Watch: This New Video from SMU Film and Media Features Homages to Film’s Iconic Monsters

Director of Photography Jake Wilganowski on the boulevard with zombie Sarah
Director of Photography Jake Wilganowski (R) on the boulevard with zombie Sarah Adams (Zombie screen L)

By Nick Rallo (Director of Marketing & SMU Meadows B.A. in Cinema-Television, ’06)

The call time for the zombies in the Bob Hope Lobby was 10 a.m., and there was a 2:00 p.m. on-set call time for our cyborg assassin. This was the on-set scene during the production of a short film produced by SMU Meadows Film & Media Arts, Meadows Marketing and several of our all-star alumni. Embedded in the film, you’ll see a Nosferatu, a time-traveling cyborg, roving zombies, and our homage to the bunny costume from Donnie Darko (2001). The icons from science-fiction and horror are not arbitrarily referenced; They are homages to the iconic genres SMU Meadows Film faculty are teaching every day.


With SMU Film’s new Master of Arts in Popular Film and Media Studies degree, students will learn theories and philosophies of film and media through intensive examination of Hollywood film studio genres, the impact of organized fandom on the development of science-fiction and fantasy television series, the ways popular media have been vilified for political gain and more. No other M.A. film program in the United States focuses so intently on the relationship of popular media to cultural concerns. 

In honor, the idea behind the short film began as an homage to a scene from Shaun of the Dead (2004), wherein Shaun, the lead character, blissfully ignorant of the zombie apocalypse that has laid waste to the streets, stumbles into work. From there, the Meadows teams, working with expert freelancers, fleshed out a concept that features a handful of iconic creatures and references to science-fiction, fantasy and horror. Each of the creatures was hand-crafted–in some way–for the short film. 

One of the biggest challenges following graduation is the first step: As a student of the arts, what do you do with your degree in the first few months after graduating? In May of 2015, Meadows Theatre alum and star of Paranormal Activity Katie Featherston addressed the class of 2015, in a touching moment in her Commencement speech:

“You’re entering the world as a Meadows Alum, which means you’re part of a network of committed and deeply talented people who can be the foundation of your professional life.”

In other words, collaboration with Meadows alumni can be your lifeblood following graduation.

SMU Meadows alums are among the most dedicated and driven people I’ve ever met.  Producer and Director Andrew Conway, a steadfast and established freelancer working in the metroplex, collaborated with a team of production masters to make the incredible happen. Their work, and the results of this collaboration, I believe, are clear in the final product. I hope you’ll find the same.

Gingerpane FX and Beauty custom-built a Donnie Darko-like bunny mask for the production
Gingerpane FX and Beauty custom-built a Donnie Darko-like bunny mask for the production

In addition to the fantastic crew of SMU students and professionals from Dallas, many SMU Meadows alums worked together to craft the video: There is production and direction by Andrew Conway (B.A. Cinema-Television ‘04), cinematography by Jake Wilganowski and Frankie Richards (1st AC), makeup and special FX makeup by Elizabeth Rist (GingerPane FX and Beauty), editing by Nate Low, art direction by Don Merritt, costuming from Kirby Stuart (B.A. Cinema-Television ‘06), production assistant work from Adam Conway (B.A. Cinema-Television ‘04), a number of steadfast SMU Meadows students, original music design by Edward Trevino, producing by Nick Rallo (B.A. Cinema-Television, ‘06), and lead acting from Tori Titmas (B.A. Theatre, 15).

“The SMU family that you’ve become so close to here on campus only grows over time, if you allow it,” says Katie Featherston in her Commencement speech.

Special thanks to the cast:

Tori Titmas (lead), Kim Gussoni (zombie Michael Jackson), Brittney Schram (zombie “Black Swan”), Joel Gregory (Terminator), Sarah Adams (zombie “chatterer”), Kali Stewart (zombie “jumpsuit”), Jason Edwards (army zombie)

Special thanks to the crew:

Jake Wilganowski (Director of Photography), Frankie Richards (First AC), Zac Hannon (Key Grip), Edward Trevino (Sound Design), Don Merritt (Art Director) and Eric Schultz, Nate Low (Editor and Associate Producer), Elizabeth Rist (Head Make-up Artist), Matt Ash (Make-up and FX Make-up), Heather Henry (Make-up Artist), Jason Edwards (Make-Up Artist for zombies), Alicia Neiboer (Make-up Artist), Jahan Guram (Production Assistant), Kali Stewart (Production Assistant), Andrew Conway (Producer Director), Nate Low (Producer / BTS)

Production Photos

By Nick Rallo