Nick Ummarino is hoping the popularity of the AMC's TV series "The Walking Dead" can scare up some interest in his new zombie TV series.
He'll find out if he has what it takes to give people a good scare when the first episode of his "Dead Awakening" show premieres this week during a special event at Richard Stockton College of New Jersey in Galloway Township.
Ummarino, 24, of Ventnor, said zombies are so popular today, when it came time to find a subject for his show, the undead were the logical choice.
"You see slasher films all the time. You see other types of genres," Ummarino said. "You really don't see zombies that often done well. Because of 'The Walking Dead,' a lot of people will be like, 'Oh, it's just like that show. I'll watch it too.'"
Ummarino doesn't see his project as a rip-off of "The Walking Dead," because his series focuses on a college student.
In the pilot, the lead character Nick Barnes, played by Josh Ryan, of Northfield, is in a classroom invaded by zombies. As students flee, they discover the entire school is crawling with the undead.
"When I wrote it, I was just trying to be as original as possible with the characters. The fact that he is a college student kind of makes things a little original, and it speaks to the local area with Stockton. It gets the community involved," Ummarino said.
Ummarino has made short films before, but "Dead Awakening" was conceived as a TV series with 12 parts running about 15 minutes each.
Most of the pilot was shot last summer at the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey, where Ummarino is a 2011 graduate and where he now works in the Arts and Humanities department with the closed-network Stockton Student Television station. All Ummarino's crew members have been affiliated with Stockton Student Television, Ummarino said.
The second episode of the TV series was filmed last summer, Ummarino said. He might not have even started filming if he didn't find a leading man to star in the series. Then he discovered Ryan, who won the role over a couple of other actors.
"I love the idea of zombies. I love the whole subject of an apocalypse-type deal. I love acting," said Ryan, 20. "I have done plays before as a kid and stuff like that. It was completely different."
Ryan admits he got frustrated with the role - he wasn't paid for his effort. But now, he's happy he helped bring the zombie TV series to life.
"The result is absolutely awesome. It's amazing," he said.
Contact Vincent Jackson:
Will be shown 8 p.m. Thursday and Saturday in the Campus Center Theater at The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey, Galloway Township. Admission is free. Creator Nick Ummarino will introduce the first episode, and a question and answer session will take place after it is shown. To see the pilot episode of the series, scan the QR code with your smartphone.