Document of the Dead (1980) Movie Script

You want a light?
Mm-hmm. How are things
down the other end? This is like living in Pittsburgh.
If you can call that living. A couple of people
have made that observation, that it's like working
in a foreign country, working in Pittsburgh.
It gives you a lot of freedom. In addition to freedom,
it gives you a different perspective. You're not so much
a victim of trends, of popular thinking,
of, you know... What's in the State-of-the-Art
head right now. This is a scene from
"Night of the Living Dead," a low-budget film
co-authored, directed, photographed, and edited
by George Romero... In 1968. Already the head of a successful
commercial production house in Pittsburgh, this was his first venture
into feature Filmmaking. Its flaws were mainly budgetary, while its virtues
were clearly visionary, earning it popular success
as a horror film, and a cult following
for exploratory uses of genre and technique. Style is difficult to define. Even in this disembodied clip the technical aspects
of Romero's style are making themselves
apparent... They're in his cutting... His camera angles... In his two-dimensional design
within the film frame... Great spatial movements
from shot to shot... And even within shot. Just making films
in Pittsburgh for 10 years has become a sort
of stylistic statement. In January of '78, Romero and his Producer
Richard Rubinstein allowed a film crew from the
school of visual arts onto the set of their latest production, the second part
of the "Dead" trilogy, "Dawn of the Dead." Using footage shot
over one long weekend, a documentary took shape, focusing first
on the Filmmaking process and secondly
on directorial vision... What part of it
reaches the screen unhampered, what external forces affect it. But first,
let's introduce our cast. In pre-production...
George Romero, Screenwriter. Richard Rubinstein, Producer. In production...
George Romero, directing. Richard Rubinstein, producing. Michael Gornick,
Cinematographer. Carl Augenstein,
Lighting Director. Tom Savini,
Creator of Special Makeup, Actor and Stuntman. Ken Foree, Actor. Scott Reiniger, Actor. David Emge, Actor. John Amplas, Actor in "Martin" and Casting Director of "Dawn," and in post-production...
Editing the film. Pre-production involves
writing the screenplay, raising the money
and organizing the shoot. - All aboard.
- Good morning. Hiya.
How long to Pittsburgh? - 10 hours to Pittsburgh.
- Is there a bar car? - On your left.
- Thank you. Madam, traveling alone?
All alone. - Shall I wake you for Pittsburgh?
- No, I'm going to New York. - The Big Apple?
- Right? - Thank you and good night.
- Thank you. Good night. These are the opening
moments of "Martin," the film Romero made
just before "Dawn." As the story unfolds, you'll
see the screenplay qualities... All inherently cinematic... Which begin
to articulate his style. First the visual imperative. With few exceptions,
cinema relies as little as possible
on the spoken word. Characterization and plot are best revealed through action and accumulation of detail. Montage concepts begin
in the screenplay. The story is developing
with literally no dialogue, and suspense is being generated not only in the horror
of the situation but in the mystery
of the plot itself. We still don't know
his identity, his motives, or his goal. Romero's use
of dual linear movement fleshes out the two dimensions
of film into three. A use of such devices as
the manipulation of time... Or other devices
such as irony... As you can see from the final page
of the "Dawn" screenplay, Romero's use of the form
is unorthodox... In a medium where one page generally equals
one minute of film. The script seems long.
Did you plan to shoot it all? I mean, giving yourself
leeway in the cutting? Pretty much.
I usually write long scripts. "Martin" was a long script
that was really a long script. The first cut came out at almost
two hours and 45 minutes. - Wow.
- This is a long script that seems long. It's not really long. There is so much description. And if you read those pages, there is so much action described in great paragraphs where I got carried away
describing the action itself. Some of those things
take a second and a half. And it's not cutting that long. We did...
I cut the first half of the film and it came in at 45 minutes, so I think the first cut
will be about a two-hour cut. - Great.
- Which is not bad for a first cut. To what extent do other
influences creep into a work? And at what stage? A lot of people have
often compared you to Hitchcock. But you don't buy that.
How come? They have some nerve. No, I don't...
Filmmaking is funny. Filmmakers...
All artists to some extent are parasitic
of what they've seen, and what they are
basically imitating, what attracted them
in the first place. Filmmakers, maybe
more than any other form, I mean, it's not like
you can sit down with a pencil and do your thing...
Or a canvas or whatever. It's very expensive
and very few people get enough chance
to work with the hardware, and get enough chance to really develop a style... Except on a very
intellectual level. That's why unfortunately
the State-of-the-Art has somewhat gone towards
menus and pre-planning and everything else...
Which is a little bit destructive. I would say that if I'm parasitic
of anybody it's more Welles, and some of the early...
