Arts·Video

Night of the Living Dead has a scarier story than you think...because copyright is terrifying

Artist Dave Dyment has reanimated the original zombie movie in a rather unusual and slightly obsessive way.

Artist Dave Dyment has reanimated the original zombie movie in a rather unusual and slightly obsessive way

(CBC Arts)

Artist Dave Dyment has spent a lot of time watching Night of the Living Dead. Like, a lot.

And while George Romero's film is meaningful to Dyment for many reasons — its cultural significance, its position as grandfather to all zombie-ery that followed it — it's the film's status as public domain that became the artist's central fascination. Because of a mistake in its title card, Night of the Living Dead has always been a public domain film. That makes it an easy grab for directors who need a film for their characters to be watching in any given scene — there are no issues of licensing or royalties to worry about.

(CBC Arts)

Dyment soon found out that there is an overwhelming number of clips from hundreds of TV shows and movies where people are watching Romero's zombie flick. So, he remade the original film completely from clips of other people watching it, in the pieces of footage he carefully collected and curated — and he called it Watching Night of the Living Dead.

Watch the video:

Artist Dave Dyment explains how he ended up spending countless hours with the George Romero zombie classic. Filmmaker: Corrie Brough 4:36

Doing this kind of research is not unfamiliar to Dyment, whose practice has often exhaustively obsessed on filmic details — like Timeline, the 2016 project where he made a feature-length film that begins in 17,000 BC and ends in 2805 AD, entirely made up of establishing shots from existing movies. Or Postscript, his 2012 short film that is itself made from the text cards that function as epilogues at the end of movies.

In this video made by filmmaker Corrie Brough, Dyment tells you how the issue of copyright has become an important element of his own work, and why he ended up focusing so much of his attention on Night of the Living Dead. He says, "Somebody asked me the other day if my piece is an homage to Romero, and the answer is that it's not exactly an homage, but it's kind of about homage. It's about what happened to this small independent film made in Pittsburgh that inspired legions of other filmmakers to pick up cameras and make their own films independently."

(CBC Arts)

You can see Watching Night of the Living Dead at Southern Alberta Art Gallery in Lethbridge, Alberta until September 9. Dyment's work is also part of "The Closer Together Things Are," a group exhibition also on at SAAG until September 9. Find out more about Dave Dyment and his past projects here.

Watch CBC Arts: Exhibitionists on Friday nights at 11:30pm (12am NT) and Sundays at 3:30pm (4pm NT) on CBC Television.

About the Author

Lise Hosein is a producer at CBC Arts. Before that, she was an arts reporter at JazzFM 91, an interview producer at George Stroumboulopoulos Tonight and a PhD candidate at the University of Toronto. When she's not at her CBC Arts desk she's sometimes an instructor at OCADU and is always quite terrified of bees.