Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Zombies in Georgia

From Esther Cassidy:

A zombie, staggered around the entrance to the screening room at the new Margaret Nesbitt Building. He was pale of skin, with blood staining his ripped shirt and suit coat. He groaned and grunted his greeting to us and to the film students and teachers who attended the Birth of the Living Dead documentary screening at the University of North Georgia in Gainesville. The zombie (he was known as Jeff McClure when among the living) perfectly set the mood for the audience to experience our documentary, which features the making of George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead. Although it was released in 1968 - 45 years ago - it remains one of the greatest, scariest, and most thoroughly unnerving horror films of all time.

Rob, Zombie friend & Gladys

Presented by Gladys P. Wyant, Executive Director of the Arts Council and David Smith, Associate Professor of Media Studies at University of North Georgia, the October 14 event was the first stop of Birth of Living Dead’s Southern Circuit tour. Set in the lovely town of Gainesville, GA on the beautiful campus of the University of North Georgia, filmgoers gave Birth of the Living Dead an enthusiastic reception. As filmmakers, Rob Kuhns and I were gratified by their response to our documentary, especially the students’ excitement about how our documentary portrays the historical and political context of the times in which Night of the Living Dead was produced and distributed.

After the screening Professor Smith led a Q & A. Rob spoke about how he was inspired to direct Birth of the Living Dead because of his deep admiration for George A. Romero’s work as a film director on Night of the Living DeadDawn of the Dead, and his other early and more contemporary films. The students eagerly asked questions about what George A. Romero was like in person – was he as smart, engaging, and funny as he was in our documentary? He is!

Rob and I were impressed with the film students’ perceptive questions about the process of creating documentary films. They surrounded us after the screening asking us about what to read to help them make films, (we recommended Shoot to Kill by Christine Vachon, Making Movies by Sydney Lumet, and In the Blink of an Eye by Walter Murch).

Rob and I are grateful to Professor Smith who lead a lively Q & A session, and his terrific students who filmed the Q & A and will edit it.  We also want to thank Gladys P. Wyant for co-hosting the screening and showing us around the stately Smithgall Arts Center in Gainesville, a renovated railroad station with beautiful performing, visual, and fine art exhibition spaces.