Like Howard Hawks and people like that. Those were films
that really affected me. There are certain
Hitchcockian things that... First of all, I don't consciously
when I'm setting up a shot say wow, remember
that shot in... And then try to imitate that. They are Hitchcock-type
influences... The sequence in the cemetery in
"Night of the Living Dead"... Where you see the figure way in the
background and don't know what it is. And it gradually
gets worked into the plot. It starts to become a threat,
and then the threat is a real threat. That's kind of
a Hitchcockian sequence. Hey, I mean praying's
for church, huh? Come on. I haven't seen you
in church lately. Well... Not much sense
in my going to church. Do you remember one time
when we were small we were out here?
It was from right over there. I jumped out at you
from behind the tree, and Grandpa got all excited
and he shook his fist at me and he said,
"Boy, you'll be damned to Hell!" Remember that?
Right over there. You used to really be
scared here. - Johnny!
- You're still afraid. Stop it now, I mean it. They're coming
to get you, Barbara. Stop it.
You're ignorant. They're coming for you, Barbara. Stop it!
You're acting like a child. They're coming for you. Look, there comes
one of them now. - He'll hear you.
- Here he comes now. - I'm getting out of here.
- Johnny... A couple of pieces
that I've seen written about "Night of the Living Dead"
say that it takes us back to silent cinema storytelling. Johnny!
Help me. I can see now a couple
of specific things in a couple of my films that are
Hitchcockian in that way. Sometimes people say it
because of the plot lines... The very certain ironies
in the plots that I use. I don't think that
has anything to do with form, I think that's more a content
association people are making. "The Thing" was the movie that
knocked me down when I was a kid. That's the one,
I think, horror film. Everyone says
"What attracts you to the genre?" And it was probably
"The Thing." I was the right age
at exactly the right time and it had exactly the right effect on me.
I've never forgotten it. The cineographics
of "The Thing," and those of "Night" and "Dawn" are remarkably similar. Confined spaces within which
groups of protagonists are eternally on guard
against a deadly foe. Tranquility never exists
in Romero's world. You could say his style is derived from
D.W. Griffith's because he uses closeups. The truth of it is, artists imprint
distinctive auras on their films. "Genre" is a term which should
have been invented by the distributors. For the artist,
it's just a departure point. Thank you Casting occurs
in pre-production. Is it an irony
in both "Night and "Dawn" that Romero's main
protagonists are black? In "Night of the Living Dead" the character,
if you read the script... If you read my shooting script, the character is never described in terms of his color. And Duane was the best actor
that we knew from among our friends, which
was where we cast that film... Where we cast that film.
And so he did the part. Consciously, I resisted
writing new dialogue because he happened to be black. And just let it play
and we just shot the script. As we started to shoot
and got into it, we lived at that farmhouse. So we were always into raps
about the implications and the meanings
and stuff like that. Some of that maybe
crept into the film. I think in both
"Night" and "Dawn" the biggest job
that all of us had during the production
of both of those films was subduing
all of those thoughts. Those can really interfere
with what you're doing. What you're doing on the surface
is making a comic book. Those ironies that you're talking about
are that selection process... Is something again
that happened at script stage, or on a consciousness level somewhere beneath the craft
of making the film. Our news cameras
have just returned from covering such a search and
destroy operation against the ghouls. Themes, motifs, and metaphors trace back to the
screenplay stage why does the media play such
an important part in his films? Have been organized to search out
and destroy the marauding ghouls. I worked in television for so long, that maybe
it's just an important part of my background. I also just have a lot of attitudes
about what that "reach", that whole "communications electronic box" has done
to everybody. So I guess I tend to take "jabs" at it. The plan is, kill the brain
and you kill the ghoul. - Want anything from the supply wagon?
- No, we're all right. Hey, cass, put that thing
all the way in the fire. - We don't want it getting up again.
- All right, I gotcha. Chief McClellan,
how's everything going? Oh, things aren't going too bad.
Men are taking it pretty good. You want to get on the other side
of the road over there. Chief, do you think we'll be
able to defeat these things? Well, we killed 19 of them
today, right in this area. Those last three we caught trying to
claw their way into an abandoned shed. They must have thought somebody
was in there. There wasn't, though. People on the television,
not really answering the question but making it more confusing,
that's been the conscience part of that. Because that's generally what it's about. "Ladies and Gentlemen there was a plane crash
that took out a small piece of Manhattan... more later." it's never reassuring,
it's always alarming. That's been a kind of
conscience through-line. The Producer is in a key
position during pre-production, securing funds, putting the film into a viable financial
and legal position, and thereafter
protecting the director. I think that we tend to operate in more a European style in terms of the way we produce
and the way George directs, and that we tend to follow Sarris' auteur theory of direction, and that I see
my function as a Producer in terms of providing
George Romero with a brush,
palette and canvas. And his creative control
is absolute in terms of the film itself... That he's the scriptwriter, that he's the director
and he's the editor. And it's totally the product
of one man's vision on a creative level. This is the largest budget that George has
had to work with in terms of production. I think that he's got enough money
here to do what he wants to do. It's not an excessive amount of money by traditional
Hollywood standards. This is a low-budget picture. Of course anything under $2 million dollars is
considered low-budget in terms of major studios. The biggest difference
really in "Dawn" is working with
a little bit of money and still being satisfied
with the product. In fact, it was easier.
