On the development and production of the “Orphans” epilogue with Axel the skullhunter, Sam the messenger, and more than a handful of children in the woods.
The first of the Night Zero Epilogues is brief, but loaded. I don’t recall exactly how or when I decided to frame the entire saga under a participant narrator, but even the first assembled draft of Episode Six has this scene nearly word-for-word as it appears in the final comic.
Choosing a narrator involved serious considerations. It would have to be a character who recurs enough to be remembered on sight, but far enough from the center that they wouldn’t need their own closure. It would have to be a character capable of caring for children but unexpected enough that it would warrant notice. And finally, it would have to be a character who survived the bloodbath without a strong allegiance, so that they wouldn’t be notably absent from another of the Epilogues.
Despite his rare and advancement-centric appearances, Axel has long been a favorite character of the production team—primarily the combination of quirky personality, amazing costume, and portrayal by a good friend and talented guy. Putting him as the voice behind the story would be just the unexpectedly delightful ticket, and his adoption of the children would pair well with his distancing himself from the skullhunters. That done, I found a messenger of similar less-than-frequent recurrence in Sam, who made a perfect pairing with our charming hobo.
For the day of the shoot, we of course wanted a nice woodsy location, free of street lights and campers. Because we would be recruiting so many children, finding a secluded location outside the city and getting everyone there would have been too difficult. Instead, we decided to make our campfire at Woodland Park, a large public park with wooded paths and hiking trails right in the city. Finding a number of eligible shoot locations was easy enough, but the permit prohibited any form of fire except a professionally-built gas fire.
So that’s exactly what we got. On the day of the shoot, a Sunday afternoon in early November, the team assembled at the park with a special pyrotechnician who built a faux-campfire for the shoot. Eric and Justin rigged up lighting to match, a warm firelight with a touch of moonshine, while Phoebe and Maggie wrangled the gaggle of goonies. Snacks and juice boxes were handed out alongside pocket hand- and foot-warmers, fire safety instructions were provided, and we all sat down to scene the first post-finale.
Coincidentally, this was also the first shoot we produced after the finale one month prior, as we had waited until November to hit a balance between warmth and early sunset. Although Steve and Cheryl knew each other from theater, this was their first scene on Night Zero together, as their meeting during the bloodbath wouldn’t be shot for another eight months.
Next week we’ll see the next epilogue, which also features campfires (but we used real ones) and former skullhunters but is otherwise a completely different ballgame. I think you’ll really enjoy it.