“Rise of the Living Dead” started here… with a screenplay for a film.
the beginning of the beginning
While I have recounted this story in several interviews, I figure this is the best place for me to give the official story on just how this project came to be.
After years of being asked the same question “why don’t you make a zombie movie?” all it took was a trusted friend asking me the same question in a different way; “well what kind of zombie movie WOULD you make if you made one?”
That’s the exact moment when lightning struck inside a bottle. At that moment, I realized that I had been working on the entry I would make into the universe since I was a kid. All the conversations I had with my dad about his movies, the zombies, what he did and didn’t like about what he had done or didn’t do because of whatever limitations, etc… it had all formulated a story in my mind… a prologue if you will.
I began writing that night and spit out my “vomit draft” in about a week.
It took a little while after that to reel in my inner creative and take a hard look at the story I’d crafted. Pretty soon, I had a draft of something that I was not only proud to have written, but of something I couldn’t wait to show my dad. The only problem was that I had to work up the balls to show him. I’ll explain. See… on the one hand, I was an indie filmmaker about to show the my entry into the world of the zombie genre to George A. Freaking Romero, the godfather of the modern zombie! Like that wasn’t nerve wracking enough. Beyond that, I was a kid, about to show my work to my dad. It just so happened that they were one in the same.
I guess about a year and half after it was written and after about 150 friends, acquaintances and fans all read it with the same enthusiastic feedback, I finally got up the gumption to send it to George. He read it and replied within a day and when I say he read it, I mean he read it. His email came back with scene numbers, lines of dialogue he loved, lines of dialogue he didn’t love… and then he said it. After reading a scene in my script that he always wanted to shoot but never had the chance, he was hooked. After reading the hook and seeing the twist he told me that he thought it was genius. He loved it. Man,
I felt like the weight of the world had been lifted. I think I can safely say that this is the moment the film project was actually born.
The next several years could be summed in a montage of meetings with folks who all knew better than I not only what to do with the project, but how to rewrite it, what it was missing, what it needed and most importantly, how to make it a George A. Romero movie. I think my favorite was the meeting that came about 4 months into negotiations about making the film with a gentleman who explained to my ignorant ass that it needed to be done as a high school, musical comedy for the CW and all he needed was for me to sign a document granting him access to use my father’s name on all the pitch, marketing and sales material and we were off to the races.
“I think my favorite was the meeting that came about 4 months into negotiations about making the film with a gentleman who explained to my ignorant ass that it needed to be done as a high school, musical comedy for the CW.”
then came the crowd[funding]
In the wake of crowdfunding becoming a legitimate source for filmmakers of the indie variety to raise money for their projects, I found myself listening to folks extol the virtues of turning to fans of mine (and my father’s) to raise some money to get the film made. This experience taught me one thing about crowdfunding. When you launch a crowdfunding campaign, your new career is “crowdfunder.” All time stopped… all meetings stopped… everyone who was engaged outside of the campaign wanted to sit back and see how the campaign did over time.
One thing led to another, we lowered the amount of money we were trying to raise so that the campaign would be marked as a success, but ended up raising .12% of the funds that would have allowed us to move the project forward fast by attaching a “name.” The money we did raise went to cover the costs of the campaign itself and fulfill the perks (the items people who contributed were to receive in exchange for their support). The campaign ended in 2014 and I’m still getting emails from folks who say they didn’t get their perks while receiving emails from the fulfillment house that everything was shipped out. I’m going to state it here once and for final, that when this film goes forward, I will make sure everyone who supported the campaign will receive a special thank you from me, personally. I realize this has been a long time coming and I appreciate all of their patience. The only thing I can do to take full accountability myself for the screw ups of others is to completely absolve them, take all the blame and vow to make good with each and every one of the backers myself as soon as I can.
I swear it will be done.
After the campaign ended, I moved forward fast with a legitimate and legendary company that had a list of more than 100 movies, all of which, we have all heard or or seen. Hell, this went so well,
I attended Sundance in 2015 and made a huge announcement about the project. As it turns out, the company was really only interested in locking up the property because in this business, it seems announcements can be their own version of currency.
