ATLANTA — One might say that Lee County native Kristen Schuette works with a bunch of stiffs.
But after six months working as a part of the crew of AMC’s hit zombie series, “The Walking Dead,” Schuette says she’s thrilled to come back for another season.
“The Walking Dead” is television’s take on the zombie genre that centers around a small town Georgia sheriff who gets shot and finds himself falling into a coma in a hospital outside of Atlanta.
When he awakens, he finds the hospital abandoned, only to learn that some contagion has turned most of the population into mindless, flesh-eating zombies.
Schuette, who is currently working between seasons at the Albany Convention and Visitors Bureau, parlayed her job here into an opportunity with the Emmy-winning show while helping producers who were in Albany last year shooting a portion of the upcoming film, “The Odd Life of Timothy Green.”
“We worked with the scouts for months looking at locations, helping them with paperwork and getting the proper permits and then when they started shooting we helped get them the resources they need,” Schuette said. “When they were wrapping things up I told them I had a really fun time.”
A few weeks later, Schuette gets a call that a position with the production department of a company in Atlanta had opened with the Walking Dead and she applied.
“I guessed they liked me,” she says, grinning. “The rest is pretty much history.”
Schuette, who has been invited back to work on the show’s third season, says that her job is one that falls chiefly in to the “behind-the-scenes” category and involves working with scouts and construction crews to make sure the various properties, locations and items used in the show are how the producers want.
“You know, they may say hey, we need a house that is blue with two windows on the top story, four windows on the bottom, and we’ll work with the scouting department to find that house and try and get it to whatever the upper-level folks have in mind,” Schuette said. “You’d really be amazed at the people who work behind the scenes doing paper work and building sets and doing the fringe things related to the show that are never seen on camera but whose work is invaluable to the show.”
It’s a job that definitely falls into the “interesting” category, she says.
“My first day, I was told to help organize Zombie Camp, which was basically zombie school for the extras to learn how to walk and grunt and things like that with the makeup,” she said.
Schuette says that when she graduated from Louisiana State University with a public relations degree, she never expected to be working with a film production company, but she never quite ruled it out either.
When she got out of college and began looking for work, she, like many college grads her age, found themselves job searching among millions of Americans who had found themselves out of work due to the recession.
Competition for work, needless to say, was stiff.
“So really you take opportunities where you can find them, and nothing ever really comes off the table” she said. “And I found a great one at the CVB, which, in turn, helped me land this position where there is definite growth potential.”
Prior to applying for the spot, Schuette said that she had heard of the series, which was wrapping up its first season, but hadn’t watched any of the episodes.
“So I kind of thought that I really needed to know what I was getting into here, and, honestly, I was really surprised. It’s not your typical zombie story. There are a lot of really interesting back stories that are kind of woven into this backdrop of a zombie apocalypse,” she said.
“Zombies are obviously a big part of the story, but honestly, the story revolves around the people who band together to survive,” Schuette said. “And I really like that part of the story, and apparently, other people do as well.”
Schuette credits the CVB’s eagerness to earn Georgia’s “camera-ready” status as one of the main reason’s she’s had the opportunity to expand her horizons into such an interesting direction.
“Georgia’s really becoming a new Mecca for people in the film business,” Schuette said. “And the fact that Albany was camera ready helped bring the people from ‘Odd Life’ to town which is how I got to ‘The Walking Dead’.”