After a Zombie-filled Weekend

Having returned from a weekend in Atlanta at the Walker Stalkers convention, I have lots of stuff to share. First is a link to the piece I did for my day job.

And on top of that, here’s a zombie TV piece my friend Steve did about a week earlier, timed to coincide with Halloween.

Some takeaways from the convention, which was packed.
1) Walking Dead fans are SMART. The questions they offered up at the Q&A panels with actors and producers were better than the questions we media people were coming up with. I’ll be posting excerpts from those sessions later this week, as I get the transcripts finished.

2) Walking Dead actors are really gracious to their fans. Andrew Lincoln, in particular, was just lovely and I think he sets the tone for the rest of the cast.

3) It is possible to be totally normal, and completely fanatical about a TV show, at the same time.

4) Norman Reedus is insanely popular, and was sort of the mythical beast of the convention. You never saw him; you just saw the lines of fans waiting to meet him. Getting to him for an autograph was evidently an hours-long ordeal.

5) Things that look different in real life than on television: some of the men look shorter. With the women, it was tiny heads. Like little birds.

6) All of the actors were just as attractive as they are on screen, and as an added bonus, they were clean and well-dressed. And not carrying weapons, so those were all pluses.

There’s plenty more to come, but so much that I have to spend some time processing it all. For now, zombie friends, shamble on! And don’t eat anybody.


Hollywood Went Down to Georgia

Atlanta's Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre, used in The Walking Dead as the Centers for Disease Control. Photo: Atlanta’s Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre, used in The Walking Dead as the Centers for Disease Control. Photo:

In prepping for this weekend’s Walker Stalkers convention I contacted Stefanie Paupeck, Communications Manager for the Georgia Department of Economic Development, to talk about how the state lures members of the entertainment industry to Georgia. Her department does a lot of hard work to bring filmmakers, TV producers, and members of the music business to the Peachtree State.

I asked Stephanie my questions via email, and she was kind enough to provide some thorough answers.

Has Atlanta seen a rise in tourist numbers or tourism dollars since The Walking Dead started airing? What are the places people are coming to see?

We have seen an increase in film-induced tourism.

To attract event more visitors interested in Georgia’s entertainment industry, the state also launched a brand new website on March 26, 2013, The new interactive website promotes Georgia’s film and music history, film tours, Georgia-filmed productions, film locations, destinations, festivals and other events. By increasing visitation to entertainment-related destinations across the state, the website will enhance the film industry’s long-term impact on Georgia tourism.

Visitors are traveling to communities across Georgia. It is safe to say that almost every city has seen some of type of production activity. You can find movie tours in Atlanta, Senoia, Savannah, Covington, Conyers, Peachtree City and more. For example, Senoia (The Walking Dead, Driving Miss Daisy, Drop Dead Diva), Savannah (home to 10 Academy award-winning films, Forrest Gump, Midnight in the Garden of Good & Evil, Conspirator), Juliette (Fried Green Tomatoes), Covington (Vampire Diaries, In the Heat of the Night, the Dukes of Hazzard), Tybee Island (The Last Song), Jekyll Island (Legend of Bagger Vance) and many more. We anticipate an increase in visitors to Georgia when the Georgia-filmed “Hunger Games” premieres on Nov. 22.

Here are a few facts about film-induced tourism:

· Seventy-five percent of Newton County’s tourism is TV/movie related. Thousands of tourists come solely because “The Dukes of Hazzard,” “In the Heat of the Night” and “Vampire Diaries” were shot in Covington.

· The award-winning film “Fried Green Tomatoes” single-handedly revived the town of Juliette. Visitors travel from around the world to eat at the infamous Whistle Stop Café.

The real-life Whistle Stop Cafe, Juliette, GA. Photo:

The real-life Whistle Stop Cafe, Juliette, GA. Photo:

· And, Tybee Island saw an 11 percent increase in summer business in 2010 – thanks to the release of Disney’s “The Last Song” which was shot on the island.

· Downtown Senoia has experienced an amazing revitalization since welcoming “The Walking Dead” to this small southern town. In 1980, there were five businesses in Senoia. Today, there are 46.

I see from the website that Georgia brought in about $3.1 billion from the entertainment industry in 2012. Who benefits from those dollars? Where do they go?

Georgia-lensed productions generated an economic impact of $3.1 billion in the state during the 2012 fiscal year (July 1, 2011 – June 30, 2012), a 29% increase from FY11. The economic impact is determined based on the direct spend that each production had in Georgia. So, fiscal year 2012 saw record investment in the state by the entertainment industry, with more than $879.8 million in direct spending. The direct spend is the money that a production spends in Georgia while filming a production. Georgia was home to 333 feature films; television movies and series; commercials; and music videos that were shot across the state during FY12.

Can you describe some of the ways Georgia works to attract and aid producers to coming to the state to work?

Production companies are picking locations based on the entire package – incentives, accessibility, crew base, infrastructure and quality of life. We have it all, so it makes us the perfect filming location.

