Thursday, February 4, 2010
Happy Birthday George
George Romero has been an influence on me ever since ... well ... ever since I can remember. Ironically it wasn't 'Night Of The Living Dead' or even 'Dawn Of The Dead' that first made me curious as to who this man was. It was 'Creepshow', his horror anthology film he made back in 1982 with stories written by Stephen King. I came across the 'Creepshow' comic which was released before the movie. The fact that these gruesome stories were made into a movie peeked my adolesant curiosity. I had to see this film. I begged my dad to take me to see it (I was 9 at the time!) and he eventually gave in. He figured he could cover my eyes if anything too extreme happened. Luckily the film is over the top and dark humored so I was pretty much fine. My parents knew of my affection for movies (especially horror movies) and how they were made even at that age so I was allowed to see some stuff that most kids probably wouldn't. Again, mainly because I was aware that it was all fake. I was not ready though for the story 'The Crate' which proceeded to scare the crap out of me. So much so I watched most of that episode from the lobby peaking in through the little window in the door.
I was both terrified and fascinated by the film. And the name George A. Romero meant something to me. Who is this guy? Long before the internet it was not easy to come across information. I was determined. The before mentioned 'Night' and 'Dawn', 'Knightriders', 'Martin', 'The Crazies'. Most of these films I did not see until later but 'Creepshow' and the name George A. Romero stuck with me. I did beg my father once to take me to a double feature of 'Dawn Of The Dead' and 'Creepshow'. Unfortunately the theatre was not exactly in an area my dad wanted to spend four hours of his day. In retrospect I can't blame him although I long for that experience today.
I eventually saw 'Night Of The Living Dead' and was amazed by it. Especially for how little money it was made for. While I couldn't see 'Day Of The Dead' in the theatre since I was too young I made sure I was there right when it came out on video. I must have watched it five times over the three days I had the movie (Friday evening through Sunday afternoon before I had to return it to the video store). I didn't watch it with the expectations that horror fans had at the time because at that point I had only seen 'Night'. I loved every frame of it. I got to talking to one kid at school about it and he told me about 'Dawn Of The Dead' which was next on my list. Even as a kid I wanted to space out these films. You don't want to over saturate yourself with too much of any given filmmaker. I find it's better to appreciate the works when it's split up. Like the summer in high school when I watched almost all of of Alfred Hitchcock's films. Not all in one weekend. Over the course of three months. It made for one very memorable summer. My first time watching 'Rear Window' is one I will never forget. A story for another post however.
I finally saw 'Dawn Of The Dead' and to say I was bowled over by it is such an understatement that I regret even using such an awkward phrase. This was unlike anything I had seen before. So much so the film remains one of my top three favorite films of all time. I cannot tell you how many times I have watched it over the years. It was always the film I went to as sort of like a comfort blanket as well. When I needed to escape or needed inspiration it was there. I had the film recorded off a VHS. Then I had a VHS copy. Then I had the laserdisc(s). Then I had the DVD(s). Now I have the Blu-ray. It will always be in my collection.
Romero and I have a different world view. I know we disagree on certain political issues. But we share two things. One that absolute power corrupts absolutely. A theme that I feel is present in almost all of his films. A breakdown I can do at another time. And we both love movies and how they are made. Romero is someone that can make a movie by himself if he had too. He knows every job that needs to be done. In his early films he wrote, directed, edited, produced, and shot (or at least co-shot some smaller parts of his films). Even with no money he could create such energy into his films. And if you want to see a masterpiece then track down a copy of 'Martin'. His take on a vampire tale. A low budget film shot on 16mm that is just simply outstanding. His style and his just do it attitude have inspired me ten times over. Even beyond the short films I've done but mainly the feature film I set out to make with no money and even with no crew Romero was a key influence. I knew I needed to look to specific filmmakers to see how I needed to handle it. No better example than George Romero. In fact, one of his key lines of his filmmaking viewpoint, especially in his early films, was one I quoted often,"I'd rather have a hundred lousy shots than one great one." A sentiment I agree with. Especially on a low budget (or should I say micro budget?) film. Since I also edit I shot like a madman and while not every shot is perfect it is a shot that tells story. I can get into the editing room (also known as my TV room/office) and mold the film into how I want it. You need coverage to do that. A key piece of information I took from George.
In fact, I named my main character in the film George after Romero.
I could go on and on about the influence he has had on me. I barely scratched the surface. On this day though I mainly want to say thank you. For everything. I wish you nothing but the best. Happy Birthday George!
George and I at a Flashback Weekend convention back in 2008 right before I started shooting my film 'Distortion' (and also when I was 36 pounds heavier). For the record we were standing on an incline but he is also super tall.
Two examples of some of my favorite scenes. Not anyone being ripped apart but his explanations as to why the dead have come back to life.
The most famous from 'Dawn Of The Dead'.
My personal favorite is actually from 'Day Of The Dead'. (it's basically the first 4 and 1/2 minutes since I couldn't find a shorter clip).