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Low Budget Legends

Archive for Interviews

13Bit Interview With Manny Kirchheimer Part 8


We recently had the good fortune to visit with Manny Kirchheimer, filmmaking legend as well as low budget legend.

Manny is best known for his groundbreaking work in “Stations of the Elevated,” as well as “We Were So Beloved.”

Legendary editor, director, teacher and mentor to many filmmakers, Manny was gracious to recently talk to us about filmmaking, life and, of course, the philosophy of low-budget filmmaking. We at 13BIT are not afraid to say that we love Manny for his philosophy and his artistic integrity.

Enjoy!

13BIT:

Who’s that? (POINTS TO PRINT)

MANNY K:

That’s Max Frisch. I just —

13BIT:

Max Frisch.

MANNY K:

–bought that yesterday, but I’m going to get rid of it. Max Frisch, a Swiss writer, novelist and playwright. But, it’s by Otto Dix — it’s by the great Otto Dix. It was thrown in. I bought a lot of four, for other reasons. And, all right, this is almost done. And it was thrown in, but I’m going to see if I can unload it. Here, this is what I really wanted to buy. This one, Tocaro — this is from 1854, and the Feininger, beautiful.

13BIT:

This is phenomenal.

MANNY K:

Yes.

13BIT:

What fine lines.

MANNY K:

Yeah. Cliché-Verre, there. A very, very rarely used technique where they put — this is 1854, and it’s something like dust on a photo emulsion.

13BIT:

Wow.

MANNY K:

And then you draw on the dust, and then you expose. I guess you do it in the dark room with a red light or —

13BIT:

That’s cool, right, right.

MANNY K:

–something, and then you develop it. That is the dust, the fine lines, you know, is where the light can then hit right. So then you expose it. Then you develop it, and then you make this from the negative, or something like that.

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13Bit Interview With Manny Kirchheimer Part 7


We recently had the good fortune to visit with Manny Kirchheimer, filmmaking legend as well as low budget legend.

Manny is best known for his groundbreaking work in “Stations of the Elevated,” as well as “We Were So Beloved.”

Legendary editor, director, teacher and mentor to many filmmakers, Manny was gracious to recently talk to us about filmmaking, life and, of course, the philosophy of low-budget filmmaking. We at 13BIT are not afraid to say that we love Manny for his philosophy and his artistic integrity.

Enjoy!

13BIT:

How do you decide what music or what audio to use with your —

MANNY K:

Oh, it’s — I don’t know, it’s a question of a feeling. I know a lot of music. There’s a lot of music I don’t know. I have a feel for what the scene needs. Gee, that’s a hard one to answer.

MANNY K:

This is the wood cut artist, Paul Marvis.

13BIT:

That looks good. So this is shot on HD, or —

MANNY K:

No, DVCAM.

13BIT:

DVCAM?!

MANNY K:

DVCAM.

13BIT:

It looks good, though, DVCAM.

13BIT:

Well, how did you manage to co-opt two whole rooms of the apartment for your work?

MANNY K:

Don’t say that when my wife’s around! Well, you watch yourself, otherwise I’m going to — we’re not going to be friends anymore. How did I manage to do that? Well, that one over there, obviously, belonged to one of my sons. My wife works in the other room, which was the other son’s. This part of the room over here still is allegedly hers, but she rarely uses it. And, you know —

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13Bit Interview With Manny Kirchheimer Part 6


We recently had the good fortune to visit with Manny Kirchheimer, filmmaking legend as well as low budget legend.

Manny is best known for his groundbreaking work in “Stations of the Elevated,” as well as “We Were So Beloved.”

Legendary editor, director, teacher and mentor to many filmmakers, Manny was gracious to recently talk to us about filmmaking, life and, of course, the philosophy of low-budget filmmaking. We at 13BIT are not afraid to say that we love Manny for his philosophy and his artistic integrity.

Enjoy!

13BIT:

How about one offbeat question and then maybe we could go inside. You said you could show us —

MANNY K:

Sure. I can show you a sequence.

13BIT:

If you hadn’t been a filmmaker, what would you might maybe have been?

MANNY K:

Well, I wanted to be an architect. But, I couldn’t draw. I wanted to — my dad was an artist. Later, you can see on that wall in the foyer, those are his pictures. And he got me very interested in all phases of art, and I always loved architecture. And I would have liked to have been an architect, but my advisor in college said, “Well, you really need to draw.” And I was terrible. My line was just awful.

