2008 marked the 40th anniversary of Night of the Living Dead, George A. Romero’s hugely influential horror film that spawned a new genre – the zombie film – and vivified the independent filmmaking scene by proving one could make a viable commercial film outside of the studio system using the smarts and resources already at hand.

While the media attention – in print, film, and the web - has generally focused on the film’s key players, what’s been ignored is the film’s impact on a local level: the folks that lived in the areas where the film was shot, and how it affected the indie scene.

2009 marked the release of Autopsy of the Dead, a documentary made by two ardent fans whose sense of personal curiosity and film history was strong enough that they too followed the attitude of Romero, and just made their movie.

Although both director Jeff Carney and producer Jim Cirronella were interviewed separately, their comments have been edited into a fluid narrative.



Original theatrical poster



Mark R. Hasan: With so many featurettes and docs produced on Night of the Living Dead [NOTLD], what made you decide there might be stories that had been marginalized by fans and genre historians?


Jim Cirronella: Just before the 40th anniversary of the movie, they were announcing all kinds of events and theatrical screenings… It was pretty much the same people as before, which is great, but we just felt that there were a lot of other people out there, and before they pass away, it would be best to get those stories and preserve history.

That was really the idea behind the documentary. Getting all the stories from people that hadn’t spoken about the film before, because it was made in such a unique way.


Jeff Carney: I started getting interested around the time of the 25th anniversary, when they had the big zombie jamboree in Pennsylvania. When I started meeting some of the people there, cast members and crew members there, that’s really when I thought, ‘Someone should really document them.’ I think at that time only the 25th anniversary documentary had been made, and I thought there were a lot more stories to be told.


Jim Cirronella: If I could have gone to a convention and met 20 people from NOTLD and not the usual half-dozen people, including George Romero, I probably wouldn’t have bothered to track anybody down.

Why bother to track down the other 6 or 7 people that are missing if you could already meet everybody? Why bother to have a documentary with these interviews if it had already been done?

We kind of did like a companion piece to the other documentary; instead of talking to George Romero, who only remembers a certain amount of situations with this film because he’s had a long career, how about talking to the people whose only experience in filmmaking was this one movie?

Now, they tend to remember things a lot clearer and a lot differently, and it’s also more interesting to hear them talk about what George Romero was like at that time, what his strengths were as a filmmaker, and what he actually contributed to that film then to hear it from him.

Without a doubt, everybody always asks him, and he kind of brushes it off because it’s not terribly interesting to him. Who wants to talk about their first work that they’ve ever done? You want to talk about the latest thing that you’ve done. So that gives it a whole new perspective.


Jeff Carney: It was really important for us to go out and save their stories because there was something that we felt that was very important for future generations that wouldn’t get an opportunity to meet these people at conventions, or maybe would never have the opportunity to meet any of them because they would basically stay in the darkness and never come out and never… so we though ‘Now’s the time to do it.’


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