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How an Alhambra Source contributor discovered ‘Halloween’s’ surprise local connection

Cinematographer Dean Cundey revisits Garfield Elementary School in Alhambra, where he shot "Halloween." "Michael was parked across the street while stalking Laurie in class," he shares. Photo by David Muñoz.

Location

Alhambra , CA United States

Reporting often involved persistence and a whole lot of patience. But sometimes the timing is just right and your hard work leads you to the right story. This is what happened to Alhambra Source community contributor David Muñoz, who spent the better part of last year trying to secure an interview with “Halloween” cinematographer Dean Cundey. Cunday has a surprising connection to Alhambra. He grew up in Alhambra and shot a pivotal scene for the movie at Garfield Elementary School. Muñoz got in touch with Cundey after requesting an interview via snail mail and ended up writing the second most popular article on the Alhambra Source in 2018.

Read our extended interview with Muñoz on the preparation and timing that made this story possible. And if you’d like the opportunity to publish an impactful story like this, join us in becoming an Alhambra Source community contributor.

What made you want to write this story about Dean Cundey?

It found me. I didn’t find the story. I had just started at Alhambra Source. So basically I was going through the basics of Alhambra so I just started researching and looking up things about Alhambra and then I actually came across notable people from Alhambra, then I actually came across Dean. He was born in Alhambra. And then I noticed that he had done “Halloween,” so I was looking into “Halloween,” and then I noticed that it was going to be the 40th anniversary of the original “Halloween” that he had shot.

So right there, I’m like, “This is a story.” This is just adding up perfectly.

Can you go through the process of how you contacted him?

I was looking online for a contact from him and I could not find any contact — no email, no PR person. I did actually find a thread about people that were sending him memorabilia. And he would sign it and return it. The thread was about from 2013, I would say. But I did find an address [for the American Society of Cinematographers]. Basically, that’s the only method of contact that I had, this address that somebody had posted.

So I wrote the letter asking for a request for an interview. I sent the letter on March 31. That would’ve been seven months until Halloween. Also on the 31st, it was actually a full moon and my grandma’s birthday — that’s probably just me being superstitious for good luck. In the interview, we’re talking about the moonlight and stuff like that, so it came around full circle.

I didn’t know that about the moonlight.

Yeah. Then he responded to me about three weeks later. In the middle of April, he responded back with an email. He said he was going to be out of town and that he would be available around July. So then July was when I followed up in an email and he didn’t respond for a week. Then I sent another followup email. The interview didn’t happen until August — August 13 I think it was.

Meanwhile, I had four months to start doing my research. I knew nothing about the “Halloween” franchise — I mean, I knew about it, but I never really got in depth. So I bought and watched the movie a couple of times, looked at video interviews of him, just so I didn’t ask the same questions as other people. And then waiting those four months, other things started to happen. The new “Halloween” movie was coming out, there was going to be a Blue Ray release coming out and then there was the John Carpenter performance at the [Hollywood] Palladium. I was able to ask questions about those during the interview. Things started adding up and coming together.

What’s the most surprising discovery you made while doing this story?

The most surprising thing was that he was born in Altadena! Because from what I was reading online, he was born in Alhambra. When I found out Altadena, I was like, “There goes my story!” But we are actually bringing the truth and not what it says online. That caught me off guard, but Altadena is close by, it wasn’t too much of a big deal.

Also, he and I can talk that photography talk. That was pretty cool. We were on the same page, talking about lighting and stuff like that during the interview.

Also the camera store, finding the magazine [at Alhambra Camera], I did not know about that. That just brought it home. I told him in the interview, “I also had a camera shop that I would go to and look around and all that stuff,” so I don’t know. Maybe we have that in common. Him finding that camera store and his childhood memories kind of brought everyone back to those times, with all of those descriptions.

Why do you think this article had such an impact on readers?

I think all of the things just adding up — growing up in Alhambra, going to school there, the 40th anniversary, they filmed some of the movie in Alhambra [and] everything falling into place. Like I mentioned the new movie coming out, the performance [of the score], the Blue Ray had come out. I think it was something a lot of people didn’t really know, that [Halloween] was filmed in Alhambra. And just bringing him back to the location was what brought it all back home to Alhambra, 40 years later.

And the whole interview set up, the video camera, GoPro, recorder mics, backup recorder, lights, all my questions — I was ready. Then just executing the interview, the writing, putting everything together — presentation is everything and I think it maybe showed with the article being really big.

I wanted to show his return to the only filming location in Alhambra 40 years later, and I just wanted to thank Alhambra Source for giving me this platform to do something like this and I would like to thank Dean and I would like to thank you, of course, Phoenix. This whole thing wasn’t about me, it was about Alhambra Source and putting this story out there and letting the residents know about what’s going on in their surroundings.

Thank you.

Thank you! It was fun. I learned a lot.

Read David Muñoz’s profile on Dean Cundey here.

If you’re interested in becoming an Alhambra Source community contributor, email phoenix@alhambrasource.org.

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