Flint, MI—Two of Flint Beat’s writers will be making an appearance in “Half Dead Fred,” a horror movie being filmed in the city. 

The movie, based on the book “Haunted Flint” by Joe Schipani, executive director of the Flint Public Art Project, has been filming in Flint for about two weeks. In that time, the film’s director, actors and crew have been making their way around the city, filming inside several of Flint’s most famous businesses and landmarks. 

A scene from “Half Dead Fred” is filmed in the east side Flint bar Tim & Paula’s Chilly’s on Oct. 3, 2021. The filming, directed by Bron Theron, was filmed at a variety of sites in the city. (KT Kanazawich | Flint Beat)

Amy Diaz, Flint Beat’s local government reporter, said she first heard about the movie from Flint Beat education and public heath reporter, Carmen Nesbitt, who volunteered to write a story about it.

“I was like, ‘I want to go down to the auditions,’” Diaz said. 

In May, Diaz auditioned for the part of Debbie Dalton, a party girl struggling to lead a better life while having to deal with the rest of the Dalton family. Debbie is one of the more prominent roles in “Half Dead Fred” and, Diaz said she wasn’t necessarily expecting a callback. 

She was right, at first. 

Months passed and eventually, Diaz heard back from the production asking if she would like to be featured as a ghost. 

“I was like, yeah that’s fine. I don’t have a lot of acting experience so it’s cool to be a ghost in a movie,” Diaz said. 

Right as October began, however, Diaz received a call from the production team. The actress slated to play Debbie was suddenly unavailable for the role. With boots already on the ground and everything set to start filming, the production crew needed a new Debbie, fast. 

Flint Beat reporter Amy Diaz films a scene on the set of “Half Dead Fred,” a film directed by Bron Theron, in Flint, Mich. on Oct. 12, 2021. (KT Kanazawich | Flint Beat)
An iPad shows a live stream of what the camera is seeing during the filming of “Half Dead Fred” featuring Flint Beat reporter Amy Diaz on Oct. 12, 2021. (KT Kanazawich | Flint Beat)

“I got a call on Sunday night and they were like, ‘Would you be available to do the part? Shooting starts tomorrow morning.’ I didn’t really sleep that night. I was reading the script and freaking out about having to learn all these lines,” Diaz said. 

During that time, Nesbitt had volunteered to write about “Half Dead Fred” coming to Flint. Over the course of reporting on the production, Nesbitt said she was asked she wanted to play an extra. 

“Of course, I said yes,” Nesbitt said. 

During her day on set as an extra, Nesbitt said she gained a new perspective for how movies are shot. Getting a chance to see what happens outside of a TV screen, she said, was fun, interesting—and frankly, chaotic. 

Flint Beat reporter Carmen Nesbitt (third from right) awaits direction on the set of “Half Dead Fred” inside the east side Flint, Mich. bar Tim & Paula’s Chilly’s. Nesbitt, cast as an extra in the film, played the role of a bar patron on Oct. 3, 2021. (KT Kanaazawich | Flint Beat)

“It was intimidating because there is a lot going on. Just seeing what the screen sees versus everything else that’s happening off-screen, it’s something else. It was really cool to see how the process worked and it’s much more involved than you would think. In some scenes it would take 20-30 minutes to get 30 seconds of footage,” Nesbitt said. 

The two reporters-turned-actors agreed one of the aspects of the movie that most stood out to them was the fact that it was set in Flint. The two also said they were happy that the movie was using the city’s buildings and architecture as a backdrop to strengthen the film, rather than as a way to talk about crime or the water crisis. 

Bron Theron helps cinematographer Zachary Malloy frame up a shot while filming a fight scene for the movie “Half Dead Fred” in the east side Flint, Mich. bar, Tim & Paula’s Chilly’s on Oct. 3, 2021. (KT Kanazawich | Flint Beat)

“I don’t know how many movies are made in Flint that are not about Flint,” Diaz said. “It’s kind of neat that Flint is just where this movie takes place but the movie itself isn’t about the city, or the water crisis or things happening with GM,” Diaz said. 

Nesbitt agreed, saying the production’s relationship with the city allowed it to highlight areas like local bars, restaurants, and houses. 

“It’s a totally fictional story that happens to be set in Flint. So we can kind of enjoy seeing parts of Flint that aren’t being talked about or even mentioned in a negative way. Flint is the background, it’s the setting. It kinda normalizes the city, even though the film itself is paranormal,” Nesbitt said. 

“Half Dead Fred” is scheduled to release in Jan. 2022. To keep up with the film’s production you can visit its Facebook page here. 

Santiago Ochoa is Flint Beat's Latinx Community reporter. He is always looking to write about anything Flint or Latinx. He especially enjoys investigative reporting and human-interest stories. A communications...