I’ll be up front right away: I am no writer, certainly not like our beloved Pixie, and that will probably become apparent as I go on. What I am, though, is passionate about horror, in particular the zombie subgenre; something I am sure you will agree is awesome!
I am here to talk to you about how my passion has manifested and what I am doing, particularly during these difficult times in lockdown, to promote this subgenre, along with horror in a general sense, and, of course, keeping myself sane.
Around August 2020, I was fortunate enough to become part of the George A. Romero Foundation. (Aka the GARF.) “What’s that?” you ask. Well, if you will indulge me, I will take you back slightly—well, to the 1960s and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, not necessarily a place associated with movie-making.
A keen bunch of creatives who thought they could make a movie as good as, if not better than, the current crop of B-movie and creature feature horror filling their local drive-ins and movie theatres, decided to make a little horror movie of their own. It was (eventually) called Night of the Living Dead; the director was one George A. Romero; and an entire sub-genre, namely populated with flesh-eating zombies, was born.
George, of course, went on to make another five zombie movies, including what is generally considered to be the best ever made, Dawn of the Dead, as well as a suite of politically antagonising, non-comprising movies, frequently dabbling in horror if not outright drowning in it.
Over the course of his 30-year career, George visited vampire lore with Martin; tackled a viral outbreak catastrophe with The Crazies, which is very reminiscent of current times; cast a very young Ed Harris in his first lead role in Knightriders, led the way in anthology horror with Creepshow; adapted work with Stephen King’s The Dark Half; and redefined genre convention by combining zombies and found footage with Diary of the Dead.
Along the way, George would collaborate with some of the greatest horror luminaries of the ’80s and ’90s, including Stephen King, Dario Argento, and Tobe Hooper.
Now you have a bit of insight into what George did and was about. So, what does the Foundation do, and how did it all come about?
Well, sadly George passed in July 2017, and to honour his memory and continue his great work, his widow, Suzanne Romero, decided to establish a foundation to promote George’s work and independent horror filmmaking, particularly in and around Pittsburgh, a city George fell in love with, even though he was a New Yorker.
Over the past three years, the Foundation has grown both in numbers and capability and even generated a presence that stretches across the globe. I am the GARF Global lead and UK ambassador, and since I came on board, the Foundation has established ambassadors in France, Italy, and Japan, in addition to having a presence in California, Colorado, Florida, and of course Pittsburgh.
We are all volunteers and huge horror and Romero fans, and have recruited Greg Nicotero (Him of the Walking Dead), Tom Savini (makeup and FX legend), Malcolm McDowell, and John Harrison, as well as other movie industry experts and horror academics to work with and promote the Foundation.
Recent achievements that have come about from the involvement of the Foundation include the reboot of the Creepshow franchise on Shudder, executive produced by Greg; and the release of the long-lost Romero film The Amusement Park, now available to stream on Shudder in the UK after a full restoration and rights negotiation deal undertaken by the Foundation.
In addition to new projects, the Foundation has been instrumental in preserving George’s memory. In partnership with the University of Pittsburgh, a number of film-training programmes have been established, and an archive of material accumulated throughout George’s career has been created and put on display for fellow horror filmmakers, academics, and members of the public to view.
George was a prolific writer and produced some very intriguing and frankly astonishing pieces of work. Over the course of his career, he was attached to an adaptation of Stephen King’s The Stand, recently reimagined as a miniseries for the second time; and the Resident Evil gaming series, ultimately making a commercial for the Japanese market.
So, what does the future hold for myself and the Foundation? Well, as things slowly begin to open, you will see us at horror conventions across the globe. We will have a presence at Living Dead Weekend in Monroeville, Pennsylvania, the very location where Dawn of the Dead was made, and we are planning on some UK convention appearances in the UK in 2022, as well as other live events across Europe and the Far East.
In addition to convention appearances, we are planning live and virtual events focused on George’s works. This year, check out the 16th anniversary of Land of the Dead, and in 2022, we’ll celebrate the 40th anniversary of Creepshow. In April, we celebrated the 40th anniversary of Knightriders, bringing some cast members together for the first time in over 35 years, including one Ed Harris.
We are acknowledging Romero’s collaborators’ contributions to horror and others in the genre with our annual Pioneer Award, and we are also continuing to provide a full range of licensed merchandise associated with George’s films—some for the first time. As we are non-profit organization, all money raised goes back into the Foundation and the great work being done.
So, there you have it! Hopefully, you have a good appreciation of the work being done if not done already, so maybe check out some of George’s work. After all, no George A. Romero, no Walking Dead, and maybe I’ll catch you at the Monroeville Mall, The Wampum Mines, or Fiddler’s Green, and in the meantime, Stay Scared!
What to know more about GARF? See what we’re up to, let us know what you’re up to or suggest ideas for George Romero events? Well that’s easy with any, and all of the contact details below:
SUBSCRIBE!! To our quarterly newsletter. Head over to https://georgearomerofoundation.org/contact.
CONTRIBUTE!! Fancy throwing us a couple of bucks every month, remember The GARF is non-profit and all our staff are volunteers. All money raised goes straight back into the foundation. Subscribe to our Pateron at www.patreon.com/thegarfofficial
EMAIL!! Send me any ideas, questions, suggestions or even just to chat all things Romero. firstname.lastname@example.org
FOLLOW!! We’reon social media and are active on all the main platforms, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram. Like/follow/subscribe and we’ll follow you straight back!
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