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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

‘Z Nation’ production becomes an art exhibition at the MAC

By Tyler Wilson For The Spokesman-Review

The zombies are back in Spokane.

The Syfy television series “Z Nation” begins production on its fourth season this week, and starting Saturday visitors to the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture will be given direct access to the set.

In fact, the museum will serve as a working television studio this summer, allowing people to learn about the production process from behind-the-scenes. The live exhibit, “Z Nation: Behind the Camera,” also features costumes, props, photography and much more celebrating the output of the Spokane-based artists who work on the show.

Karl Schaefer, showrunner and executive producer for “Z Nation,” said the exhibit is a bit like the set tour at Universal Studios, except that everything people see being filmed will be on television when the series returns this September.

“We’re building actual sets and shooting all around the museum,” Schaefer said. “The sets will hang around after we’re done shooting in them for people to check out, take their own pictures. I have a feeling people will be really into it.”

The show will incorporate many locations around the property and will even turn the parking garage into a green-screen stage for special effects. During live shooting days, visitors will be guided by staff on expectations and etiquette while on set. Even when the show isn’t filming on location, installations of work from various departments on the production (makeup, set design, visual effects, etc.) will be presented.

Wesley Jessup, the MAC executive director, said the exhibit is intended to showcase the artistry and complexity of putting together a television production.

“All of this talent is coming from Spokane,” Jessup said. “Being able to bring some of those artists together under one roof I think it will give people a different perspective of what happens in Spokane artistically. There are a lot of artists out there that don’t just hang their art in a gallery. This will open people’s eyes, as in ‘Wow, I didn’t know this was happening in my own city.’ ”

Jessup cited some costumes and “crazy weapons” that are part of the exhibit, as well as an industrial makeup kit that will surprise many with its complexity.

“There’s also a lot of photography of different scenes and different zombies,” Jessup said. “One of the ways they introduce plot and story threats are these zombies with different kinds of characteristics.”

Schaefer said the exhibit is also a way to give back to the fans of the show and to the Spokane community.

“The people in Spokane are so into us shooting here – just about everybody knows somebody who has been a zombie in the show,” Schaefer said.

He said the production and museum will collaborate on several programs and panels throughout the summer that tackle different areas of production.

“Almost everybody on my show are artists of some sort, even the grips are artists. We’re showing off their skills,” Schaefer said. “(The programs) are really about how these people got their jobs.”

Most of the crew on “Z Nation” are based in Spokane, Schaefer said.

“The exhibit is kind of aimed at the 15-year-old kid who wants to know how to get into the movie business but thinks, ‘Oh, there’s no way I can do that in Spokane,’ ” Schaefer said. “But we just want to show people they can.”

Jessup said fans of the show should follow the museum’s Twitter and social media pages throughout the summer, as they intend to announce production schedules that are open for the public to view. An annual membership to the museum will allow people to come back as often as they like throughout the summer.