I was paranoid about it upfront, because just having
that extra weight is a trip. But I'm comfortable with
what "Dawn of the Dead" is. And the extra money it
took to make it what it is was really not a hindrance at all.
It was a big, big help. A lot of people say
"I can't work with money, I can't work with a lot
of people around." This film was financed
in somewhat of a traditional way in that it's co-financed
internationally, that a group headed
by Dario Argento in Italy co-financed
the film with us. And our end
of the co-financing comes from private individuals. I think it was unique
in that this project started off with two creative
people getting together... Dario Argento and George Romero. And then the business side
came after that point. Now the physical
productions begins. In this second stage
the Director and Cinematographer stand
to share equally in importance for what is captured on film. It's the eighth week
of the "Dawn" shoot, we're in an $80 million mall
in Pittsburgh, which Romero is allowed
to use each night from 11:00 till 7:00
in the morning. - Everyone ready?
- Camera? - It's rolling.
- Sound. Cut. He does not get uptight, he asks me if it's possible and asks me how much time
it's gonna take. And then he'll give me a straight
"yes" or "no" on whether to do it. There's no bullshit,
there's no yelling, it's been a very... For shooting this long
under these conditions I'd say it's been
absolutely wonderful. George Romero directs pretty much
the way he is... Pleasant, relaxed, great sense of humor. And intelligent,
so the combinations work well. There's no hurry,
there's no pressure, we discuss it. And usually a very few words are exchanged. There are ideas, a few words
and we've got it. The man's like water and you're a ship,
so you just float along and do the job. Okay. Ready? Quiet. Action. The best thing about him
is that he gets across what he wants
without telling you. I don't know how he does it,
but it's incredible. 'Cause he's so clear about what
he wants all the time. I think when he's working
he's editing at the same time. When he says it looks good, we've learned that indeed
it will look good, because he has a very good eye. The atmosphere which pervaded
the "Dawn" shoot was unusual for a film production
in this country. And while good films
have been created by directors who were
universally despised, there's no doubt
that chemistry counts. I think George likes
confidence in his crew, but I think he likes to work with
people he feels at ease with. They have to be confident,
but beyond that he likes people he can work with till
7:00 in the morning like we did today...
And feel at ease with them. There's a lot of rapping
that goes on constantly on the shoots. A lot of fun
and a lot of hard work. It's a joy working with George,
because he accepts a lot of input in terms of what I see or...
It's amazing that even suggestions that come oftentimes
from crew members through me... And he's very willing
to accept those observations. A lot of his film is
input from the crew. A lot of freedom...
It's a real democracy with George. The "Dawn" production
took a month off in December rather than remove and restore
the holiday decorations every night, losing hours of shooting time. Romero used that month
to cut what he had already shot. By the time
the school crew arrived, four weeks into the second
round of shooting, he had covered the screenplay
well enough to stop at any point and edit the
footage into release form. It was now
in an improvisational stage where new ideas
were being developed. This picture's really
designed for right now. It's much more of a comic book...
It's much lighter. It didn't seem so in the script. In fact, the scene
we saw being shot yesterday, the pie fight... And I'd heard rumors that the ending
has been also changed. Yeah, in fact, we shot both, because I wasn't willing
to give up the tragic ending. But this film,
"Dawn of the Dead" has... it's a very
romanticized film. MI vida!
Miguelito. The major change that's happened that I can see
from my conceptions upon first reading it and now is that it's lightening up. You know? When I first read it, I thought
it was awfully shocking to think just in terms of
numbers of bodies being maimed and gallons of blood
being spilled, but there is a quality
coming out that is
counter-weighting that. It's definitely becoming
more of a fantasy to me... More of an adventure
to me than I first conceived of it
upon first reading it. I think the number
of the special effects are a substantial
portion of the budget, where prior to this they were less so
in George's other films. It's the number of explosions, the number
of cosmetic effects that Tom Savinl does. Ya! Those things take
a certain amount of time and a certain amount of budgetary
support in order to... Get them to work.
They don't always work the first time. A squib is simply a detonator. But we placed
the detonator in a tube that was filled with gunpowder. And that was placed inside
a prophylactic which was filled with blood. So when the blast went off,
the concussion blew the prophylactic and the blood
from beneath the clothing. We're in this mall
when the mall closes, the mall closes
9:30 or so. We start coming in around 8:00
to get set up and everything. We only have until 7:00 in the morning
before we have to stop shooting, because we got to get all our
stuff out when the mall opens. They'll be times
in a particular night where we're shooting
all over the script. It has to be done fast, because that
all has to be done in seven hours. George is a wonderful guy.
