our motley crew of zombies posing by one of pittsburgh's golden bridges

Behind The Scenes of Art Brings You To Life Ep.1

Mon, Oct 1, 2018

Written by: Seth Culp-Ressler | Photos by: Seth Culp-Ressler

Pittsburgh is — in many ways — a Halloween town. From renowned, horror-filled attractions like ScareHouse to special effects makeup programs helmed by industry legends like Tom Savini, the Steel City likes life just a little bit scary.

Of course, no discussion of Pittsburgh’s Halloween lore can escape the looming shadow of the late, great writer and director George Romero. Hailed by many as the “Father of the Zombie Film,” Romero brought the moaning, staggering undead right to the forefront of America’s moviegoing consciousness.

Pittsburgh helped him do it.

To celebrate the season — and the 50th anniversary of Romero’s breakout hit Night of the Living Dead — we at the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust produced a set of short vignettes as part-tribute, part-tongue-in-cheek-reinterpretation of the iconic movie. Episode 1 premieres today, exactly 50 years after Night of the Living Dead first shocked and delighted audiences. Before we go any further, stop reading for a few minutes and check out the film:

Who knew zombies could be so emotional, right?

So, obviously, the tone of our film sees a strong departure from the gory, doomsday scenario facing the characters in NOTLD. Our zombies are after a fulfilling arts experience, not the flesh of the living. Still, those familiar with the 1968 thriller will no doubt spot some of our winks, nudges and nods to the original.


actor portraying ben holds the theater doors close as zombies try to enter


Our lead zombie, for one, was modeled after the zombie in NOTLD’s famous graveyard scene. Both are the first undead characters introduced to the audience, so it only seemed fitting. A ripped blazer, some artful makeup and a few haggard facial expressions were all we needed to complete the look.

Our other main character, Ben the usher, is a clear foil to NOTLD’s central hero. Much like Romero’s Ben, ours is the only rational, level-headed person to be found. His careful actions are what see the story to its happy ending, a fact that our film decidedly does not share with the original.


a historic shot from night of the living dead's world premiere at the fulton theater


The last major link to Night of the Living Dead doesn’t tie into any scene of the movie. Instead, it’s the setting of our short film: the Byham Theater. The historic building has been hosting audiences for more than a century (115 years, to be exact) and showed movies as the Fulton Theater for the better part of five decades.

On October 1, 1968, 50 years ago to the day, Pittsburgh audiences were treated to the world premiere of Night of the Living Dead on the Fulton’s silver screen. In fact, there’s a special screening later this week celebrating that very milestone. It seemed only fitting that our horde of art-hungry zombies would find themselves enjoying a show at the Byham.


members of the production crew setting up a shot in the byham theater auditorium


Despite being less than two minutes long, this first episode of Art Brings You To Life took a serious team to produce. We had a total of 24 actors appear in the film: 12 zombies, 11 theatergoers and our lone usher. The team behind the camera was nearly as big, with 10 production staff, 4 theater stagehands, 2 security officers and 5 makeup artists.

That last team deserves a special shoutout given the crux of this film. Our zombies wouldn’t have looked a fraction as convincing without their makeup expertise. Unsurprisingly, every member of the team has either attended Tom Savini’s school or worked with him in some capacity. Pittsburgh’s spooky world is a small one.


members of the makeup team turn actors into zombies


As you’ve hopefully picked up on by this point, today’s premiere was merely for the first episode of Art Brings You To Life. What comes next? Well, you’ll just have to wait for that answer. We can say this, though: mark your calendars for Halloween!

  • art brings you to life
  • holiday
  • film
  • night of the living dead
  • behind the scenes
  • halloween