Exclusive Diary of the Dead Set Visit

Tim Hannigan

We were invited to visit the set of George A. Romero’s "Diary of the Dead" which is currently shooting in and around the Greater Toronto Area. Huge thanks to Kim Yu from Leader Media Productions for making it happen! Independently produced by Romero-Grunwald Productions along with Artfire Films, this fifth entry in Romero’s "Dead" series involves a group of student filmmakers who are shooting a horror film, and find themselves in the midst of the initial outbreak of the zombie phenomenon.

I had the privilege of meeting George Romero two years ago at Rue Morgue’s "Festival of Fear". He was a genuinely nice man who came across as a down to earth person who appreciates his fans and clearly loves films and filmmaking.

As a life-long fan of the Dead series [I remember watching Dawn of the Dead when I was quite young – the advantages of having older siblings] I was very excited to hear that George Romero was making another Dead film. Getting the opportunity to visit the set and see the living legend in action was something far beyond my wildest dreams.

The movie was shooting on location in Regent Park in Toronto. When I first arrived at the set I knew I was in the right place, noticing a sign on one of the trailers which read "Zombies at work".

Having never been on a film set, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. I arrived shortly after lunch, as production geared up for the afternoon. Standing a few feet from Mr. Romero, I listened in as he gave an interview to Fangoria TV. A short while later I got to watch George Romero in action. The scene involved some unfortunate paramedics taking "dead" bodies to their ambulance. Of course this being a zombie film, the dead bodies were not going to take this lying down, and sprung to life - chowing down on the attendants.

It is hard to put into words what it was like to be there. I got to watch zombies rise from the dead and attack the living in a George Romero film! Blood spattered, and SLOW-MOVING, FLESH-EATING zombies were caught on film once again.

I expect the film will be quite different from Romero’s "Land of the Dead". Instead of a big-budget studio picture, we have Romero returning to his roots producing the film independently, and not having to answer to studio execs who care more about dollar signs and bottom lines than the genre and the fans. While producing the film independently means a lower budget, it also means that we will get the film that George Romero sets out to make.

I had the opportunity to speak with Costume Designer Alex Kavanagh who worked on both "Land of the Dead" and "Diary of the Dead". In our brief discussion, it became apparent that the people working on the film are passionate about the project, and are putting 110% into their work to make the most out of the more limited budget. Kavanagh was happy to be working with Romero for a second time, and expressed how honoured she felt to be working with such a legendary filmmaker.

Another big difference between "Land of the Dead" and "Diary of the Dead" is that we are going back to the beginning of the phenomenon. While Land was populated by people who were fully aware of the zombie plague, and zombies who had been dead for a long period of time, Diary involves individuals discovering the outbreak as it happens, and the newly dead returning to life.

Zombie fans rejoice – sometime in 2007 we will get a truly independent zombie film from the greatest filmmaker ever to make a movie about the living dead. Forget the rip-offs, this is the real deal! Look for some exclusive new pics from the set on Monday!

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