The state’s Camera Ready Community Program has been a huge asset in recruiting and supporting productions. Camera Ready was created to enhance Georgia’s statewide resources for the growing number of film and television productions. Launched in October 2010, the program now includes 142 counties across the state.

What is Georgia’s most-used filming location (or, if more than one, some of the most popular)?

Atlanta definitely has the most activity because of its proximity to the airport, soundstages and crew. However, we don’t keep a running list of percentages in each community in terms of activity. As far as the most-used filming location – it is hard to pick just one since people use sound stages, private homes or buildings, state buildings like the Georgia Archives building and such. Savannah is a popular filming destination. Our Capitol building in downtown Atlanta has been used in numerous productions. Sweetwater State Park has also become popular with filmmakers.

How long has Georgia had a specific office to attract entertainment productions to the state?

The Georgia Film Office was founded by then-Governor Jimmy Carter in 1973 due to the impact that the film “Deliverance” had in the northeast Georgia Mountains. In fact, we are celebrating our 40th anniversary this year.

More about Georgia’s entertainment-industry office here.

The Mercer Williams house, Savannah. Used in Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. Photo:

The Mercer Williams house, Savannah. Used in Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. Photo:

You’re Out of Your Tree


I was reminded tonight of a couple of lines of dialogue that I love.

The reminder was this friend who was telling a story about missing the bus. He’d taken great care and a long subway ride to get to the bus stop. He’d timed the whole operation carefully so he’d make it to his meeting on time. But the bus pulled up, admitted passengers, and closed its door before he could board. He smacked his hands on the side of the bus to get the driver to open back up. The driver paid him no attention. So he blew up, pounded the plexiglass wall of the bus shelter, and cursed.

A homeless woman asked him what was wrong and he explained that he’d missed his bus. She replied, “Well, I guess it isn’t your bus, because you aren’t on it.”

He took that as a message from God and the universe and has not had a bus-missing tantrum since. So he says.

So it reminded me of the movie Benny & Joon (1993), in which two people with unspecified mental irregularities find each other and have a little romance. Joon (Mary Stuart Masterson) is riding in a car with her brother Benny (Adrian Quinn) when they pass a tree, in which her new friend Sam (Johnny Depp) is perched. Later, she encounters him on the ground. Their conversation goes as follows.

Joon: “You’re out of your tree.”
Sam: “It wasn’t my tree.”

And that’s that. I love those two lines of dialogue. Not only are they funny because both characters are speaking so literally, but also Sam completely sidesteps the colloquial meaning of the phrase that would imply he’s crazy. I suppose you could say he acknowledges he lives in a slightly different reality than the one where people use “tree” as a euphemism for sanity. I suppose you could has he as a healthy detachment from the need to be seen in a certain way. I suppose you could just enjoy the idea of a grown man innocent and odd enough to hunch on a tree branch in public. I don’t know what the significance is. I just love that he has no shame about living life on a different wavelength. I like that about the whole film. It’s about acceptance.

What this has to do with missing buses, I don’t know.

Wait. Yes I do.

London bus stop swing designed by designer Bruno Taylor

London bus stop swing designed by designer Bruno Taylor



Tonight on Jimmy Kimmel Live Jimmy did a bit where a guy at a candy counter played practical jokes on would-be customers while pretending to offer them free candy samples. For the adults, the guy offered samples from a candy-laden tray, then flipped the tray over when people took a piece — thereby making them think they’d caused all the candy to fall on the floor.

This was all well and good, but then he targeted a woman with two cute little blonde girls in matching pink tank tops. For these victims, the plot was more diabolical. He gave the little girls an enormous white shopping bag and told them they could keep as much candy as they could get into the bag within 30 seconds. This, understandably, pleased the girls. The mother looked suspicious.

The girls went to town on the candy, selecting their treats slowly at first and then speeding up as they gained confidence. At the end of the 30 seconds, the bottom of the bag fell out, leaving the little girls with nothing.

Well. These little girls took it well enough, but if it had been me (awkward grammatical issue: the correct pronoun is “I”) at that age, offered the trick bag of candy, I would have been The Girl Who Cried. There’s always one, and usually I was the one. So I took this personally. What kind of a lesson is this to teach children — that grownups lie? That the bottoms of bags fall out? That what looks like a lovely opportunity is actually just a prank for a studio audience? I tell you, they took it well, but I would have cried.

They got a consolation prize – an overlarge plastic bag of Pixie Stix. Again, all well and good, but what if they didn’t like Pixie Stix? What about the day, maybe a week from now, when they’ve had all the Pixie Stix they can stand, and they start reliving the experience and growing resentful of the mean man who made them promises and didn’t keep them? How much could that resentment grow? How long would it take, exactly, before these betrayed young ladies begin plotting revenge? Do we need to teach two single ladies who aren’t even into double digits yet that there are men who will lie to them?

This is dangerous territory, People. Maybe they aren’t crying today, maybe they won’t cry tomorrow, but someday, perhaps in a Pixie Stix-induced fit of mania, they might choose to get even, and THEN all hell will break loose.

