Earlier today I got a very intriguing tweet about a play. To be more exact an onstage adaption of George A. Romero's classic film Night of The Living Dead. An adaption that has the approval of Mr. Romero himself. So much so that he is an executive producer of the play. I was immediately interested. So interested that I reached out to the creators of the play, Phil Pattison and Christopher Harrison. Phil Harrison was nice enough to do an interview here at The Dead War Series. Check out our interview below:
TDWS: Please let us know a little about yourself / yourselves and your interest in Night of the Living Dead.
Phil: Nictophobia Films is co-owned by myself Phil Pattison and Christopher Harrison.www.nictophobiafilms.com
We started the company in the Winter of 2008/2009. Our first project was a short Stephen King film entitled "The Man Who Loved Flowers". Chris had obtained the rights to the script of which he adapted from the short story of the same name under his "DOLLAR BABY" program. The film, directed by Christopher Harrison and edited by Andrew Coutts (SAW 5,6,7, THE DAY), continues to play around the world at various Stephen King related festivals. We released a campy low-budget zombie film "VS. THE DEAD", in August of 2011 of which I directed/edited (Midnight Releasing). Next month we are releasing an homage to 70's/80's slasher films, called DEVIL'S NIGHT (there is an article in the latest issue of Fangoria!!) via BLACK FAWN FILMS DISTRIBUTING. It stars scream queen DANIELLE HARRIS (Halloween 4, 5, Rob Zombie's Halloween 1 & 2) SHAWN ROBERTS (Resident Evil, Diary of the Dead, Land of the Dead) and STEVE BYERS (House of the Dead, Total Recall 2012). This film was directed by Christopher as well. We continue writing and producing and our latest film project, THE MUMMERS, is slated for pre-production in 2014.
TDWS: How did this idea of turning Night of the Living Dead into a stage play come about?
Phil: A mutual friend of ours had gone out for Halloween as a zombie. He had posted a picture of him and his girlfriend on FB. What was different about their costumes from your typical zombie attire was...they were black and white!! Chris immediately came up with the idea after seeing this picture.
Phil: Chris approached me and threw the idea of doing a stage adaptation of NIGHT. I was sold on the idea from day 1.... especially after seeing the highly successful EVIL DEAD: THE MUSICAL (twice) in Toronto. The film really lends itself to the stage.
TDWS: How was it trying to adapt the movie as a play? What challenges have you run into?
Phil: As stated above, the film really lends itself to the stage as it is a single location and all the principle characters are very diverse. In that respect, it was very easy... however, Chris and I who usually write for the screen, found it difficult to translate some of the scenes for the stage. We also wanted to make sure that we didn't affect the integrity of the film and Romero's name. Kinda scary and exciting knowing that our hero's were going to be reading our material based on their work.
TDWS: I noticed on your site that George A. Romero was listed as an executive producer. I have many questions on this alone.
TDWS: How did you get an opportunity to meet him?
Phil: Chris and I both agreed that this production was NOT going to happen without George's approval. They (George Romero, John Russo, and Russ Streiner) had been taken advantage for the past 44 years because of the public domain issue. We didn't want to be part of that. They are our hero's and mentor's. As filmmakers, Chris and I could not and would not take advantage of this unfortunate situation. They have lost a lot of money and opportunities because of it. We tried to to get in contact with George early in the writing stages without any luck. Then it wasn't until we were screening our film DEVIL'S NIGHT at last years RUE MORGUE'S FESTIVAL OF FEAR in Toronto, that we finally had an opportunity to contact the GODFATHER of ZOMBIES.
John Russo and Russ Streiner were unannounced guests. Chris and I were confined to our booth all weekend and never had an opportunity to walk the convention floor and check out the guests and vendors until the middle of the last day. To our surprise and excitement, we found John A. Russo and Russ Streiner along with George Kosana. "Holy Shit"! we thought.... Here is our chance to get to the man himself. Needless to say, we took advantage of this opportunity and obtained John Russo's phone number. Him and Russ were extremely interested and intrigued about the project and asked us to give them a call and discuss further. A short few weeks later we made contact with both men in a conference call and pitched the idea to them. They LOVED it and agreed to be part of the production.... however we still needed George's seal of approval. We sent over the working script, penned by Chris and Myself, which in turn was sent to George. Long story short... they all loved it and a formal meeting was set up in Toronto (where George currently resides).
TDWS: What was he like and how did you react to meeting him?
