization by a key team member that he wouldn't be able to commit time to editing the project.

"A lot of people keep calling and asking, 'How's the movie going? How's the movie going?'" Smith said.

Said Jensen: "It's pretty much like we just now got done filming. That's kind of where we are right now, 'cause we were hoping to be done by now."

Smith has now taken on the editing himself and said he's about 40 minutes into what he figures will be a 70-minute film.

Except for a few transition scenes, which still need to be filmed, all the story's building blocks are in place. He's now making sure each scene has all its layers — close-up here, cutaway there — and then will go back to add music and touch up the sound.

The two say they still plan a wrap party when the film is complete. DVDs will be available for sale, and they still plan a public screening, or more than one, if they can swing it. The final cut also will be posted on YouTube, but Jensen especially is hoping to find a larger distributor.

"We're still looking for investors, too," she said.

The movie is the largest production LB Productions has ever undertaken. Most of the couple's work to date has revolved around promotional videos, wedding photos and special-events photography.

They're hoping completion of the film will be a launching pad for more large projects, but in the meantime, they've learned a great deal about putting together a full-scale feature.

Much of the script for "Sick-n-Contagious" was rewritten after the initial author, Halsey teenager Tony Miller, moved to Colorado. Actors added their own thoughts on the dialogue and several scenes were tweaked to accommodate new ideas.

Smith and Jensen ended up training local residents to do lighting and grip work, people who ended up being valuable assistants, they said. However, next time they plan to have professionals ready to join them, to keep the process moving smoothly.

Back at the Brownsville studio, Smith and Jensen are admiring R.J. Valdez' zombie performance, as the actor attacks a main character, then falls on his back and begins to cough and spit blood. It's gory and horrifying — just what Smith wants from this movie. Next step: editing in the green-screen cuts of various zombies chewing on simulated body parts.

"I want to leave a mark," he said.

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