A former Miss Teen New Hampshire runner-up and veteran of countless acting auditions, Taylor Kudalis is accustomed to dealing with disappointment. So, when she submitted an audition tape in an effort to land a role in an upcoming YouTube horror-comedy series, she thought that would be the extent of her experience with “Cheerleaders vs. Redneck Zombies.”
But when the series premieres Oct. 17, there the Pelham High School senior will be, portraying Blakely Wescote, a cheerleader from the fictional Romero High (an obvious reference to George Romero, director of such zombie-themed films as “Night of the Living Dead”).
“I wasn't really expecting anything to come out of it because I've been turned down since the seventh grade,” Kudalis, 17, said of her “Cheerleaders” audition and all those that preceded it. “It's not easy. There's lots of failure and disappointment and getting turned down. But finally I got the TV show Web series 'Cheerleaders vs. Redneck Zombies,' and I'm so excited for it because all the hard work has paid off.”
Kudalis is one of three New Hampshire residents in the cast, along with Kallie Tabor of Goffstown and Savannah Reinitzer of Litchfield.
The series sets Kudalis' character and her fellow cheerleaders on a weekend getaway to an old New England camp, where, unbeknownst to them, brothers Dwight, Daryl, Yaryl and Jed have been turned into zombies through their exposure to an opened barrel of toxic Army waste. Naturally, much mayhem and hilarity ensue.
According to writer and director Jason Bachand, the series is an homage to the classic horror comedies of the 1970s and 1980s.
“The emphasis is on satire, self-referential jokes about the zombie genre, campy humor and some good horror frights, too,” he said.
Kudalis' audition video, Bachand said, “hit all the right notes for her part.”
Kudalis learned she'd landed the role from her agent at Cinderella Modeling Agency, and she immediately set about memorizing her lines. Portraying Blakely, she said, isn't exactly rocket science.
“She's the dumb one in the cheerleaders,” Kudalis said with a giggle. “But I think as time goes on, she's going to develop more as a character instead of an extra funny voice on the side.”
Although Kudalis is an aspiring New England Patriots cheerleader, placing her in the role wasn't exactly a case of type-casting; she's also an honors student at Pelham High.
Quite the opposite of Blakely is Tabor's character, Sarah Tomlinson, whose bookishness has her on the outs with the rest of the cheerleaders.
Tabor, 16, previously had a small role in the 2009 Anne Hathaway/Kate Hudson film “Bride Wars.”
“I'm particularly pleased with casting her because she's so nuanced in her acting style,” Bachand said of Tabor. “She wears a very straight face, but there's depth and discernment beneath it, perhaps even a little bit of pain, which suits her character.”
While Tabor's character experiences pain, Reinitzer's inflicts it. Reinitzer portrays Rosasharn, one of the zombies seeking to prey on Tabor, Kudalis and the rest of the cheerleaders.
Better known for her soccer skills than her acting at this point — she scored a goal Wednesday as Campbell High of Litchfield raised its record to 8-3 with a 6-0 victory over Conant High of Jaffrey — she says in a recent blog post (http://cvsrz.blogspot.com) that she'd like to combine both activities.
“I would love to play a role as a soccer player or as a ghost in a haunted thriller,” she says of her ideal role. “Zombies and vampires would be great, too.”
Filming for the first two episodes of “Cheerleaders vs. Redneck Zombies” was completed in late August and early September.
The crew found an abandoned Boy Scout campground in Eastford, Conn., Camp Nahaco, which provided an ideal backdrop.
“There are dozens of run-down buildings and eerie trails that gave the project exactly the feeling of isolation that we wanted,” Bachand said.
Originally envisioned as a feature film, the project took the form of a Web series as producers set the wheels in motion.
“The Web series format has the potential to reach greater audiences in less time than a standard film,” Bachand said. “It's also an excellent medium for testing the series' potential in other arenas. If we find that audiences respond well to the project, we can consider a film in the future.”
The success of films such as “The Blair Witch Project” and “Paranormal Activity,” shot on bare-bones budgets and promoted through savvy marketing, inspired the creators of “Cheerleaders vs. Redneck Zombies,” Bachand said. Next week's premiere, he said, will serve as a pilot to what producers hope will become a long-running series.
The project has been funded by Bachand's production company, Art Aperitif, and other producers. Future earnings are expected to come through corporate partnerships, YouTube ad revenues and the company's page on IndieGoGo, a crowd-funding site that allows independent filmmakers to pitch their projects and pick up financial support.
“Cheerleaders vs. Redneck Zombies” episodes will run each Wednesday at 8 p.m., and will be viewable later on demand.
To watch the show, go to youtube.com/cvsrz
. For more information on the series, go to cvsrz.blogspot.com
- - - - - - - -Simon Rios may be reached at email@example.com.