HOLD the front page. The Environment Agency building at Coverdale House, in the heart of Clifton Moor's concrete jungle, is under threat from a swarm of zombies.

Fake news, ladies and gentlemen. The dormant Environment Agency has been taken over by York filmmakers MilesTone Films for their latest cinematic enterprise: the feature-length film Zomblog.

Co-directors Miles Watts and Tony Hipwell – the Miles and Tone in MilesTone Films – and fellow filmmaker Hannah Bungard are undertaking a 20-day shoot over three months for a black comedy that builds on the momentum of their cult Zomblogalypse web series.

Hipwell and Bungard had first made films together while studying at York St John University, later joined by their friend Watts, an English Literature graduate from the same university. 

Between them, they are now writing, producing and directing Zomblog, as well as playing three completely different apocalypse survivors holed up in one space, with zombies on the prowl. More of which in a moment, but first, here is the back story.

York Press:

Zombies at large in a weekend filming session for Zomblog. Picture: Ben Bentley

"The film effectively started about five or six years ago from doing the web series, which came out of chats after work and began as something fun and cheap to do when we were bored, but we'd always wanted to make movies as well as Zomblogalypse," says Miles.

In fact this will be a fourth Made In York film full of zombies, vigilantes, thugs and gangs with Watts's name on it. First up was Miles To Go Productions' no-budget, band-on-the-road movie, The Bandwagons, in 2007; followed by the Gothic vigilante comedy, CrimeFighters, in 2009.

MilesTone Films was set up in 2012, whereupon Watts and Hipwell then linked up with 1331 bar landlord and former bricklayer turned scriptwriter and producer Sam Robinson's Heavy Elephants company to make Whoops, Robinson's darkly comic story of a wife and mother turned accidental serial killer.

Bungard was the script supervisor, helping Watts and Hipwell steer the film through the difficulties of production. A 2013 screening at the Raindance Festival and a York premiere at Reel Cinemas in Blossom Street ensued.

"As we were finishing Whoops, the three of us raised some of the Zomblog budget via crowdfunding, went to Cannes and pitched the movie together, acquired a sales agent and developed the script with a big Hollywood studio," says Miles.

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Filmmakers Hannah Bungard, as Hannah, Tony Hipwell, as Tony, and MIles Watts, as Miles, the apocalypse survivors, in their adopted "home" at York Library 

You may not be surprised to learn that, in major-studio tradition, there would have been changes to what Miles, Tony and Hannah had in mind, and so they decided to make the film their way, then seek a distributor.

"The big studio didn't quite know what they wanted to do with a Zomblog movie that we felt had to be funny, satirical, a sort of This Is Spinal Tap meets Curb Your Enthusiasm; they just wanted big names! So now we're doing it ourselves on a five-figure budget, with private and crowd funding," says Miles. "We're doing several blocks of filming, doing 12-hour days, and by last Sunday we were half way through.

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More zombies go walkabout in last weekend's filming. Picture: Jonny White/Ben Bentley  

"We're now doing five weekends of Zomblog filming, so if you want to take part in some big zombie shoots as a zombie, go to zomblogalypse.com for details or our facebook page, which says 'We Need Zombies'!"

Joined by One&Other Creative’s Luke Downing on assistant director/camera/editing duties, scenes are being filmed not only on set at the Environment Agency building, mocked out as York Library, but also at York Maze, inside The Ritz Cinema in Thirsk, on the roof of Lazenby Brown design agency in Shambles, as well as at the Fulford Arms, York Theatre Royal, D-Tail Plants, the Golden Ball community pub and elsewhere.

"So many businesses have helped us out, like Phil Dodsworth, of Blank Canvas, and Skippko finding the empty space for us at Clifton Moor; the Shambles Kitchen doing some catering; the RSPCA charity shops giving us books and rugs; Paul Wilkinson working with us on the (special) effects, and artist Emily Sutton facilitating a couple of houses for us to film in," says Miles. 

"Bar Farm Antiques at Barmby Moor provided items for the set, designed with a Forties' wartime look by Vicky Parry [Miles's partner in One&Other Creative in York] and art director Natalie Roe. We've probably halved the budget because of the support we've had."

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A clapperboard for Zomblog. Picture: Kayti Pescheke

So, what's the story in Zomblog? "It's ten years since we started Zomblogalypse, so it's ten years into the apocalypse," says Tony. "The three principal characters – Miles's Miles, Tony's Tony and Hannah's Hannah – have lived through a decade of the apocalypse and there's a general malaise, just trying to keep yourself entertained, finding something to keep you busy and not die of boredom.

"They're living in York Library, where they've run out of books and used up all the resources, and now Hannah, for example, just knits and knits to survive; there are even tea cosies on her mugs, which is her way of staying sane but going mad! She even creeps into Miles's corner at night to yarn-bomb it!"

The film is deliciously satirical in tone. "We should be getting on, but instead we're arguing with each other, instead of pulling together in a post-Trump world," says Miles. "So, in Hannah's corner, she's pretending the apocalypse is not real; Miles is pretending everything is civilised, sleeping casually in his chair; and Tony goes from zero to hero, dealing with everything.

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Zombie stand-off: Tony, Hannah and Miles go on the attack in a Zomblog scene. Picture: Ben Bentley

"It's all a bit Mel Brooks; a bit breaking-the-fourth-wall, making a film where we're aware we're making a film; playing exaggerated versions of ourselves, and it's very irreverent in its attitude."

Filming equipment has changed over the decade, going from laptops, mobile phone cameras and webcams for the deliberately shaky camerawork for the Zomblogalypse series, to now using 4k cameras, drones for aerial shots and hand-held gimbals. All add to the enjoyment in film-making that can be found in MilesTone's work: "We're the 'filming everything generation', aren't we," says Miles. "We play on the blogging culture and the naturally absurd conclusion of filming the apocalypse," says Tony.

York actors Andrew Dunn and Andrina Carroll, Arron Dennis and Lyndsey Craine, who has just filmed the horror film Book Of Monsters, are among the guest actors in a film that, once completed, will be targeted at next year's film festivals and "Fright Fests" in London and Glasgow before being released for streaming and on Blu-ray next winter ideally.

"Then we'd like to do big-budget sequels to complement our high-production values," says Miles. "We're all working on feature film ideas, with the aim to be huge, but first we had to get this one done as a labour of love."

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Film shoot: Miles, Hannah and Tony preapre to deal with yet more zombies in Zomblog. Picture: Jonny White/Ben Bentley

So, Hannah, just what is this obsession with zombies? "I'm a huge fan of post-apocalyptic worlds, not necessarily zombies but they often feature in that kind of scenario," she says.

"We had just watched Dr. Horrible And The Guild, so web series were quite a new and exciting idea. We wanted to do something easy and fun and we were hanging out a lot at the time, which is where the dynamic ended up coming from. It has evolved since then but we try to keep that initial fun silliness in there."

Did you know?

AMONG the participants in Zomblog's zombie scenes are members of the Otley Zombie Apocalypse, a charity group that raises funds for cancer research.

"They they hold an annual zombie event in Otley, like an ‘escape room’, where you go along and engage in zombie-related chases and horror scenarios. All good fun," says Zomblog's Miles Watts. "Their group can be found on Facebook as Otley Zombie Apocalypse."