Wherefore art thou, Romero?

The zombie auteur speaks!

On returning to his independent filmmaking roots: When we made [1968's Night of the Living Dead] we were just a bunch of young people in Pittsburgh. We had a commercial production company, so we had our own equipment, and we audaciously decided that we should go out and make a movie. So the first one was real guerrilla filmmaking — but actually the first five or six films that I made were completely independent. After Dawn of the Dead [1978] we hooked up with a distributor-production company, and they financed us to some bigger budgets. But even those films were independent. There was a period when I was courted by Hollywood and made a couple of studio pictures and was getting very discouraged. Finally, the last zombie film that I made, Land of the Dead [2005], was for Universal. And they really let me alone — they let me make that movie. But it was a grueling process. And I realized, "Man, this is all getting too big. It's approaching Thunderdome here." I felt this incredible disconnect with the roots, with where it all came from. I really wanted to throttle down and back up and see if I had the energy and the chops to go do another really low-budget film. I needed to revitalize myself.

On the trend of movies using the self-filming technique: I haven't seen Cloverfield. Redacted, I guess, was similar. Vantage Point I haven't seen. I thought that we would be the originators of it, but now I guess I have to say we're part of a trend. I think there's some kind of collective subconscious — all the world has a camera these days. I think it's rather obvious for fiction writers, filmmakers, whatever, to take note of that and use it. It's pretty scary, this blogosphere — man, you just wonder who's out there throwing up all these ideas.

On finding truth in the media, be it mainstream or underground: To me that's the argument that's central to [Diary of the Dead]. When there were three networks, sure, [the news] was all being managed and controlled and spun, no doubt. Now it's completely unmanaged. And it's not even necessarily all information — it's opinions, viewpoints. Anybody could get on there with any kind of an idea and find followers. That's what spooks me. What would you rather have: it being controlled but not be insightful, or would you rather have this chaos? And I don't have the answer to that. I almost blame the public more than anybody else for being suckered into it and not bothering to do their own homework. People would rather have somebody tell them the way it is, and go along with it.

On the living dead: The zombies, to me, don't represent anything except the disaster. They could be a hurricane. They could be an approaching asteroid. My stories have always been about the people and how they respond or fail to respond or respond improperly — and keep trying to preserve the world as they knew it instead of readjusting to whatever these changes are on the planet. The zombies are just zombies. They're the reason that I can get these movies made. They're the fun part of it! But to me, they don't represent anything in particular.

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