Now, I don’t even know if that’s true anymore. I mean, in the first place, they don’t even draw anymore, they make models, you know. And I’d probably be pretty good at making models. And I’m still in love with architecture, and I think that’s what I would have liked to have been. Yeah, and, you know, my guy — the guy who I love is Frank Lloyd Wright.

And I even met with him in 1956, for an hour. Because, one of my independent projects was that I wanted to use the building of the Guggenheim Museum as an example of Frank Lloyd Wright’s organic architecture. So, I went to see him at the Plaza Hotel where he had an apartment. And he was very generous with his time. Gave me an hour and showed me the plans for the Guggenheim and everything. Ostensibly I went to see him to see if he could help me raise money, which he, you know, of course he didn’t. But, yeah, that’s an answer to your question.

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13Bit Interview With Manny Kirchheimer Part 5


We recently had the good fortune to visit with Manny Kirchheimer, filmmaking legend as well as low budget legend.

Manny is best known for his groundbreaking work in “Stations of the Elevated,” as well as “We Were So Beloved.”

Legendary editor, director, teacher and mentor to many filmmakers, Manny was gracious to recently talk to us about filmmaking, life and, of course, the philosophy of low-budget filmmaking. We at 13BIT are not afraid to say that we love Manny for his philosophy and his artistic integrity.

Enjoy!

13BIT:

You have to find the right people.

MANNY K:

You have to find the right people, yeah. Or you have to be able to pay the right people, you know.

13BIT:

So, what is, like, the one thing that you will pay for on a movie, and the one thing that you should never have to pay for?

MANNY K:

A mix, you have to pay for.

13BIT:

Sound mix?

MANNY K:

Sound mix. You need a good sound mix. I’m very good on final cut. I’m very good at mixing. But, I don’t know my standards. You know what I mean? These guys go to engineering school. They know what level to be at and what not to surpass, and how far they can go in surpassing it and so on.

Because, what happens is you hand over something to a projectionist. And if the projectionist has the standard, you’re going to get the right level when you go in — you know. And if the projectionist doesn’t, the projectionist who often doesn’t rehearse the film will have to play until he gets it right, you know, five minutes into the movie. So, you know, I think a mix is — also, they can think of things to do that you didn’t think of. And so that’s — that, I definitely would pay for. What else would I pay for? Gee. Well, I don’t know. I pay for rights. But — rights, well, music rights, picture rights.

13BIT:

Have you had a problem with that? Because that’s one of our big fears. We try to do everything on our own. I mean, we’re like ruthless just because that’s our way to save money and, you know, because we don’t want anybody coming after us.

13BIT:

Like, how have you — like, I’m — there was that Don Cherry music over Stations of the Elevated.

MANNY K:

It was Charlie Mingus.

13BIT:

Charlie Mingus, sorry.

MANNY K:

Yes, and that — there has been a dispute about that, which has just been resolved. It was resolved with Sue Mingus, with his widow. And now I’m going to have to pay $20,000 to get the rights. This is of something that’s 30 years old and that I have been paying without a contract, $1 on every video sold. And so — but, now we’re formalizing it with the record companies and with the publishers. Because, I want to release it on DVD. And I’ve got a second film, I think I told you, Spray Masters which I finished two years ago, which is a 30 year follow-up and I want to package them.

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13Bit Interview With Manny Kirchheimer Part 4


We recently had the good fortune to visit with Manny Kirchheimer, filmmaking legend as well as low budget legend.

Manny is best known for his groundbreaking work in “Stations of the Elevated,” as well as “We Were So Beloved.”

Legendary editor, director, teacher and mentor to many filmmakers, Manny was gracious to recently talk to us about filmmaking, life and, of course, the philosophy of low-budget filmmaking. We at 13BIT are not afraid to say that we love Manny for his philosophy and his artistic integrity.

Enjoy!

13BIT:

Yeah, we’re interested in the whole philosophy of having people view it, because we did that for our first two docs and it was good, and then we had one or two people watch our first narrative feature which is kind of an experimental thing. It has not been accessible for a lot of people, apparently.

MANNY K:

Well, it depends on who you’re asking. I mean, my people are very, very choice and tested. They are trusted people who understand the process. They’re not necessarily filmmakers, but they understand. They’ve been through it. They understand that if I’m showing them a rough cut, that there are many rough edges. They understand that there’s still stuff to come in sound work or in this or in that. I give them a little spiel, maybe.

And then there are also one or two filmmakers, people I’ve worked with who I absolutely trust to understand the process, but who are intelligent people who understand life, who understand what I’m doing. And then — and who also understand that they don’t have to pull their punches. I can’t do without them. And that includes my wife, who’s a writer.

13BIT:

So it’s not just a random sampling.

