Imagine a group of teenagers coming together to make a bona fide zombie horror movie! Not just any teenagers… kids considered to be bottom of the pile: autistic, marginalised, neuro diverse or broken by a modern world they don’t fit into so well. Imagine that!
Well, Colchester based Underdog Crew Studios is doing just that. Led my multi award winning filmmaker, DB Morgan, the crew are currently working on ‘Day 13’ – a zombie apocalypse survival movie. Deep, profound and truly terrifying... utilising the creative energy of a zombie flick to continue empowering, fixing, and in several cases saving the lives of some of the city of Colchester's most damaged teenagers.
“And that’s a wrap!” DB Morgan calls, to rapturous applause, whoops and cheers from a crew of around seventeen people. The crew begin striking down the indoor post apocalyptic set and the clean-up team set about cleaning up the considerable amount of ‘brain matter’ splattered so lovingly across the studio walls. It’s 8pm on Sunday the seventeenth of December and the crew are, again, revelling in the triumph of another turbo charged film shoot... the Underdog Crew way.
Some may think that letting a group of marginalised, at-risk and neuro diverse teenagers loose on a horror film set is not the best example to set. After all, one of the biggest cheers of the weekend came when they successfully exploded the head of a freshly turned zombie! DB tends to disagree, as do many other world renowned lovers of the horror genre. And BTW... all 'Underdog Crew: after Dark' film project members are over 16!
And the budget? ZERO! Professional actors are donating their time to support the project. One-to-one acting mentorship, stunts and screen combat training, professional special effects makeup and more all on offer to our members as part of the project. Behind the camera… an extensive boots-on-the-ground education in ‘resources filmmaking’: direction, camera, lighting, sound recording; through to post production, foley recording and sound design. The full development process, encompassing everything from scheduling to on-set catering.
It’s a true labour of love from those who understand the transformative magical power the Underdog Crew has on its young members. These words from a parent or two say it all…
“I have seen my teenager transform from a boy who struggled and had little to no confidence and self esteem, to a young man who has rediscovered himself. I’ve got my son back.” Charlene B.
“My withdrawn child has gone from self harm and suicidal thoughts to dreams of a career in the creative arts in just a matter of months. Thankyou so much.” D.C.
It’s all part of the Underdog Crew’s professional training programme. Behind the camera, proud project Cinematographer and part of the crew since 2020, Joseph Allison (26). Calm, measured and revelling in his elevation from UCS Creative Director to D-O-P on his first feature film. His team are made up from current crew members, Noah (16), Assunta (17) and Krystian (16), all current, or pending, film students at Colchester Institute’s film and media programme. The leading lady is Calleigh Plant, aged just 16 and a crew member since summer 2023… now acting alongside Underdog Crew ambassador and professional actress Charlene Aldridge, together with other esteemed British actors who will be joining the cast over the forthcoming months.
The film is being be shot locally in Colchester, a few scenes here and there, with completion expected in July. ‘Day 13’ will be released onto VOD platforms with the aim of all proceeds going back into the not-for-profit community interest company. Powered only by grant funding any income will boost the studio’s ability to continue harnessing the power of professional film to instil positivity, wellbeing and ambition in marginalised young adults.
If you would like to get involved in any capacity then please reach out to DB at email@example.com
TALES FROM THE FILM SET
A recent article in The Guardian states: “Video nasties” was the term once used for films deemed unsuitable because of their gratuitous blood, violence and sheer determination to terrify. Forty years ago, in a more protective era, many were banned from general release in case they did lasting harm. The counter argument – that a dose of pure horror can offer catharsis in times of trouble, or even heal wounds – was not audible above the moral panic. So why now, after such a grim period of national trauma and anxiety, are so many of the stories being told on screen so scary? And why do millions of viewers clamour for more?
We’ll get back to this fascinating article in a bit.
WARNING: Contains graphic scenes, gory horror, profanity and unsettling audio unsuitable for minors or those who are easily offended.
‘Day 13’ is yet another production coming out of Colchester based Underdog Crew Studios: a youth empowerment project that specialises in professional filmmaking to help promote and boost the emotional wellbeing in marginalised young adults. Yes, it’s a horror movie. Yes, it’s pretty visceral and yes, it has exploding heads and its fair share of profanity.
A project specifically devised to immerse the over sixteen film students, ‘Day 13’ is a classic zombie apocalypse story told through thirteen episodic parts – from the day of the outbreak to the day it all ‘ends’ and every glorious opportunity for horror themed entertainment in between. Project Director, DB Morgan, tells us: “Alongside the studio’s more youth orientated projects, like the ongoing teen mental health drama, ‘The Slip’, some of our older members wanted, maybe even needed, something a little more exhilarating to grab their attention. Something to fuel the inner fire that needs constant stoking, in an age where often the only craved stimulation comes from energy drinks, video games and darker, or criminal, pursuits - the ones that we exist to steer our vulnerable young members away from.”
The film project begins at the end on day thirteen, with mother, Jagger, and her daughter, Morgan, holed up in a locked compound, fighting to stay alive as the viral outbreak consumes the UK. Each further episode dips back and forward between days one and thirteen as the duo navigate the zombie apocalypse as it pans out in real time, much in the same traumatic manner as Rick and Karl Grimes in ‘The Walking Dead’.
The project is co-directed by DB Morgan and Joseph Allison (Underdog Crew Champion 2022. Graduating this year and passing his champion mantle on to sixteen-year-old Harrison Blackwood at this year’s annual awards ceremony.) Joseph now takes on his first full role as Cinematographer on ‘Day 13’ - alongside a core trio of Underdog Crew film student members: Assunta Jones, Noah Froude and Krystian Gregorczyk-Manuel - completing key behind the camera positions. In the lead role, Call