My interview with Peter Schöfböck

Reposting this morning’s blog post from Peter Schöfböck featuring an interview I gave him a couple of months ago.

Reposted from the DAWN OF THE DEAD & HORROR UK CONVENTION GROUP
Commemorating the occasion of this group just having reached 200 members, here’s a little “exclusive” I hope you’ll all enjoy. A couple of months ago, I got in touch with Pittsburgh-based photographer Richard Burke who – as I’m sure most of you know – was on the Monroeville Mall set of “Dawn of the Dead” in January 1978 to document the filming for a local monthly lifestyle publication. After re-discovering the original negatives that had been stored away for decades (and partially deteriorated), Mr. Burke first made prints of his photos from that shoot available to the public in 2010 before collecting them into a book titled “Zombie Nights” (the amazing cover artwork for which was done by none other than our own Peter Johnson) earlier this year. Richard was kind enough to answer a few of my nosy fan questions in a little e-mail “interview” conducted this past January, which is published here for the first time (with full permission) in slightly edited/adjusted form.

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PS: Can you give me a little background info on how you came to photograph the shoot for “Pittsburgh Magazine” in the first place?

RB: This is explained in some detail in “Zombie Nights”. I did a lot of assignments for “Pittsburgh Magazine”. I photographed District Attorney Richard Thornburgh, political rallies, Board of Education meetings, and architectural house tours. In some ways DOTD was just another underpaid assignment. I would only get paid for each photo that was actually published.

PS: In what issue of “Pittsburgh Magazine” did your photos ultimately appear? Both Pete Johnson and I would be very interested to know, because that would be a vintage DOTD collectible worth tracking down somehow.

RB: I believe it must have been the February 1978 edition but am not sure. I believe that I was on the set sometime in January 1978 right after the holiday shopping season.

PS: I understand that you spent two nights at the mall, is that correct?

RB: Correct. I was there for two nights. The second night I shot mostly colour slides and left early. The first night was mostly the scene at the fountain [involving “sombrero biker” Tony Buba and a store mannequin] that didn’t appear in the movie and action shots on the steps with David [Emge]. The shot with David on the steps was one of the ones used in the magazine.

PS: Apart from not being allowed to use a flash on your shots (which you mentioned in one of the DOTD Facebook groups not too long ago), were there any other restrictions for you?

RB: I was not to engage with the crew or actors. Romero and Gornick made this clear to me during my meeting with them at Laurel. I was not to shoot during a take. I was to stay out of the way of the crew and not to engage with the actors. This was all OK with me. I was the photographer, not the writer.

PS: In spite of those “directions” given to you by Laurel, you apparently still were able to meet some of the crew members and actors. What were they like?

RB: I met all the principal actors and Romero, Gornick, Savini, and Jeanie. Jeanie was bubbly and very friendly. Tom Savini was also friendly and chatty. Romero and Gornick were focused (pardon the pun), and as I said in my book I was told not to engage. I was a fly on the wall. I was able to talk to Tom and Jeanie while they were making up a zombie, and Savini explained his concept of goop and making ligaments.

PS: It has often been said that the general vibe on the film’s set was pretty relaxed overall. Can you confirm that? What were your own impressions of the shoot, in terms of how the crew worked?

RB: It was very loose and relaxed. The majority of the time in making a movie is spent waiting around. The crew is always working, setting up lights, taping down cords, changing film, reviewing the script, discussing the next scene. However, the cast and extras are mostly waiting around for direction. Keep in mind most of the extras did not have lines to memorize, although some required makeup retouching. So between takes they were sitting and waiting. It has to be quiet on a movie set, so there wasn’t a lot of chatting. No cell phones, no iPads; some had cameras, but people were cautious about shooting…film and processing cost money. So mostly they waited. The giddiness and excitement of 9 PM in the make-up area had largely vanished by 1 AM, and the extras began to look more and more like zombies.

PS: What were your own feelings about the film itself while working on the set, and/or in general? Did you go to see it when it first was released in 1979?

RB: It was fun. I met some interesting if not glamorous people. Growing up in Pittsburgh meant you were a fan of Bill Cardille and “Chiller Theatre”, and we all loved “Night of the Living Dead”. Was it as much fun as photographing Jane Fonda at a political rally? At the time no; it was exhausting, she was not. Was it more fun than riding a 100-foot crane in a steel mill taking pictures of blast furnaces? Hell yes! At the time it was just another assignment. Six months later I was no longer a photo journalist. I didn’t see the movie when it was first released. It was all about “Star Wars” and “Indiana Jones” for me back then. In retrospect though I feel it was a great experience. I was allowed to be involved in a small way in one of the biggest cult movies of all times. It was “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” of zombie movies. I am grateful I was allowed to be there, and if I knew then what I know now, I would have taken much better care of the negatives.