You can say to George... He'll be very cool...
No expression on his face... You can say to him,
"George I've got this fabulous idea, why don't we take
a screwdriver... Say the maintenance man
has a screwdriver on his belt, and have the maintenance man
zombie attack scott. Scott pulls a screwdriver
out of his bag and sticks it in the zombie's ear,
shoves it in the brain. George will go "okay." You could say "George,
how about if we get dragons coming out of the fountains
in the mall?" I'm sure he'd go, "yeah, okay, yeah."
You can't shake him. The first half of the shooting
was very organized and there wasn't
a great deal of improvisation because most of the big
effects were done in the first part. The things George wrote in the script,
we planned ahead. We knew exactly...
We would stand in the office and he would walk the whole
thing through and be a zombie, be the victim, be the helicopter.
Very organized. This shoot's a little different. We've created characters
on our own. I've created a character and a friend,
a stunt-man's created a character. He's been developing
those characters as we shoot...
Day by day. So it's like really loose,
this half of the shoot. And just as much fun. How many zombies
are you making up a night? It depends on what
we're doing in the script. Some nights we'll have 200,
sometimes we'll have five. The nights we have five,
they're the concentrated scenes between one lead, and we put five around him
so it looks like a continuation of the 200
the day before. It depends, like I say, it depends on what's in
the script for that night. Can you explain
what you're doing right now? Okay, these are foam latex appliances
I'm sticking on his face. These are zombies... Or people that
have died in interesting ways... Or not interesting ways, just people
who have died and come back to life. A lot of them look like
car accident victims, cancer patients. One guy came in here in a three-piece
suit, beautiful three-piece suit, so I made him up like
a mortician would at a funeral parlor.
And he was like "beautiful." Overly made-up
with lipstick and all that. So he was walking around
like a fresh one. Okay, you have to lean forward just a bit
so I can powder all this. It'll probably get
all over your shirt here. Others are people who have
been bitten by other zombies and who have died
and become zombies. And they're the ones
that are the grossest. I don't know what happened to you...
A car accident, zombie bit your face off
or something like that. The fun of this thing
is inventing all this stuff. Can you close your eyes? And I'm covering them
with this stuff called rubber mask greasepaint. It's a greasepaint that has
more castor oil in it. It keeps the rubber piece from
drying out and changing color after the makeup
has been on it for a while. You sculpt them in clay.
You make a mold of them, and you pour foam latex in the mold...
You bake it in an oven. I took a big photo tray
and sculpted a zillion wounds, cast them...
And I had those and I did another one... Cast them
and I had those wounds. When I'm making a piece
and I have foam latex left over, I'll pour it in one of these slabs, and
I'll have extra wounds laying around. Are there any schools
that teach that? No, not that I know of.
I had to teach myself. The director must be
a psychologist. He must also be
a story-boarder, an editor... Linking the disparate
sensibilities of cast and crew
with his own vision. Okay, if it's straight up,
we can do it with hands. Tom Savini, now on
the other side of the camera, is about to assay
a difficult stunt which will portray
his demise onscreen. One can see under these
specialized circumstances, Romero effortlessly
fulfilling his ongoing roles as prime mover
of the production. - Keep going, keep going.
- Ready, Tom? Keep going...
Okay, okay, good. - Hold on, Tom.
- All set? - Any time.
- Are you rolling? Stand by. You gonna
go right there, Tom? Yeah, from here. - Ready, Mike?
- Hold on. Do you have
Shelby's hand in the light? Holding the bench on the left? - I can't see any bench.
- Quiet, please. - Okay, Mike?
- Beautiful. Out of sight, beautiful. What about the approach
you're taking in directing it? I thought
"Night of the Living Dead" was pretty tightly story-boarded.
Is that true? It was and it wasn't.
A lot of the sequences were, as a lot of the sequences
in this film are. Oh, 'cause while we've been here,
it seems very loose. It's been loose, but you've been here
only for a few scenes too. Some of the scenes... As you watch the interlock
I think, you'll find to be very, very close to the way
that script is written. Story-boarding refers
most commonly to a series of artists'
renderings prepared in pre-production. In production, each shot will
correspond to one of these sketches. George is a genius
in that respect. He can memorize
his own storyboards. He prepares them himself. And Chris, his A.D.,
has helped in that respect too. But he doesn't literally
storyboard his shots. He's a very complex director. He likes to keep it to himself in terms of the actual story-boarding
of blocking scenes. And he brings it with him to the set.
