The zombies are coming. And they’re bringing work for nearly 200 actors, 1,300 extras and more than 100 crew members.
The new SyFy Network television series “Z Nation” will begin shooting in Spokane next month. The network has ordered 13 episodes, all of which will be filmed in the Spokane area this spring and summer and are scheduled to begin airing in the fall.
All this, said North by Northwest co-founder Rich Cowan, is a game changer for the Spokane film industry.
“We’ve done about 50 feature films, but a television series, 13-episode television series, is 12,000 worker days of employment here,” Cowan said Wednesday. “These are union jobs that pay pension and health care.”
“Z Nation” will be a five-month shoot. A typical North by Northwest feature film shoots in about a month.
“We’re really excited about having this in Spokane,” Cowan said. “Spokane is a wonderful place to shoot and is a perfect fit for a television series.”
North by Northwest will share producing duties with two California companies: the Asylum, the company behind last year’s SyFy movie “Sharknado,” and Go2 Digital Media, which works on Lisa Kudrow’s Showtime series “Web Therapy.” The executive producer and showrunner is Karl Schaefer, whose producing credits include “Eureka” and “Stephen King’s The Dead Zone.”
According to media reports earlier this month, the series is set three years after a zombie apocalypse decimated the United States. The only known survivor of the zombie plague must travel from New York to California, where scientists hope to retrieve antibodies from his blood to create a vaccine.
Spokane will be asked to stand in for a large swath of the nation.
“That’s what’s really great about Spokane. We have all kinds of different locations,” Cowan said. “We have a desert. We have wheat fields. We have mountains, lakes. Then we have lots of different kinds of neighborhoods in the city.”
The show will include nine lead characters, and Cowan said it’s possible that as many as four of those roles could be filled by local talent. Primary casting hasn’t been announced.
Greg Smith, a member of the Washington Filmworks Board and president of the Pacific Northwest Studio Mechanics Local 488 – which represents most of the crew base that will work on the show – said having an episodic show film locally will mean a great deal to local production workers.
“It allows established crew members to build a career, with livable wages and health care coverage for their families, which is fantastic and so hard to come by in a piecemeal, job-to-job industry such as ours,” Smith said. “And new crew members will come into the market as well, which supports future productions and builds a deeper market going forward.”
Mayor David Condon and City Council President Ben Stuckart both expressed their support for the project and pledged a solid partnership between the city and the production.
“Many people would say this is an up-and-coming industry, but quite frankly, this organization, this firm and many others have made it a mainstay of our economy,” Condon said.
Stuckart joked, “I think one of the promises we made was that council would dress up as zombies one night,” then on a more serious note added that “Z Nation” is “an important thing for jobs and an important thing for Spokane.”