Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Watching Night of the Living Dead

Watching Night of the Living Dead is a re-animation - if you will - of George Romero's 1966 feature Night of the Living Dead, made entirely from scenes in other films, and television shows, where characters are watching the horror classic. Originally named Night of the Flesh Eaters, the film was retitled at the insistence of the distributors, who swapped out the title card and accidentally omitted the copyright symbol. 

This minor clerical error has haunted everyone involved ever since, as it robbed them of all future profits from one of the most lucrative independent movies ever made. With the film not protected by copyright, drive-in theatres could program it without paying royalties, and television stations could air it incessantly. A decade later, it's public domain status led to the VHS market being flooded with unauthorized (but legal) copies, often from substandard prints. 

The word 'zombie' is never used in Night of the Living Dead (Romero thought of them as "dead neighbours") but the film basically set the template for all future iterations of the monster. The contemporary zombie (as portrayed in countless movies, TV shows like The Walking Dead, comics, novels, etc.) owes an enormous debt to Romero. His Zombie is basically the last new popular mythology that is publicly owned. 

Sequels, remakes and adaptations followed, as did the use of the film in other projects. When characters watch television in a film, securing those rights can be costly and time-consuming. If the clip used is in the public domain there is no cost or paperwork. Subsequently, Night of the Living Dead has appeared in countless other productions. 

My project collects these clips and presents them over a bed track of the original film, with I believe about 70% coverage. It stars Anthony Hopkins, Gwyneth Paltrow, Gary Oldman, Victoria Abril, Jennifer Tilley, Amber Lynn, Robin Williams, Cloris Leachman, Kumail Nanjiani, Zoe Kazan, Beverly D’Angelo, Tracy Morgan, Jessica Biel, John Hawkes, Elle Fanning, and a young Ryan Gosling, among others. 

Earlier today the CBC ran a four-and-a-half minute piece about the project, here: 

Thanks to Lise Hosein for the text, and for commissioning the short film, and to Corrie Brough for filming and Erik Sirke for the edit (complete with the classic "coming to get you" line ominously repurposed against me). And thanks to Kristy Trinier, Clayton Smith, Ryan Doherty and everyone at the Southern Alberta Art Gallery, for debuting the piece. It continues there until September 9th: 

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