That's his style. There are certain things
that I want to happen that build on each other. In this film,
the people starting to get tempted and attracted
by the mall. And starting to get... Adopting the military
approach to taking it over. And those are the things
that I've tried to keep as close as possible
to the script... The sequence when they
go and get the trucks and block off
the outside of the mall. Because there is a certain build that was written
into the script, which I really think adds to... The overall flow
of the suspense of the film. Martin. Here in a later scene
from "Martin," Romero's modern vampire story, one can feel a tight
pre-structured quality indicative
of story-boarding. I had a copy of the script about a month and a half or two
before we started shooting. And he already had it
story-boarded to an extent. Martin. There's a lot of quick cuts
of you creeping down hallways, and how would you hit
your mark emotionally? I generally didn't worry
about it emotionally. I was more interestedin hitting the mark...
In being in the right place. Martin. Martin. Martin! Martin? - Who are you?
- Oh my God. Look, let's not get
excited about this now. There's no reason to get upset. I don't know him! Were the scenes
very tightly blocked off? They weren't tightly blocked,
but they were blocked. Because of being
such an action scene, we had written blocking just as if we would work
in a theater. Of course,
"Martin" was a small shoot... Generally not more than eight
people on the set in total. "Dawn" had, I think, 35 in
staff and hundreds in actors. - Yeah, many nights, hundreds.
- And his attention was being pulled away
all too often. So he kept himself
pretty much by himself during that. But his overall attitude with actors
was pretty much the same. Your role in "Dawn" was on
the other side of the camera. I was Casting Director. Mostly my job
was recruiting zombies. Creative compromise is the name
of the game in Filmmaking. Logistics of production
force one to make decisions counter to the original concept,
but ultimately beneficial. We were talking before
about the fact that when he got to the mall,
it had a different atmosphere than he already thought about "Dawn" having. The mall also brought
a futuristic look to the film. It was so vast. The idea of the mall itself, the moment we see it,
the moment we come in and see what it is, I think it's gonna
become obvious in terms of what
we're saying about the false security
of consumer society. It's a great metaphor. It's a great set, too. - Great location, really.
- Great location. We couldn't do it
without a mall like this. We were really lucky to get it. How's it been working with it?
Have there been problems? There have been
a few problems... - Mainly technical?
- Mainly technical. No real people problems at all. When I read it,
I could easily picture the editing. I mean your style,
between the angles. But I didn't picture
the color designs - or what the mall would look like.
- All of those influences... Everyone's attitude toward the thing,
as well as my own desire, I think, to brighten things up...
go more action adventure. First of all
you're dealing, as I said, with 3-400 extras
in some scenes, you're dealing
with a shopping mall as our primary set,
where their primary business is in fact selling
consumer goods. And integrating what we want
to do with the life of the mall has been an arduous
and complicated task. There is no way to pay... Or let's say that there is,
but it's way beyond our capacity to pay in dollar values what the
use of the mall is worth. The people that own
the shopping mall have been aesthetically
attached to Filmmaking and they are getting enough money
so it doesn't cost them anything to have us in here, which is an expensive
proposition in itself. But in terms of looking at it, are they making a profit
on our being involved with them? No, that's not the case. - What about insurance?
- Insurance is a very costly item... Particularly where you're
dealing in public places. If a little old lady
tends to see a zombie, or happens to see a zombie
wandering around with makeup and has a heart attack,
that's a potential problem. I don't want to limit that
to little old ladies, but anyone. So, yes the insurance... Tab on this particular picture
is a substantial number. You all right?
You okay? - - Yeah, I'm all right.
- All right, Savini. All right, Savini. Obviously you can't
light a place this size without spending
a week to light it. We discussed doing the
whole thing in one shot... Rehearsing 30 days
and shoot it one day. So we have to keep it pretty low otherwise there would
be really dead areas. The situation
is not enough time, not enough lights and incredibly large spaces
to deal with. And I think the large spaces
and the fact that we're shooting a large number of angles
on any given shot are the biggest problem. We'll do a setup,
an initial setup and shoot one angle. And the director
will immediately call for a reversal on it. Normally, that's not
too big a problem, but in this case,
one reversal might encompass 200 or 300 feet of mall area where you have background
just to fill in, just to create touches
to avoid black holes. Hotspots... There's glass
everywhere creating reflections. My first reaction
was total panic. I aggravated myself to death, because I really...
I wanted it to be better. The initial shots were so big that I had to use every light to its absolute fullest amount. I couldn't skip
a couple of sections and say, "I'll fill them
in with another light." I had to know that between every
10 feet there had to be something, or every certain area
there had to be a highlight or a spot.
I had to know that. And I had to know
exactly what it was. And I went back to my books and I read performance figures on every lamp that I have,
and measured things and went through it
over and over again. And finally it came out. We got the initial
setup done and it worked. And I felt likeabout five million pounds
was taken off of my head. While we're swinging with it
on the very, very big shots right here, right now
we're using a lot of tungsten. We're pushing one stop... And we're working with ease
under that situation. For the very, very big shots
we're pushing one again and using some zeiss... - Distagon.
