Babylon Fields ~ TV Pilot ~ Day 6by David Ahl
Military Transport Association, NJ
Babylon Fields is a proposed new television series that features resurrected zombies as characters. Rather than being portrayed as malevolent monsters, however, the recently deceased are attempting to return to their previous lives in the local community. A pilot was produced in 2007 for CBS with elements of black comedy as well as drama, but the network declined to pick up the show.
In October 2013, Babylon Fields was resurrected by NBC, which ordered a new pilot from 20th Century Fox TV. The Cuesta brothers, Gerald and Michael, are back in their original roles as writers as is Michael Atkinson as director. The current resurgence in zombie interest, kicked off in 2010 with AMC’s The Walking Dead, may bring new life to this pilot as well. Virginia Madsen plays Rhonda Wunch, the mother of a Centers For Disease Control scientist Thomas Wunch (played by Kyle Schmid) that she tries to lure back to Babylon, NY, the place where the zombies try to heal themselves (and their family issues, presumably), foretelling what “might be the next step in human evolution,” according to The Hollywood Reporter. The show will also feature Skeet Ulrich (familiar with small-town troubles from his turn in Jericho), playing both a minister and his twin brother, a junkie who returns from the dead.|
Our little group of military vehicle drivers was involved with Day 6 of the shoot (Monday, March 24, 2014), which took place not in Babylon, but in Hempstead along Millburn Avenue by the large Greenfield Cemetery. The morning shoot at Location 1 was supposed to be in the cemetery itself but wound up being shot across the street in an open part of the fire department training center. As for us, we had been given a call time of 6:00 a.m., which for me meant leaving my house in Morristown, NJ at 4:30 a.m. It was a bitterly cold day, in the teens at 4:30 and never got over the mid-20’s. We normally would have watched the shooting, but it was so darned cold, we all huddled in the large “base camp” tent (80 x 50 feet) which had one midget propane heater along one 80-foot wall. And then at 8:30, the generator cut off leaving the tent with no lights, heat, or coffee. As it appeared that no one knew what to do about it, I found a can of gas, refilled the generator and got it going again. I repeated this at 11:00 a.m. but warned a guy who seemed to have a modicum of authority that there was no more gas and the generator would quit for good around 1:30 unless someone found some more fuel.
By that time, however, we military vehicle drivers (Tom Stark and Angelo Passerini of the Long Island MV Club and me) were out on Millburn Ave. on the overpass above Southern State Parkway at Location 2 where the blockade was to be set up. Why a blockade? Well apparently the townsfolk in Babylon had seen the recently resurrected zombies, were totally terrified of them, and trying to escape from the town. But National Guard troops all dressed up in white hazmat suits with sinister black breathing masks and M16s had set up a blockade to prevent the residents from leaving. I’m not privy as to why they might want to do this but I’m sure it will all be explained in the pilot. The troops had erected a heavy barricade fence across the road backed up by our two HMMWVs and a deuce. When the townsfolk tried to storm the barricade, the troops waved their guns around and kept announcing, “there’s nothing to be afraid of; it’s not airborne.” But seeing the troops all in their hazmat suits and masks was probably not very reassuring.
Around 1:30 p.m. a couple People In Authority started positioning our vehicles for the blockade scene. They got us arranged in a way that they liked and said, “okay, we’re done.” But then some other People With More Authority arrived and decided that the arrangement would “not look good on camera” so we were rearranged in a staggered pattern. A third rearrangment took place a half hour later. And then at 3:45 The Director arrived and decided that it was All Wrong and we were rearranged yet again, this time with two large back vans inserted between my HMMWV and the deuce. No explanation. It now looked more like a haphazard parking lot than a roadblock, but one does not argue with The Director.
Despite our 6:00 a.m. call time, the blockade shoot did not finally begin until 4:00 p.m. because the director was unhappy with the morning shoot and ordered it to be redone. The blockade shoot was a big production: four lanes of 8 cars in each were lined up behind the barricade. During the shoot, drivers had to exit their vehicles and run up to the barricade and fruitlessly argue with the troops to remove it. As a result, many camera angles were required to get the people leaving their vehicles, running to the barricade, arguing with the troops, and so on. How many shots were made? I lost count at 30, but I would guess it was 40 to 50 in total. Each one lasted about a minute-and-a-half, of which maybe 30 seconds will survive on TV, and then
everything had to be reset, which took anout 4 or 5 minutes. I really felt sorry for the guys playing the troops because the fake paper hazmat suits (not going to spend $5.50 for a real Tyvek coverall) weren’t big enough to fit over a jacket, so these actors were outside for 3½ hours in 20° temps in flimsy paper outfits. Finally at 7:20 p.m. we heard the magic words, “it’s a wrap” which was the signal for us to go back to base camp, turn in your costume, if you had one, recover your paperwork, have it checked with the time out put on and signed, and finally head for home.
The only good news was that at 8:00 p.m., there’s a lot less traffic than at 5 or 6, but driving the HMMWV at night on the narrow Long Island parkways had me so tense that when I finally reached home at 9:30, 17 hours after the day began, it was all I could do to collapse on the sofa with a glass of brandy.
What ever happened to the planned 3rd shot of the day at Location 3, “an open field” a short way south of Southern State Parkway? Who knows? Not me. Apparently it was planned that we would drive past it in our hazmat outfits, but they didn’t call us back on Tuesday and in my book, that was a Good Thing.
Click on any photo below to see it super-sized!