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You can purchase Zombie Nights as a trade paperback or kindle book by clicking here.

You can purchase prints and cards of the images in the book by clicking here.

Zombie Nights

Zombie Nights


Artwork (c) 2015 by Peter Johnson.

Pittsburgh Patterns

I love modern architecture when the sun sets creating unique patterns. I took a few pattern images in Chicago a few years ago along the Chicago River. This the first one I have done in Pittsburgh. Shot from PNC Park during a Bucs game.

To see other images and buy apparel or prints, please visit my commercial gallery.

Window Patterns

Window Patterns

Hot Dog!

I love going to Pittsburgh Pirate games. I have loved the Bucs since the sixties and at one point had an apartment on Atwood street just two blocks from Forbes Field. On our return to Pittsburgh we promised ourselves we would go to some games and have been to a few this year with another coming up in a couple of weeks. The park is comfortable and with a great scenic view of Pittsburgh behind it. There is also an excellent selection of ballpark food and beer.

Although a major league park and now again a Pennant contender, PNC Park has the feel of a minor league ballpark as well. Between innings there is a wide variety of looniness that takes place. You may see the Perogie Race on TV but not much more. This is a picture of the Hot Dog shoot. Yup in Pittsburgh they shoot encased meats into the stands as well as t-shirts and the staff seems to love it.

To see other images and buy apparel or prints, please visit my commercial gallery.

Hot Dog Shoot

Hot Dog Shoot

Happy Father’s Day

I know Father’s Day is a uniquely American holiday probably created by the greeting card companies or Craftsman tools. But fathers are important in the development of societal norms and in fostering the growth of children. We don’t go through the pain and sacrifice that mothers do and for that reason are sometimes overlooked as being important in a child’s development. However children need two parents and I salute all fathers today who have stayed with their family and provided protection,sustenance and leadership for their children and love them in spite of their flaws.

To see other images and buy apparel or prints, please visit my commercial gallery.

Happy Father's Day!

Happy Father’s Day!

Three Rivers Arts Festival

Each year during the first two weeks of June, Pittsburgh hosts the three rivers arts festival. The events take place at the confluence of the Ohio River at Point State Park where the Allegheny and the Monongahela rivers meet. There are free concerts, ethic foods and fantastic art for sale in addition to a juried art show. We didn’t have a lot of time to spend this year, a Pittsburgh Pirate game beckoned and it WAS hot. We did manage to get a couple of photos to share.

To see other images and buy apparel or prints, please visit my commercial gallery.

Art Lovers?

Art Lovers?

The Black Rock Negative Energy Absorber was a temporary exhibit that travels the country. You touch the black rock and it absorbs all your negative energy. No really!

Black Rock

Black Rock

Another temporary installation were Dogs Under the Bridge. You go under the bridge to get to the vendors and the park and these quite well behaved dogs were there to great you.

Dogs Under Bridge

Dogs Under Bridge

This guy was pathetic. His suit was taped together and he walked very slowly with his head hung. It was almost 90 degrees and I am sure he scared more kids than not.

Gaffer Tape

Gaffer Tape

A great place to chill out is at the fountain built on the spot where The Ohio River begins.

At The Fountain

At The Fountain

Zombie Nights Available for Kindle

Zombie Nights is my story of the two nights I spent with the living dead. It is about my magazine assignment in 1978 to cover the making of George Romero’s Dawn of the Dead and includes over 40 behind the scene images. This brilliant cover design was created by Peter Johnson from The United Kingdom. The book is now available for the first time on Kindle for just $5.99. The Kindle version like the trade paperback is available worldwide.

To order your copy from Amazon just click here.

To see other images and buy apparel or prints, please visit my commercial gallery.

Zombie Nights

Zombie Nights

Weathertop

The Gulf Building in Pittsburgh is a national landmark and one of the city’s art deco masterpieces. Prior to the late 1970s, the entire multistory structure at the top of the building was neon-illuminated, changing colors to provide a weather forecast that could be seen for many miles. The building manager Edward H. Heath used the Gulf Oil colors to create a simplified forecast: steady blue meant colder and fair; flashing blue meant colder with precipitation; steady orange meant warmer and fair; flashing orange meant warmer with precipitation. In an effort to conserve energy, the weather beacon was abandoned for a while.

However thanks to modern lighting and in partnership with KDKA-TV, the Gulf Tower has been retrofit with a modern, automated LED weather beacon that will tell a more complete forecast than ever before. Since 2012 each floor tells part of the weather forecast.

44th floor – temperature
43rd floor – temperature
42nd floor – temperature
41st floor – precipitation
40th floor – humidity
39th floor – wind speed

This is an image of the “weather top” from PNC Park across the Allegheny river.

To see other images and buy apparel or prints, please visit my commercial gallery.

Weather Top

Weather Top