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Local teen enjoys life as indie film star
0410AtlantaFilm-Darby
Chandler Darby, a sophomore at Gainesville High School, plays a student who fights zombies in ‘Dance of the Dead.'

The lights. The red carpet. The photographers.

It's a lot for anyone, much less a 16-year-old from Hoschton. But Chandler Darby, a sophomore at Gainesville High School, is starting to get the hang of this film festival thing.

After all, he's now attending his second one this year - the Atlanta Film Festival - which is featuring "Dance of the Dead," a film by Georgia native Gregg Bishop.

The comedic horror film is about zombies who invade a high school prom - and the outcasts without dates who try to stop them.

After showing at the South by Southwest Film Festival earlier this year, Darby and his castmates will be walking the red carpet again on Friday and April 19, when the film is scheduled to appear here. And that means more of what the cast got in Austin, Texas.

"It was so much better than I expected," Darby said of the debut at South by Southwest. "It makes you feel like a star. They've got a carpet leading into the theater, and they have tons of press taking pictures. It's really, really cool."

Darby said he chose to go to Gainesville High School specifically for the theater program, and he said the administration has been very supportive in helping him keep up with schoolwork during filming.

"I really wanted high school experience - to go to a high school that would give me that experience," he said. "All the teachers are supportive, and (Pam) Ware (director of the school's drama department), she's great, she just takes it so seriously. It keeps me up in the acting."

This is the second feature film for Darby, who was chosen from about 1,200 others for the role in "Dance." He also recently finished filming for the movie "6 Degrees of Desperation," where he's the lead role trying to get the girl of this dreams to prom.

Although, he said, the subject matter is purely coincidental. "Dance" has given him a better perspective on zombies rather than the teen rite of passage.

"I never thought a zombie movie could be so funny," Darby said, adding that it takes a lot of preparation to get the actors to look that - well - dead.

"I've always wondered what it was like, zombie movies and the makeup and everything. ... It takes a long time for all this makeup, especially if you're a zombie," Darby said. "It's about, for the really detailed zombie makeup, it takes about three hours."

Which can be a pain, Darby said, when you've arrived early, had your makeup done and then sit and wait for your scene to be shot.

"One of the actors had to get all the zombie makeup on, hours of zombie makeup, and we didn't end up getting to the scene that day so he had to take it all off," he said.

But despite the work that goes into the zombies, it's not something that's uncomfortable to wear, he said.

In fact, "You kind of feel normal until you look in the mirror. Then you see that you kind of look dead."

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