Six Months Later that agreement expired and I was free to pursue my own project my own way again. During those six months, though, the world took a big shit right in the middle of a lot of things I was working on bringing to fruition and I, admittedly, didn’t take some of those events in the best way. Truthfully, I kind of shut down for a while to regroup, analyze what the fuck was happening and how I was going to proceed. I was truly only concerned with surviving.
So that’s what I did… I survived… I put everything on pause for a minute and I did what may have proven itself to be the most important thing I’ve ever done in my life. After a brief and catastrophic layover in Dallas, I went to North Carolina and spent some time with my best friend, a musician called J.B. Beverley. It wasn’t long before the old train rider in me reared his head and when J.B. invited me to go on tour with him, I packed my cameras and my rucksack and hopped in the van. About 16 weeks and 46 states later, we both found ourselves at the end of a journey that we both needed more than I can express. We spent time together as friends and as brothers, we spent time in the desert in New Mexico and on the reservation near Shiprock with a Navajo brother and his family, moved on to Roswell and all points in between and then hit the California border traversing our way up the PCH stopping along the way to play music, shoot some film and string our hammocks up in the middle of the giant redwoods. After crossing into Oregon and Washington, we began the trek back East, hit the Grand Canyon, Sturgis, Wounded Knee and Pine Ridge and along the way, an amazing thing happened. I had the chance to meet and hang with some of the most amazing folks I’ve ever met in my life; a chance to return to the general state-of-mind that had carried me through the first half of my life.
I should also mention that early on in the journey we stopped over in Kentucky and I met a woman who turned out to be the biggest part of the reason the universe was telling me to go walkabout. That woman is now my wife and the best half of me that ever existed.
“I had the chance to meet and hang with some of the most amazing folks I’ve ever met in my life; a chance to return to the general state-of-mind that had carried me through the first half of my life.”
with a vengeance
2017… what a kick in the balls.
It’s no secret that 2017 took something from me and the rest of the world. 2017 took George A. Romero… 2017 took my dad… 2017 took my dad before I had the chance to show him the finished film. July 16th, 2017 kicked the shit out of me. Asolutely.
Then something else happened. Something incredible.
After a time, I came to terms with what had happened in my own way. I receive a couple thousand messages of condolences from friends and fans of my dads and I learned that a lot of them were fans of mine as well… not just for being George’s kid, but for the work I’ve spent more than 2 decades pulling together. I think that was one of the best feelings I’ve ever had. Soon after, I went public with everything I’ve been silently pulling together with this project.
I announced the new title and Google was delivering more than 8 million results for the project’s new identity within 24 hours.
Fan sites, social links and news outlets around the world had picked up on the announcement and a couple thousand more messages came in, but this time they weren’t offering condolences… they were saying ‘thank you.” At first, I was a bit overwhelmed and couldn’t understand why so many people were thanking me. Then I received a rather lengthy message from a mutual fan of mine and my father’s who broke it down for me and told me that he was thankful that I was going to make “Rise” from my heart and that a lot of folks are looking to the project as a vicarious form of closure. It’s no secret that my dad inspired thousands, if not millions, of kids with dreams to begin to create everything from movies to F/X to stories, comics, sculptures, games, apps, conventions and so much more. When he died, he was truly mourned by millions. That’s not something most people can say about their pop. That’s pretty fucking cool.
Now… I’ve pulled together the elements of this project to realize the full potential of what exists and with the help of a small and tactical group of people I trust, we have blown out all the aspects of this property and are exploring the best way to honor my father’s legacy with a project that will not only reach millions, but a project that will touch them in so many more ways than just a movie could ever do.
“Rise of the Living Dead” is my project. But it is so much more than that. It is something I have to do for more reasons than I can list here, but it’s something that we all need. It’s a way to say thank you to the man who gave us the modern zombie, a way to say thank you to the man who inspired so many of us to do what most tried to tell us we could never do, a way to say we get it… we love what you did and why you did it and we love you, George.
Take a spin through the site. If it’s not clear by now, this site is dedicated to the truth about this project, the progress we are making every day and the love with which I’m working my ass off to get out there for us all.