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Zombies help with Fineview's PR

| Sunday, May 22, 2011

Seth Cutler, whose favorite film is "Dawn of the Dead," sprung into fast-forward as soon as he found out he could be in a zombie film.

"I love zombies. They are living and dead at the same time. This is awesome, being in a zombie movie," said Cutler, 13, who lives in Jeannette.

Cutler's gaudy zombie makeup was done by his mother, Jennifer Swank, early Saturday morning, after Swank, a nurse, got home from work on an overnight shift.

The 20-minute film, "Spineview," is set in the North Side neighborhood of Fineview — a scenic but little-visited hillside community. The filming was organized by PopUp! Pittsburgh, which highlights the good things about city neighborhoods in hopes people will move there or patronize local businesses.

"We are going to show off this neighborhood," said Chris Whitlatch of Cranberry, manager of marketing and communications at The Pittsburgh Foundation. Whitlatch is directing the film.

PopUp! Pittsburgh is organized by Leadership Pittsburgh Inc., a nine-month program for established senior business leaders that encourages them to learn more about the region and local events. The dozens of participants in yesterday's zombie filming included executives from companies such as H.J. Heinz, PNC, UPMC, FedEx, Westinghouse and the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, many of whom had never been to Fineview before this year.

PopUp! Pittsburgh has featured the Hilltop and Uptown in previous years through community days and pub crawls, but this is the first time it is doing a film.

Part classic zombie camp and part community activism, "Spineview" will premiere at the end of September.

Making a zombie movie in Pittsburgh has lots of local sentimental pull. Director George Romero's 1978 horror classic "Dawn of the Dead" was filmed in the Monroeville Mall, while his "Night of the Living Dead" (1968) was shot almost entirely in Evans City in Butler County.

"Spineview" tells the story of how Fineview was once a beautiful place until a hoard of graffiti-spraying and drug-addled zombies arrived. The neighborhood's only hope rests with a 12-year-old filmmaker, an eccentric professor, and an attractive girl with a baseball bat.

Whitlatch, who is in this year's class at Leadership Pittsburgh Inc., tested his leadership skills during the filming, which featured at least 60 zombies, including kids and adults made up as baseball players, emergency rescue workers and housewives.

"This is great. But making a film like this does force you to be organized," he said. "There's a lot going on, lots of people involved."

Many of the zombies applied their makeup at home. Others were made up in an on-site tent.

"Everyone looks great — so real," said Justine Patrick, 25, of Oakland, whose smattering of bloodstains made her look especially distraught.

"I cannot wait to see the film, the finished product," said makeup artist Krissy Rohr, who during the week teaches seventh-graders in West Mifflin.

Rohr and other makeup artists use innovative ingredients to disfigure the zombies — their "blood" is made from a mix of corn syrup, soap and dyes.

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