Phil: It was like being a kid on Christmas morning. No Kidding. I had met George in 2004 at the first annual Festival of Fear but I had stood in line for sometime doing so and it was a quick handshake. That was cool, don't get me wrong, but it didn't compare to having such an intimate meeting with him. We met at the King Edward hotel in Toronto on April 23 earlier this year. Chris and I arrived 15 mins early and grabbed a table at the hotel bar. As we were about to sit, Chris hits me in the arm and says "Look outside"!! I look outside the bar window facing King St, and there was the man himself getting out of a car. At that moment, things became very real. We were about to talk business with our hero!! Then him and Russ walked in!! It was SURREAL!! To this day... the best moment of my life! And I'm sure Chris will concur.
TDWS: What was his reaction to your idea of turning the movie into a play and how did he wind up as executive producer?
Phil: There are a slew of NIGHT stage adaptations floating around the world, past and present. Not a single one of them had approached him, John or Russ... if you can believe that. (what I have seen online is pretty sad!) Being the first didn't get us the approval. It was our ideas for the play and the team we assembled that really signed them on.
It was also our first choice to approach CHRISTOPHER BOND who was co-creator/co-writer/director of the EVIL DEAD: THE MUSICAL. We met him several months prior to meeting up with Romero and Streiner. Chris (Bond) was super excited to be part of the production and immediately became a big part...our director was found!! However, he had some concerns about our script. Not that is was a bad script, in fact he quite enjoyed it but he explained that it may not translate all that well to the stage. A lot of boarding up windows could really bore a live audience. It was a hard decision but we handed the writing over to him and his amazing writing team TREVOR MARTIN and DALE BOYER. (Chris and Trevor wrote the film A LITTLE BIT ZOMBIE, just released on Blu-Ray/DVD)
Bond joined us when we met up with Romero.... and again... along with the ideas that he and his writer's contributed with ours, the original NIGHT filmmakers had no doubt in their minds that we were about to create something special and amazing. A re-branding of a their cult classic and a opportunity to finally get something back and enjoy the fruits of their labor from so many years ago... which they so rightfully deserve.
George was very excited and happy about everything we proposed and was more than happy to be involved. He was the kindest and coolest man I have ever met.... well so is John and Russ for the record! Our meeting lasted over 2 hours as we intently listened to his behind the scene stories from some of our favorite films. Wow.... an experience that we will never forget.!!
TDWS: What has been the reaction of others to your idea and how did they receive it?
Phil: As fan boys, it was our mission to make sure that the production be accepted by the fans. What sets us apart from any other stage adaptation of NIGHT is... our play will be in Black and White, from the set to the players. Oh, and THIS IS NOT A MUSICAL!! Musicals don't sit to well with true horror fans, although EDTM was amazing, I know a lot of people who wouldn't give it a chance. I'll admit that musicals aren't exactly on my radar of cool things either. When people learn that our production is B&W and not a musical, they go pretty nutty over the idea... in a good way! So needless to say, we haven't received any negative feedback! PHEW! Our writers have also done an AMAZING job re-creating this classic story. I can't give away too much but what I can say is I have no worries that the true horror/Romero fan will love it!! We do.
TDWS: How is the play being financed? How can interested parties get involved?
Phil: We do have private investment as well we are running an INDIE GO GO campaign to allow fans to get involved. George, Russ, and John have been so supportive that they have also contributed to the campaign by donating signed THE ANUBIS scripts plus some lucky contributors will receive a personal phone call from the horror legends congratulating them and talking about the play. We also have exclusive and limited artwork and t-shirts available designed by world renowned zombie portrait artist, Rob Sacchetto, tickets etc. Oh, and a chance to meet the legends too. go to www.indigogo.com/notldl
TDWS: What would you consider a success once the play gets off the ground and is actually live?
Phil: To see this idea turn into a reality...that in itself is a success! But we need to make sure that we please our audience. If our audience enjoys it, and more so the horror fans, then I think Chris and I can look at each other and smile.
TDWS: What's in the future for Nictophobia Films?
Phil: Once our initial run in Toronto is complete, we are taking the production to the home of zombies. Our goal is to have NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD LIVE up and running in Pittsburgh, PA by October 2013 for the 45th anniversary of the film. We are currently looking at possible venues with the help of Russ and John. We will be heading down to the steel city in the coming months. Then ultimately, we want to hit the road with it, and travel across North America. Broadway is in our sights!
We continue to write and produce and will be gearing up for some film production in between all this excitement.However, our main focus right now is NOTLDL.
TDWS: Is there anything you want to get out there that you didn't get a chance to say by answering the questions?
Phil: For the record, we are the first and ONLY *OFFICIAL* NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD LIVE. endorsed by the original filmmakers. George, Russ and John have not approved nor have they endorsed any other version (aside from their own) of NIGHT stage or film ...past and present. They deserve more respect (and a lot of money) for many years of being ripped off and taken advantage of.
This is the first time GEORGE A. ROMERO, JOHN A. RUSSO, and RUSS STREINER have all worked together since the 1990 remake of NIGHT.