Tag Archives: Atlanta

The Zombie King Speaks

zombienicoteroscreenGreg Nicotero — co-executive producer and special effects king of The Walking Dead — sat for a panel discussion with Walking Dead fans bright and early on Saturday morning, November 2, 2013 at the Peachtree Westin Hotel in Atlanta, Georgia to talk about the zombie makeup, directing episodes, his co-workers, and other makeup jobs he’s loved over his 30-year career. Nicotero appeared onstage with Walker Stalkers convention organizers James Frazier and Eric Nordhoff, facing an audience of hundreds. Fans were invited to approach one of two microphones to ask questions. Following are some excerpts of that panel discussion. Keep checking back for more.

Greg Nicotero learned his craft under special effects expert Tom Savini. He began as Savini’s assistant on Day of the Dead in 1984 and four years later joined with Robert Kurtzman and Howard Berger to found a special-effects workshop, KNB, that has worked on more than 400 films. Nicotero himself has worked on more than 150 films and television projects.

Greg Nicotero November 2, 2013, Atlanta, Georgia

Greg Nicotero November 2, 2013, Atlanta, Georgia

Greg: You guys are up early today.

James: How was your night?

Greg: Well, see, there’s this little show we work on called The Walking Dead. We were filming until 2 o’clock in the morning. So it’s been a long night. I know I’m not supposed to talk about stuff. I’ll talk about a little bit of stuff. So we’re on our second-to-last episode, we’re almost done with season 4, and we’re, yeah. It’s kind of all a little bit of a blur right now. But I just want to say I was the first person here this morning. All those other actors who didn’t have to work last night? Still beat them. I’ll try not to swear because I’m sure there’s kids here. But if I swear once, sorry.

James: Well Greg, you were the first person from The Walking Dead to commit to our podcast. I just want to say thank you for taking that time, because without that – it’s turned into this giant snowball that is Walker Stalker Con. And that is why you are the guest of honor this weekend. (applause)

Greg: Aw, thanks. If I had known, I would have come way earlier. I mean we could have done this last year, and you guys would have been all “oh, another convention, oh god.” But listen, congratulations to you guys. This is a big deal. The fact that they got – it was very smart to do it while we’re still filming. Because all the actors are here. You know, this is the first thing – time – Andy’s [lead actor Andrew Lincoln, who plays sheriff Rick Grimes] ever come to one of these. So we have to go check on him afterward and make sure he’s still sane.

Eric: I kind of want to ask you before we get into some really amazing photos that we’re gonna go through, and all kinds of insider stuff, did Andy – was there any talk, did Any ask anybody “what is this Walker Stalker Con? I’m hearing everybody’s going except me.” Cause he was like the last one to come. I was wondering –

Greg: We told him he wasn’t invited. (laughter) He was like, “Hey, you guys doing this convention?” and we were like, “No, there’s no convention next weekend.” (more laughter) No, I think he talked to Norman [actor Norman Reedus, who plays Daryl Dixon] about it. Norman, who does quite a few conventions. But if I’m not mistaken I think he’s donating his money that he makes on his autographs to charity. So I’m gonna donate mine to the makeup effects crew’s beer tab tonight. (Shouts from the audience) You guys all please buy autographs from me today, or else I’m screwed. (laughter) I’ll drop the price. All my guys are here, so the amazing guys who do the makeup for the show – guys, stand up so everybody can – come on. (applause, woo-hoos) Where’s Andre? Andre, come on. So Jay back there was the walker that Andy shot in season two through the mouth. And Andy there, that guy, I didn’t want to say the guy with the white hair because — the white haired guy, he was Michonne’s first kill at the end of season two. So they’ll be charging $90 for each autograph. (laughter) But they’re only autographing body parts. (More laughter) And all these guys are amazing, amazing makeup artists and the magic that is done on The Walking Dead would not be done without them.

James: 25 years of KNB effects now. When I say that, what goes through your mind?

Greg: You know, there was a documentary – this Canadian filmmaker did a documentary called Zombiemania and they borrowed a bunch of my footage from Land of the Dead. Of me on set with George, and she said, this stuff is great, this footage is amazing, have you guys ever thought about doing a documentary about KNB? It’s like, well, you know, the rights are a little tricky and on Day of the Dead, Savini was a very big tech guy. So he always had a video camera with him, and because I was his assistant, he sort of handed the camera off to me. So I filmed everything on set of Day of the Dead. So when I moved to LA and started in the business, I just thought that’s what everybody did, that everybody videotaped stuff. So Evil Dead 2, Army of Darkness, every movie that we did, I had a video camera with me. So for me, what I love about that, is when you go and you buy the DVD – I don’t get any money from that – when you go and buy the DVDs, you see all the footage that I shot. The closest that you ever get to experiencing what it was like to be on set when we were torturing Bruce Campbell every day. (laughter) Dumping blood on him, you know, we were shooting in Day of the Dead, chopping the zombie’s head off with a shovel, all that kind of stuff is now accessible to fans. So that’s really really important to me. So this documentary – it’s called Nightmare Factory – has a lot of that footage. And it’s weird to think that I started in 1984 so next year will be 30 years for me, and we started KNB in ’88. So it’s pretty amazing.

J&E: Congratulations.

Nicotero: Thanks.

Eric: Congratulations, Greg. Incredible accomplishment already, and you really, you’ve got at least another 30, 40 more years left in you, so really, I was just curious –

Greg: I know, I gotta start doing a lot of drugs. (laughter) To just keep going for the next 40 years.


Hollywood Went Down to Georgia

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

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, http://www.ComeTourGeorgia.com. 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: www.roadtripmemories.com.

The real-life Whistle Stop Cafe, Juliette, GA. Photo: http://www.roadtripmemories.com.

· 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: http://www.city-data.com/articles/The-Mercer-Williams-House-Museum.html

The Mercer Williams house, Savannah. Used in Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. Photo: http://www.city-data.com/articles/The-Mercer-Williams-House-Museum.html



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 http://www.thewalkerstalkers.com/ 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