I’m telling you, it would have been better if they’d just cried and got it over with.

This is what’s wrong with America, people. This is where the trouble starts.


Roy G. Biv Speaks

Bloomsbury Publishing

Bloomsbury Publishing

Blue blood. Purple carrots. What rhymes with silver? Ever seen a gray flamingo?

These topics are among the many Jude Stewart explores in her new book, Roy G. Biv. It’s a compact, yet lively volume about color and its significance in our lives. Each chapter focuses on one color of the spectrum and opens with a graphic connecting various ideas about that particular part of the spectrum. (You could call this a shade, or a hue, or a tint, but none of these words mean exactly the same thing, and I’ll let you consult the book to learn why.) Roy G. Biv also has an unorthodox system of footnotes that allow a reader to “surf” related topics the book in much the same way one might jump from one topic to the next online.

A quick read will enlighten you on why British warships were painted pink during World War II, why Chinese men won’t wear green hats, and the historic use of urine in clothing dyes.

A note: there’s a reason British warships are no longer painted pink. Sure, they’re hard to see from the air at dawn and at dusk, but for the rest of the day they’re just big pink targets in a big blue sea. All the better to drop a bomb on you, my dear.

Stewart is a freelance writer who specializes in culture and design in pieces for Slate and Fast Company. She blogs twice monthly about design and pattern as a contributing editor for PRINT magazine. She and her husband are based in Chicago, Ill., where they are learning to deal with rainbow-colored poop and the challenges of life with a new redhead.



It’s starting.

I’m heading to Atlanta, Georgia, next week to cover the Walker Stalkers convention, which is to say a gathering of fans of The Walking Dead TV show from AMC, hosted by Nashville dwellers James Frazier and Eric Nordhoff, who run the Walker Stalkers podcast and fan site.

Prepping for this has been fun. There is nothing like binge-watching three seasons of Walking Dead tv gore, plus various zombie movies. And the Walking Dead graphic novels are sitting on my shelf at home waiting for a binge-reading session or three. I’m hoping that next week I can talk to some zombie-lovers and Walking Dead fans about why they love zombies, and why they love this particular show.

I’ll answer that question for myself — I’ve just gotten into the zombie genre because it’s all about your deepest fears taking shape and closing in on you. Who hasn’t worried that everything we depend on is going to come crashing down and leave us completely vulnerable? And how do we cope if it happens?


Zombie stories tend to say the secret to survival is connecting with other people. That remedy completely goes against the self-reliance our culture tends to value. So zombie stories are a reminder that that’s really how we get through a lot of scary things in our lives — we have to ask for help, team up, and/or compromise, despite it being weird and painful. The rewards can be life-changing. At the very least, you might avoid getting eaten. And you might learn a thing or two about squooshing zombie brains.

That’s my zombie spiel. Let’s see if it changes after I’ve talked with some people in Atlanta next week.

Meanwhile, here are some pieces I’m using for background reading. Atlanta magazine is doing some nice behind-the-scenes coverage of the show, which is filmed there, thanks in part to the Georgia Film, Music & Digital Entertainment Office.


The Huffington Post:

Rolling Stone:

The Fanbolt blog:

Atlanta magazine:

Meanwhile, Zombie Will Ferrell is coming to get you. Just click that there link.

The Walking Dead1.1 Days Gone ByBehind The ScenesAndrew Lincoln

A Little More Nostalgia

Here are a few more bits and pieces from Geppi’s Entertainment Museum. The Pez dispensers alone are worth the trip!

'New Sound Guitar' Manufactured by Selcol UK. An orange and cream fourstring plastic guitar with faces and autographs on body.

‘New Sound Guitar’ Manufactured by Selcol UK. An orange and cream fourstring plastic guitar with faces and
autographs on body.

This toy guitar, manufactured in the UK, is listed by sellers on Ebay as high as $1500.


Remember when music came on 45s and LPs? And when the really special records (or really cheesy ones, I never could decide) were on colored plastic? This record features music by by Ken Maynard, a rodeo and trick rider who performed with Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show before moving into silent movies in the 1920s. Maynard was of a musical bent — he played several instruments — and became one of Hollywood’s first “singing cowboys.” He made more than 90 films in two decades, starting with “The Man Who Won” in 1923.

Vintage 1984 Michael Jackson Vanity Fair Record Player

Vintage 1984 Michael Jackson Vanity Fair Record Player

Remember when your music player had to be carried around by a handle, instead of slipped conveniently into your pocket? This Michael Jackson turntable from 1984 lists for as little as $88 and as much as $450 on Ebay.



Here are just a few of a long line (literally) of Pez dispensers behind glass at the Geppi museum. The Austrian candies were named “Pez” as a short term for Pfefferminz, the German word for peppermint, which was the original flavor when the candies were first designed in 1927. Pez were first considered a breath mint and were marketed as an alternative to smoking. By the mid-1950s, when Pez first started selling its candies in novelty dispensers, the marketing focus had switched to children — although, of course, plenty of adults love them today.