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Part 2
Written by Romero, George A. on 2004-01-15 14:38:11


So, I read the script right?

I dig it. Dig it hard.
(Forgive the idiom. I’m an old guy, and a frustrated musician.)

Some of my old friends, the Night of the Living Dead guys and I, once had a company called The Latent Image. John Russo, Russ Streiner, and myself...(there were others, but we were the three who contributed most of the time and most of the sweat [more about this can be found in John’s “The Complete Night of the Living Dead Filmbook])...advertised ourselves as “Producers of Industrial Films and Television Commercials”.
Fresh out of college, all we had was a Bolex and a couple of pin lights, the kind with aluminum shades that could be bought at any local hard-ware store.

Actually that’s not true. That’s not all we had. We also had balls. Balls enough to advertise ourselves as “Producers of Industrial Films and Television Commercials”.

We got jobs. People actually hired us to make industrial films and television commercials for them.

Keep in mind, in those days there was no such thing as videotape. There was only film. The news was broadcast on film! Camera crews would go out to the site of a robbery or a fire and shoot film! Usually sixteen millimeter film. Sometimes, on special occasions, when there was a chance of selling the footage nationally, thirty-five millimeter was shot on Mitchells which squeaked as they rolled. When unimportant, purely local stories were covered, sometimes eight-millimeter cameras were used.

In those days, cities of any size had laboratories that developed and printed movie film, eight, sixteen, and thirty-five. In Pittsburgh there were three. Packaged Programs, W.R.S., and P.M.P.L. (Pittsburgh Motion Picture Laboratory).

My first job (I wasn’t paid, but I was sometimes given lunch money) was at P.M.P.L., bicycling edited newsreels to local news stations, like KDKA. (By way of interest, KDKA was the world’s first news station. Pittsburgh also housed the world’s first movie theater, a Nickelodeon called “The J.P. Harris.” When I came to Pittsburgh, to go to college, the “Harris” was still in operation. That’s where I saw El Cid. I saw The Long, Hot Summer at the Fulton, Sayonara at the Stanley, How the West Was Won at the Warner, and Cleopatra at the big, down town Loews, which was forced to close its doors because of deficits incurred when its management was forced to pay huge advance money in order to book Cleopatra which, expected to be huge, turned out to be a monumental flop.)

(I sort of enjoyed Cleopatra. Having grown up on Samson and Delilah... [Victor Mature was a piece of work, wasn’t he? The clumsiest action hero in movie history]...The Robe; Demetrius and the Gladiators...[both of which featured the clumsy Victor]...and The Vikings. [How about Tony Curtis, man? Not clumsy but, with a Brooklyn accent, asked to speak the line, “Get an oar and row”. He had to say it twice, the poor guy. “Get an oar and row”. His delivery of that line takes first prize, in my mind, as the worst delivery of a line, ever.]

[The same Tony takes Third Prize in the same category for the lines he was asked to speak as a “singer of songs” in Spartacus.]
[Second Prize in the Romero Awards for the Worst Lines Ever Delivered goes to Elizabeth Taylor who, in Cleopatra, was asked to shout, in frustration, “ANTONY!” She did it, as directed. Give her credit for the attempt. But check it out. See if you don’t think her hollow, mousy scream doesn’t run a close second to Tony’s “Get an oar and row.”]

This might also be of interest. My second job, one which actually did pay, was shooting a segment called “Picture, Picture” for Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood. Occasionally, after Fred had hung up his sweater and fed the fish, he would ask his trolley to bring a new episode of “Picture, Picture”. A screen would open, the studio camera would push in, and a short film would be blue-screened.

I shot a dozen or so of those short films. Some were meant to be
educational (How Light Bulbs are Manufactured). Some were meant to be purely exploratory, to inspire thought in a four-year-old (Things
With Wheels, Things That Feel Soft). Some were meant to defeat fears, to show that Mr. Rogers had to go through the same scary shit that a our-year-old had to go through sometimes, and that he came through it unscathed, so the four-year-old was likely to come through it unscathed, as well. (Mr. Rogers Gets a Tonsillectomy).

That was my first really big production. Mr. Rogers Gets a Tonsillectomy. It was shot in a real, working hospital. I had to quickly, and quietly, use my pin-lights (the ones from the hardware store) to get exposure in the waiting room, in Fred’s bedroom, and in the O.R. I still joke that Mr. Rogers Gets a Tonsillectony is the scariest film I’ve ever made. What I really mean is that I was scared shitless while I was trying to pull it off.