MANNY K:

No. Oh, I would never. That’s dangerous.

13BIT:

Well, you know, what we do? Someone told us, they said, “Get user testing, but don’t listen to what they say. Watch how they move. Sit behind them and watch them, how they watch.”

MANNY K:

No, intelligent people — and then you have to evaluate. You know, if somebody says, “I think you should do this,” well, I don’t know that I’m going to do what that person says. But, I’m certainly going to understand that there was a disturbance there. That that person thought something was needed. I’m not going to believe in her solution, you know.

So you have to evaluate what you hear. But, if they’re giving — if they’re good people and they’re giving responses like, “Well, I couldn’t follow the process of the lithograph because I was too nervous that you’re going to come back with some shocking war stuff, it made me tense,” well, that’s a good comment. You know, not, “Why did you put that section after that section.” That’s not a good comment. See? Because, that’s up to me to decide. But, the disturbance and — you know, so I get a great deal out of that. And I can show you. I write down what everybody says.

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13Bit Interview With Manny Kirchheimer Part 3


We recently had the good fortune to visit with Manny Kirchheimer, filmmaking legend as well as low budget legend.

Manny is best known for his groundbreaking work in “Stations of the Elevated,” as well as “We Were So Beloved.”

Legendary editor, director, teacher and mentor to many filmmakers, Manny was gracious to recently talk to us about filmmaking, life and, of course, the philosophy of low-budget filmmaking. We at 13BIT are not afraid to say that we love Manny for his philosophy and his artistic integrity.

Enjoy!

13BIT:

Have there been people over the years that you’ve worked with, do you ever collaborate or do you generally — you’re a one man show?

MANNY K:

Yeah — no, I don’t collaborate. Why is that? I guess I’m an introvert. You know, animators — independent animators don’t collaborate, either. They just love sitting all night long pushing that button on the animation machine. They’re a particular breed. Nothing against collaboration. Some of the most wonderful things in the world are — you know, but I just don’t think its worth my time. I don’t have to keep appointments with anybody. I don’t have to say we’ll meet tomorrow. I don’t have to argue with anybody. Just, you know, it’s not that I’m a one man band, it’s just that I like to think things through. I like the challenge of it.

You know, this film I’m making now, it’s going to be an hour and a half. And in late May I gathered six people up here to see my two hour cut. And they told me how terrible it was, right. But, I took notes, and I learned a lot. So then I worked for three months and refined it, and it was still two hours, to my dismay. And I invited another six people up and they really came down on it. They really gave me hell.

And, you know, I surprised myself because I didn’t used to be able to do this. But, I loved it. I loved the challenge, the chess game of fixing what they were talking about. You know, and my wife said, “Manny, are you going to be able to — is that going to work? Are you going to be able to do this?” And I said, “It’s a challenge. I’ve got to figure it out.”

And so once again, I’m now close to showing the people again and of course once again I’m optimistic that this time I’ve got the right structure. And structure’s what it’s all about, you know. And so we’ll see. Maybe in two weeks I’ll show it. I’m in the middle of it right now. But, I did — I have a new structural line and I really love feedback. I ask people to be as honest as they possibly can, and as a teacher I think I’m tough on students because I’m really — I don’t fudge anything. Because, it’s important to know this stuff before the film is finished. When you find out after it’s finished that it’s crappy, then it’s time to suffer, you know.

13BIT:

We try to be overly critical always on our stuff. With features, it’s harder. With documentaries, I feel like it’s easier because you have so much extra footage that you can always rearrange the structure . . .

MANNY K:

Well, the script has got to be good to begin with. You know, I mean if the script isn’t there then you’ve got a problem. Although, some films have been doctored and some films have been helped along. But, the script is everything. And then if you do fulfill the script, if you’ve got good acting, you know, then the structure’s already there. It’s in the script.

13BIT:

Exactly. There’s not much you can do. I mean, maybe you can heighten, you can do stuff with music. Or you can heighten some emotional point. But, there’s not much you can do.

MANNY K:

Yeah, but that’s not — you act as if that’s bad.

13BIT:

Oh, no, it’s not bad.

MANNY K:

No, it’s good.

13BIT:

It’s good, if you can do it.

MANNY K:

That’s good. But, in documentary, in the kind of documentary, the kind of documentary that I’m making right now, it’s very complex. You know, the structure — I mean, I fooled myself. I thought it was going to be a piece of cake. But, I always fool myself. You know, I always say, “Oh, I’ve got this –” you know, you come up with a fantastic idea. Well, the idea is not the execution. You know, the idea is just the idea, right?

So, I’ve got this idea, okay. I’m going to take — you see all these pictures around here, right. I love prints. You’ll notice they’re all black and white and I love that stuff. So, I said, you know, “I know something about prints. I love prints. I’m going to make a film about war as depicted by these prints over the centuries.” But not, you know, not a gallery.

You know, and create a war and create the causes of the war, the industrialists, the church, the military and so on, right. Because it all exists. I mean, from the 15th century on, you know, the artists were doing this stuff. You know, and you talk about Goya and Daumier and Otto Dix. Okay, and then I say, since I’m a teacher and I just love process, then I’ll have three artists doing new ones live.

So I’m going to follow a lithographer, an etcher and a woodcutter making new anti-war prints. I’ll show you one of the ones I got out of it. Anyway, I said, “Wow, what an idea.” That’s, you know, on cloud nine with an idea like that. That is such a fabulous idea, okay. So it’s all shot, you know. It’s all done. I got wonderful artists. Got great stuff out of them. You know, they’re talking as they work, right. I’m asking them — I’m interviewing them like I’m interviewing you while they work.

I said ahead of time, I said, “Look, can you talk while you work? Otherwise, I won’t.” And anyway, then I got 600 images that I’m moving on the thing, you know, on the post, you know, with the motion, with the up and the down and these — you know, and the close-up. Tough. Tough to keep that up for an hour and a half. I can show you a ten minute trailer that’ll just blast you away, because, you know, short form is easy. You’ve found that out, right? Short form is easy. Long form is not easy.

13BIT:

We’re not that interested in short. I mean, it’s interesting, but we like making feature-length stuff.

MANNY K:

Yeah, well, you know to keep it up and to keep it not — in a case like this, you can’t keep it too heavy. My wife — she feels more deeply than I do. So, I show concentration camp stuff, you know, she’s looking down. So I’ve got to adjust that so that she doesn’t look down. Anyways, that’s just one of my problems. But, I just love the chess game.

13BIT:

Yeah, you have to make all the pieces fit, you know, it’s like an idea of what you want, but you don’t really know what you want until you work with all the material.

MANNY K:

That’s right, yeah.

13Bit Interview With Manny Kirchheimer Part 2


We recently had the good fortune to visit with Manny Kirchheimer, filmmaking legend as well as low budget legend.

Manny is best known for his groundbreaking work in “Stations of the Elevated,” as well as “We Were So Beloved.”

Legendary editor, director, teacher and mentor to many filmmakers, Manny was gracious to recently talk to us about filmmaking, life and, of course, the philosophy of low-budget filmmaking. We at 13BIT are not afraid to say that we love Manny for his philosophy and his artistic integrity.

Enjoy!

Most of my films were made with my savings, my own money. I tried 22 times to get a grant before I got my very first grant for Stations of the Elevated. And that was only because I said I’m going to devote no more than two hours to my proposal. I sat on this couch. Well, it was an earlier version of this couch with that coffee table and I wrote for two hours. And I said, “No more.” And I used bullshit words like ‘quintessential’ and they come — you know, in those days we were using tokens and I say, “These trains come from the token ends of the earth,” you know.

You know, very clever. I got the grant. It’s the first one. And it was only for $10,000 but nonetheless, that paid for half the film. Since then I’ve gotten very few. I did get grants for — not nearly enough for We Were So Beloved, but, you know, these were all on film. They were all mixed at the best studio, Tommy Fleishman at either Reeve’s or at Sound One. So it was real, you know, these were real. I spent money to do it. Nowadays, I don’t have to nearly as much.

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13Bit Interview With Manny Kirchheimer Part 1


We recently had the good fortune to visit with Manny Kirchheimer, filmmaking legend as well as low budget legend.

Manny is best known for his groundbreaking work in “Stations of the Elevated,” as well as “We Were So Beloved.”

Legendary editor, director, teacher and mentor to many filmmakers, Manny was gracious to recently talk to us about filmmaking, life and, of course, the philosophy of low-budget filmmaking. We at 13BIT are not afraid to say that we love Manny for his philosophy and his artistic integrity.

Enjoy!

MANNY K:

So we were talking about film versus —

13BIT:

Film versus video.

MANNY K:

Versus video. And, yes, I always worked in film up to my last two films, on the one I’m working on now, and the one just before. And it’s added years go my life, just as has the Final Cut Pro. But, these digital editing systems, I mean, the film before the last one which was about the history of the skyscraper and Louis Sullivan, I cut on a Movieola. I’ll show it to you later. It’s in the other room. You know, I cut everything on a Movieola. But, I don’t see any big deal difference between film and video, I really don’t.

13BIT:

You were saying that you would much prefer to have seen your last movie on HD rather than transferred to film.

MANNY K:

Well, no. Projected?

13BIT:

Projected.

MANNY K:

Projected. It was recently shown and they used the film. After a while, the film was transferred to HD and then it was de-flecked so that it’s pristine. Colors are magnificent. The timing is better than it was on the film, more even. And it would have made for a better projection. When you have — what I’ve found is that when you have great projection — you know, I’m not talking about a $2,000 projector. But, if you have as I have witnessed, you know, a $35,000 projector or God knows what they had at Lincoln Center a couple of weeks ago — probably that much or more — you get a magnificent look, you know, which is virtually the equivalent of film. And I always feel that a poorly lighted film can’t compare with a well lighted video. It’s all in the lighting.

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13Bit Interview With Lloyd Kaufman Part 3

Part three of 13Bit’s Low Budget Legends Interview series. Here, we speak with Lloyd Kaufman, the head of Troma Films and the Director of such low budget legends as “Toxic Avenger,” “Class of Nuk’em High” and “Poultrygeist.” ” Lloyd has been making classic films for over forty years, and is heavily involved in promoting and protecting the rights of independent filmmakers.

We went out to Troma HQ in Queens last fall and are proud to kick off our series with Lloyd. Here is the third of our three-part chat with him.

13BIT:

Do you buy into the idea that people under 30 don’t want to pay for any media?

LLOYD KAUFMAN:

People under 30, I think, are willing to pay.  I think that they feel that the shit they’re getting in the movie theaters and on television doesn’t deserve to be paid for.  And the fact that they– I think they object– I think for the first time in history there is a generation of young people who are rebelling against television for the first time.  They’re looking at television as kind of a button-down parent type thing, you know, where you have to watch Matt Lauer in the morning with a shit Today Show.

And then it gets broken up and goes on CNBC and then MSNBC and this fat-ass weather man.  And they hate that stuff.  They don’t want to see Jay Leno.  They don’t want to see this shit.  They don’t find it funny or interesting.  And I think that’s the problem.  Why should they pay for that?  And to have to go and everywhere you look, you’re going the see the Transformers on every poster, every t-shirt, every newspaper, you go to the fast food dump and there’s Transformers in the Burger King.

And I think a lot of young people resent it.  And so they– why should they support these people?  You know, they’re– they– at the conventions, they don’t want to take free DVDs from us.  They want to pay.  They– sometimes I try to give stuff away.  They insist on paying.  They want to support Troma.  And these people have nothing.  They have nothing.  Takes them two weeks to get an unemployment check, by the way.  No, in Ohio recently, I understand it took six weeks to get an employment check, to get a check.

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13Bit Interview with Lloyd Kaufman Part 2

Part two of 13Bit’s Low Budget Legends Interview series. Here, we speak with Lloyd Kaufman, the head of Troma Films and the Director of such low budget legends as “Toxic Avenger,” “Class of Nuk’em High” and “Poultrygeist.” ” Lloyd has been making classic films for over forty years, and is heavily involved in promoting and protecting the rights of independent filmmakers.

We went out to Troma HQ in Queens last fall and are proud to kick off our series with Lloyd. Here is the second of our three-part chat with him.

13BIT:

How do you distribute?

LLOYD KAUFMAN:

Oh, oh, well, the pro– the– the biggest problem with distribution, and we all face it, and Troma faces it as bad as anybody, is this cartel, that it is not a level playing field.  And, you know, what’s sad is that so many independent filmmakers, including me, are making great movies.  And we get beaten up by the media and we get beaten up by the atmosphere because we can’t penetrate the hymen of the mainstream.

We can’t get in.  We can’t get through the hymen that is of the– of this vertically integrated media.  We can’t get publicity.  And we can’t get into the movie theaters.  And we can’t get on T.V. because everything is owned by Rupert Murdoch or one of his buddies.  Rupert or Viacom or G.E. or one of the four or five conglomerates.  And by the way, when we do finally penetrate the hymen of the mainstream, we’re the ones who get fucked.  So that’s why there are very few independent movie studios that have been able to survive.

And the media would have you believe, “Well, they don’t make good movies.”  Or, you know, “They make movies with guns.”  Or, “They make, you know, cheap, tacky movies.”  90 percent of them do, probably.  But there are pantloads of excellent movies being made by independent filmmakers all over the world that nobody gets to see because there’s economic blacklisting.  And that’s the biggest problem.  And Poultrygeist:  Night of the Chicken Dead was number one on May 9, 2008, number one screen in the country.

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