- Distagon lenses, with the 1.4 which gives us
plenty of light to shoot under. So then the basis
of this film for me is to go in and set up areas, set a main source of light. And that's not particularly a key light,
it's a source of light, whether it be
a lamp or ceiling light or a window light...
Whatever it is. Then I sit back
and I look at what's there and build upon that. A lot of the situations
are available light, because it's the only
possible way to shoot it. The shots are either too large or the movement
is too fast to light. That's really the biggest problem
is this time situation. We've managed by doing
basically area lighting by bouncing a lot
of light around creating natural effects. Not lighting to the shot,
but lighting areas. - Let's go.
- Okay, arrives at the column. Ricochets ready? Let's go for one more...
Let's go for just one more shot. You have it in, and you come off
with the big cocking action. Fire 'em off the launch towards you.
And then just hold. 'Cause you can always hold in aiming mode
when you realize that there's too many... Like you see more of them
coming around the corner. Ready, Mike? Quiet. - Sound?
- Rolling. 659, take 7.
Sound 1343. I had never worked with any other
director in terms of a feature. I know the reaction
to George's style as to how he'd get
so many setups in one hour, while other directors might
spend 3-4 hours on eight shots. Whereas George, I don't think,
could ever do that. Yeah, we have discussed
angles and style on a previous film we did
called "Martin." We pretty much maintain that mood
when we shoot horror stuff... Which is a lot of wide angle, low positions that accentuate
the monster aspects of the zombies or whatever. That's pretty much it
in terms of any adapted style which we have intensified
in this film or any previous horror films
which we've done. This film allows us to be a little
more graceful, a little more beautiful with our photography because
it's not simply a horror film. One of our worries was we were getting a
little too far away from the horror genre. But I can help it along...
I understand where he's going. I've worked with him enough
that I understand his direction. George tends to set up scenes
and then let them happen, rather than being
extremely precise about every movement
of every actor, and the delivery of every line. If he's not happy with the way it
comes out the first time, he will do another take obviously.
Mm-hmm. But, I think
overall style-wise, I think that it's consistent. I think that it's
a little more traditional in that he is using... how can I say...
a more standard approach in terms of reverses
and two-shots on dialogue and the like... Not a lot but somewhat. We shoot anywhere
from 15-20 to one. Senores, please to let me pass. I cover conversations
with the master. No, no, no, please. Just let me pass. I go up to seventh floor
find my sister. Then with single head shots
on everybody involved. People of 107 will do
what you wish now. These are simple people.
They have little, but they do not
give it up easily. And their dead
they give up to no one. Not so much cutaways, in other words, I'll cut
to all of the people or I'll use people
as their own cutaways. Many have died last week,
on these streets. In the basement of this building,
you will find them. I have given them
the last rites. Now, you do what you will. You are stronger than us, but soon I think... They be stronger than you. And sometimes if I see
a shot I like I'll just go do it...
Almost on whim. When the dead walk, Senores, we must stop the killing or lose the war. Out here, shooting, I don't really
think too much about cutting, I'd rather let that happen too. Except in tightly choreographed sequences,
like the truck scene where I know
what's cutting to what. In this action scene notice how he has isolated
the three leads to better manipulate
the visuals... Close-ups, medium shots, long shots come on. Look, man. Visceral, disorienting angles, rhythm and tension
potentials to be inherited by himself on the editing table. The most celebrated shot
in "Night" is this one. A close-up of one zombie
gives way to an extreme
long shot of several of them. And the film transforms
into a vision of doom. A revelation in space,
multiplies the horror far beyond our expectations. As a spatial stylist,
Romero is consistent. He is a master
of spatial design. I never really put it down
to the use of space, except that's what it is. It has to do with, uh... Again, it's just
breaking from tradition. There are ways
that you're supposed to shoot that... Involving screen direction
and involving a formal patternized
kind of cutting, which I just don't like. I think as part... if the scene
is a tension-filled scene, or if it's a suspenseful scene
or a very active scene which is meant to grate... Everything should grate. Get its head up! Get its head up! Roger, get its head up, man! No matter how much
you work with film, it never ceases to amaze
me how different it is once it's up there,
and you're watching all your footage. It's very hard to translate
when you're on the set. You can't imagine what it's
going to look like in two dimensions, up there that big
with electronic amplification. But I don't think
it's insecurity to say, "I'm not sure
how this going to work out, so we're going to shoot it another way.
" That's just exploration. A lot of film is like watercolor...
It's a lot of accidents and it's learning how
to control the accidents. That's where you need to just
keep doing a lot of work. Goodbye, creep. The key creative force in post-production
is the editor. Who, in this case,
also happens to be the director. There are a few scenes...
