Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood’

“While there have been better-made horror movies in the 50 years since, some even directed by Romero himself, and there have been bigger budgets, better actors and more scares, there may not be any single denouement and message more frightening than the one George Romero leaves us with at the end of Night of the Living Dead.”
Richard Newby
The Hollywood Reporter, Sept. 28, 2018

“I went to Pittsburgh to go to college at Carnegie Mellon University and met some people. I‘d always loved movies – I was always a fan – but I never imagined I’d be able to work professionally in film; I thought you had to be born royalty or something.”
George Romero
BFI interview

Romero-IMG_2498

One of the projects I’m working on at home the movement during this lockdown is archiving old tapes. I game across a talk that producer/writer/ director George Romero did in 1995 that was sponsored in part by the Florida Motion Picture & Television Association, Metro Orlando Film & Television Office, Valencia College, the Enzian Theater.

Years before Flashdance, Silence of the Lambs, and Hoffa made Pittsburgh a production hub, Romero’s Night of the Living Dead set the early stage for Pittsburgh’s feature film production in 1968. Lesser known is who provided the unusual assist in Pittsburgh became a hub for horror films.

Part of the answer is Mr. Rogers—at least according to Romero.  The public television station WQED in Pittsburgh is where Fred Rogers began working in 1953 on children’s shows.  In the early ’60s Rogers  developed a show called Misterogers in Toronto, but returned to Pittsburgh in 1967 and started taping Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood beginning in 1968. Except for a five year hiatus starting in 1979,  it ran until 2001.

Here’s a snapshot of what Romero said in 1995 about what made Pittsburgh a production-friendly town.

“There’s a community in Pittsburgh that started around  the time I did and we were just tenacious about wanting to work in this medium.  Luckily Pittsburgh had a very active PBS station which was originating some programing. And I think Fred Rogers, Mr. Rogers, is responsible for a lot of the crew people that work in Pittsburgh. Though he probably wouldn’t admit it when he sees some of the movies out there.  Because of things like that and KDKA was a very active station doing it’s own production as a Group W station there. And we were starting to make features. We had a production company there that initially was making commericals and industrial films and the like. And there were also big corporations there like Westinghouse, GE, US Steel that had in house production service arms, so there was a lot of hardware and equipment. Much of it left over from a time that immediately predated videotape when film was being used for everything from news broadcasts to commericals. So for me, I was sort of at the right place at the right time.”
—George Romero

But Romero said success did not come quickly, and until his commercial/industrial business took off he worked on productions where “he got people coffee, brought their cars around, and worked for free basically….and it was rough for several years.”

yzUc4vR6bQGK9HhCOUqxIsRM3r4-1

A Not So Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

The odds are good that anyone working in production  on any level for more than six months has an eclectic mix of projects on their resume.  So it’s not unusual to think that some of the same PAs, grips, gaffers, set builders, camera assistants, and camera operators who helped put together iconic children’s programing in the Pittsburgh, were some of the same crew that helped put together iconic zombie films. Here’s a partial list of Romero’s films:

Night of the Living Dead (1968)
There’s Always Vanilla (1971)
Season of the Witch (1972)
The Crazies (1973)
Dawn of the Dead (1978)
Day of the Dead (1985)
Monkey Shines (1988)

Other Hollywood films shot in Mr. Rogers’ general Pittsburgh neighborhood:
Flashdance (1983) 
All the Right Moves (1983)
RoboCop (1987)
Silence of the Lambs (1991)
Hoffa (1992)
Wonderboys (2000)
Rock Star (2001)

And the Hollywood—Pittsburgh connection continues to this day. Here are some more recent films shot there:
Me and Earl and the Dying Girl (2015)
Concussion (2015)
Southpaw (2015)
Fences (2016)
Last Flag Flying (2017)
Sweet Girl (2019)
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (2019)

Romero attended Carnegie Mellon University, but his archives were acquired by the University of Pittsburgh.  The same school where Rogers  did some extra graduate studies work in child development with child psychologist Margaret McFarland,  According to Wikipedia, McFarland “was his consultant for most of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhoods scripts and songs for 30 years.”

And it’s worth pointing out that there were actually films shot in Pittsburgh before either Romero or Rogers were born— even before there was a film industry in Hollywood. Visit the website for Films of the Westinghouse Works, 1904.  

Some of those were shot by Billy Bitzer who went on to work with “the father of film” D. W. Griffith. 

P.S. Back around 1999-2000 I did a three day video shoot in Pittsburgh and actually worked with a cameraman who was related to George Romero. I didn’t have the insight back then to asked if he’d worked on any of the Dead movies or on any of Mr. Rogers’ 895 programs shot there. And I did cross paths twice with Mr. Rogers himself on the campus at his alma mater Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida.

Scott W. Smith 

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: