Clip | Edgar Allan Poe: Buried Alive - The story of Wally Coberg and the making of “Edgar Allan Poe: Buried Alive”

Filmmaker Eric Stange tells the story of Wally Coberg, the now-deceased filmmaker who conceived Edgar Allan Poe: Buried Alive.


Major support for Edgar Allan Poe: Buried Alive is provided by the National Endowment for the Humanities. Additional support for this film is provided in part by National Endowment for the Arts, Joy Fishman, and Wallace S Wilson.

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this film project began I think probably seven or eight years ago now when I got a phone call out of the blue from a man named Wally Coburg who lived in Baltimore he was in a 60s he was a wreath retired theater set designer who lived on Social Security and he wanted to make a film about Edgar Allen Poe and he had no money he'd never made a film and he had no idea where to start he had heard that I had made a film set in the 1840s so he thought I might be interested in this so we talked and we talked and Wally was obviously very passionate about Poe and I knew nothing about Poe I wasn't even that interested in Poe but I did catch a sense of Wally's incredible enthusiasm so I told him that to raise money he'd have to write grants and go to the National Endowment for the Humanities and somehow convinced people to give him hundreds of thousands of dollars and he said okay how do I do it and eventually while he did write a grant to the National Endowment for the Humanities I helped him I helped edit it I gave him tips because I'd done it before but he really did all the legwork and he got the grant which was really surprising it's very very hard to get those grants so we had a scripting grant and I was on his director he was on his writer producer we started to work and then oddly there was radio silence from Wally which was really unusual the phone stopped ringing no emails I thought maybe I defended him somehow I didn't know he was very not only passionate about Poe but very defensive of Poe and I thought maybe I had somehow said something that made while he think I didn't sympathize enough with Poe or understand how after about three weeks an email came along email turned out while he hadn't paid US federal taxes for three years and when we got this National Endowment for the Humanities grant that somehow triggered the IRS and while he was so embarrassed and humiliated and the ground had been frozen because of the lack of tax payments while he really said he'd felt suicidal I mean it was really really frightening and and his friends in Baltimore gathered around him and people helped him find an accountant to it straighten this out and little by little over the course of a summer and he was feeling better but something else happened he met somebody online through a shared interest in our deco movie theatres the met a man named Gill and they correspond adverse by email then they started talking on the phone and between getting his taxes during now meeting Gill Wally went from suicidal in June to absolutely happy over the moon by September he was so thrilled life had really turned around for him and so I think three or four months after their first phone call conversations Gill was going to come meet Wally and was coming to Baltimore to meet Wally taking the Amtrak from upstate New York and Wally would be at the Amtrak station to meet him and I think this was now November or so of 2011 and Gil got to the Amtrak station in Baltimore and there was no wali Gil called Wally's number no answer he got in a cab and went to Wally's apartment and the neighbor said that Wally had just been taken away by ambulance to the hospital so Gil raced to the hospital and by the time he got there while he had died of a massive heart attack and Gil stayed talked his way somehow into the room where Wally's body was and for the first time laid eyes on Wally and spent about half an hour with Wally and then left and went back to the Amtrak station and that was I heard about Wally's death that night and it was such a polite turn of events especially for Gil and Wally but for the whole project so we tried to and Wally and while his friends and I got together we had a wonderful memorial service for Ollie in New York City at Radio City Music Hall because he had worked there as a set designer with the Rockettes for many years and then little by little we kind of resurrected the Poe project got a back on track and raised more money eventually through the National for the humanities and so this film is really a it's dedicated to Wally Coburg and it never would have started never would have happened without his passion you