Like a housing project scene where we raid this housing
project in the beginning, and there's this... There are a couple of families
in the apartments there who come in and we're throwing
them out of the housing project and various people are killed. The way some of them are
killed just make you go... Like that. And I saw some of the stuff
being shot, the scenes, but when he put it together
it was, uh... I was riveted to the seat.
I couldn't believe it. It was pretty powerful. Definitely not boring. On the couch...
Throw her on the couch. - Come on.
- Okay. It has been said that Romero doesn't allow us
to look at his shots, rather his cutting forces us
to experience them. This is as true of "Night"... No. No! No! As it is of "Martin"... As it is of "Dawn." Considering that quick cutting will
wear an audience down emotionally, it is remarkable
that he can maintain such a level of tension
in his films. They contain almost twice as many
cuts as any other directors'. He conceptualizes,
by doing takes, exactly what he needs,
and he's very efficient with his shots. Some call it choppy,
or some call it heavy-handed in terms of the editorial style. Hey, Dick! Hello. George's commercial background,
if you will, has set the tone
for his cutting, that he has a commercial reel
that I think is slick as anybody out of New York
or Los Angeles. Mellon bank and U.S. Steel
and Rockwell and Heinz... And he used to make very,
very slick 30-second commercials. And he learned the discipline whereby you have to say
something quickly, concisely and get the message across. What happens when
a Calgon research team and their submarine
are reduced to micro-size and sent on a dangerous mission
deep inside a washing machine? Engines reversed full, captain.
We're stuck. We've got to find out
what's on those fibers. Trapped in the fibers
of a giant t-shirt the Calgonauts discover secrets
of gray dull-looking laundry. - Why, it feels like...
- Leftover detergent film. The fibers are covered
with this stuff. This box has never been opened. Add the Calgon.
You'll thrill as Calgon dissolves the dirty
leftover detergent film. It's working.
The gray is gone. The fibers are clean. - Let's get out of here.
- I think I'm in love with you. If you're tired
of dull detergent films and grade-b washes,
thrill to the Calgon story. At your nearby
family washing machine. This has been transposed
into his feature editing, so that there is very rarely
a let up in the action. I don't think there
are very many shots that last four
or five seconds on screen. There are not thoselong, long
camera moves... That's true. Revolving around.
All George would do would cut them up
if Mike did them. I shoot a lot, because I know that I can
make the decisions later on the cutting table. So I wind up shooting
a lot of material that I fall in love with, and I really like.
And there's economically no room for it in the final piece.
So it's harder. And it's very hard...
When I sit down and I say "okay, here are 10 scenes
that I like, which two
are the least needed?" It's really...
That's a very difficult process for me. And I think that's where
all of your bias comes in... And all of your emotions. It's very difficult.
It's a lot easier to edit when you're upfront...
When you're writing it. There's a lot of people
that work with a formula in terms of when to use the master,
when to go in and all that. And people will say
that's very shattering if you don't follow
some kind of a pattern or if there isn't some kind
of an expected cutting pace that people can relax
and get comfortable with. I don't think
that's true at all. I don't think people notice cuts...
If they're well done. If they're not shattering or jarring,
you don't notice them at all. There's a sequence
in "Martin," for example, which could have been
just the murder sequence, but it's elongated as far as I
thought it could be elongated. - Emergency, now call 911.
- I can't call 911, that's the police... It's not, it's a general
emergency number! Some actions are mundane...
Dealing with the telephones. Call the hospital. Tell them what happened.
We'll be there in five minutes. All those actions,
no matter how mundane, become interesting when you look
at them in a certain way. - I don't know the number.
- Call information. Get the number... call them. They're all part of the overall
action that's going on. And they help to build
a certain amount of suspense, because they are things
that we deal with every day. Shit! It's fucked up.
Wait a minute. I gotta do it again. I can't get through.
I forgot the number. Wait... I don't like sloughing
sequences off. I don't like car chases
that don't do anything. Because within
a fight in this room that encompasses
three punches being thrown. Lewis! Move aside, you bastard... I'm not talking about
a big brawl. You could do
a three-punch fight and make it last five minutes. 'Cause everything is valid
and everything is information. And I like to deal with detail. And I'd like to just
go with a visual, almost a cubist look at that. And that's another place
where I'll shoot a lot of film. Get away from me!
Stop! What did you do to me? I use a lot of sound elements. And I cut, rather thanon a flatbed,
on a table with a synchronizer. And there's a certain
kind of tactile thing that I get into
in terms of the tracks. It's a visual almost
checker-boarding of the tracks. I don't use film as leader.
I always use white, because I like to see that white-brown juxtaposition
of the tracks. I like to lay the tracks
across on a table. You can almost visualize
how the track is working. And I use a lot of track. And when I do my first cut,
I don't just cut picture-voice. I cut with some kind of music and with effects... You use pre-recorded music
to get the rhythms? Yeah, to get some kind
of rhythm going... Until I find a rhythm going. And I wind up
with a lot of tracks for a small independent. I've seen studio productions where
they get into 30-40 tracks, but that's just because they're
too lazy to lay them in sometimes. I use 12-15 tracks. And I like a lot of sound.
I hate dead air. I'll always use
some kind of an ambiance and a lot of music, which is just all form stuff. Some people say that my tracks
are too driving or too full, but that's just
personal preference. In summary,
this sequence from "Dawn" clearly demonstrates
Romero's style, conceptualized
in the screenplay stage... Given substance
during shooting... And given shape in the editing. We don't make
distributions arrangements till after we finish a picture. Not wanting to have too many
fingers in the pie too soon, not wanting to compromise
from ground zero. Eventually we may have to make some
compromises on a business level, but at least they start later. And we've finished the picture so it's
a matterof maybe taking something out. This statement was made
during production and carried with it an ominous note which
reverberated for over a year as Romero fought for
a strong vision. It stood as a thorn in the side
of negotiations with distributors even after "Dawn" opened to
tremendous business in Europe. Finally a breakthrough
was achieved. We made a couple of errors
in signing the distribution deal with "Night of the Living Dead" in that we sold, or we'd signed
a distribution deal worldwide. We didn't hold out any rights...
television, Canada, Europe... nothing. 16mm... nothing.
We gave the distributor the world. Basically, I didn't
know anything then... About the business side of things and
about how to draw a contract. Now, knowing what I know now, you want to ask for as many
of those controls as you can possibly
get your hands on. When you have a smash-hit film
out in theaters, your 16mm rights
are going to be worth a lot. Television rights
will be worth a lot. So principally
I would say that... Hold for as much as you
can hold out for. There were a number of people that
offered us substantial amounts of money to deliver an R-rated film
which meant, we anticipated, cutting
the guts out of the movie... In order to get that "R." We looked for a distributor
who recognized, as we did, that the best economic
course of action was to leave the film untampered even though that created
other problems. It created the potential problem of a newspaper
not taking the ad. It created the problem of a TV station
not running a commercial, a certain theater
not playing the film. We believed that ultimately economically
those problems would cost less and we would make more if the film
was left as George wanted it. Several of the distributors
that wanted it badly understanding the problems... For example
with the MPAA, here in this country... That the mpaa would
probably "X" the film. And the only way to get an "R"
would be to cut it. So I wound up holding out
during the negotiations and luckily Richard backed me
up all the way on this, because there were a couple of times
when it would have been easier to take a deal... Would have
been financially easier to take a deal. That's the other thing... I think that
Richard and I have had a good relationship. So I don't have to worry
about my own internal team. And that's big...
Number one. Having Richard's support,
I was just able to sit there and say "look, I'm not gonna
cut the picture." When the distributor took his stance
to put the picture out unrated, it's not that he wasn't
accepting the restrictions of an "X"... Because he's putting
a flag on it that says no one under 17 will be admitted.
Forget with a parent, not at all...
And he's accepting those restrictions. What he's not accepting
is the symbol itself, the "X," because the "X"
does automatically say to most people in America
that this picture is obscene. For a major company
in the industry to release a film without a rating
is a major break. And that was something
that was long and hard in finding. We basically are in agreement
with a system which flags movies and tells people
what they're gonna see. Our point is, there should not be
economic penalties attached to that. I also had to fight... You always
have to fight for things like length. Usually with an exploitation picture,
a distributor will say "It's terrific and I love it,
but cut it to 90 minutes." Once again, there's no secret. I can't teach you how to get the kind of controls that enable you
to leave your picture longer... Or to have that kind of creative cut.
It's a matter of holding out for it and not selling until
somebody gives it to you. And I was able to do that
partially because of my reputation, but partially just because
I sat there and said no. And there were a couple
of sticky times when people would get up from the
negotiating table and walk and go home. You got to sit through them,
those are the toughest times. You gotta sit through that and say
"okay, see you tomorrow"... hopefully. And we did see them tomorrow
and they ultimately said "okay, it can be your cut." Adam, let me give you something
you might want to use. - Okay, keep it going.
- Just roll for a second. I think that there
are very few directors that have total, final,
real last cut on their movies. I say that when they tell you that
these are the rules for the system and you can't do it another way, they're not correct.
It can be done other ways. You can maintain control
of your product. I'm not saying it's easy,
but it can be done. You don't have to be
in New York or Hollywood in order to produce films,
to get attention. I think we're the proof of that. I would be
as encouraging as possible to people to do
what everybody else says you can't do. So, "Night of the Living Dead"
is the beginning and this is the end? - This is the middle.
- This is the middle? - Is there room for more?
- There's plenty of room for more. Zombies are still dumb.