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Low Budget Legends

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.

13BIT:

So when do you finish shooting the print documentary?

MANNY K:

This one now?

13BIT:

Yeah.

MANNY K:

I think the last person was last November. I started at the beginning of last year, 2008. And it turned out that as I said three artists, but the last artist, the lithographer, the woman, she had a master printer that she worked with. And lithographers have to have printers. So he became a fourth person. And he was terrific. Anyway, yes, we went back to — that was in Bridgeport. And then, we — since that time, I just scanned all those images and have been editing. But, you know, I don’t — unfortunately I don’t edit full time because I teach. I’ve got family. And when the painters come, I have to clean up.

13BIT:

People say low budget now, and if you’re talking to somebody in Hollywood they mean $5 million. If you’re talking — we talk to people who think $100,000 is low budget. We spend, like, maybe ten grand —

MANNY K:

Me, too.

13BIT:

–under ten grand.

MANNY K:

Me too!

13BIT:

But, everyone else thinks that we’re insane. They don’t believe us, actually.

MANNY K:

Well, I’m not in touch with your people, so I don’t know. But, they do believe me when I say that. But, of course, as I say, I’m not paying my crew. If, you know, if there are proceeds from this film, they’re going to get some of the proceeds. I mean, that’s an unspoken deal. We don’t even have a contract or anything. They’re such lovely, young people. But, they would get part of that.

13BIT:

Yeah, you know, it’s like — like, every layer you add, unless that person is aces, then it just makes your life more difficult. It’s easy for the two of us to say, “What do you think?” “No, no, no.” “Okay, move the camera over here. Let’s do this. Move the camera over there.” You know, and we know the aesthetic that we want.

MANNY K:

I — yeah. Sure, it’s a personality thing but it’s also a skill thing. So if you got a person that you’re compatible with and who is very skillful, then it’s a joy to have that taken off your hands. And it happens to be the case with the guys I’m working with, you know, that were so friendly and we’d become close friends. And they know exactly — and I do for them, also. You know, I help them out. And when — he knows exactly what I want. But, furthermore, he’s got a nice set up you know, where, you know, he’ll be shooting like that but he’ll also have a monitor.

13BIT:

Oh, yeah.

MANNY K:

So, I’ll be in your seat, but I’ll be able to see what the — you know, and I’ll be able to nudge him and say, “Go like that,” or something. And, you know, and always get the composition I want. And he knows when to move in. He knows when to move out. He’s very — it’s a pleasure to see this edit — this stuff that those guys shot, two cameras. Because they rarely make a wrong move. I’m always — when I was an editor in the business, I was an editor for 24 years, and a director and a camera man, but less so — mostly an editor. And you know, as an editor I was constantly cursing the director and the cameraman. Why the fuck don’t you move over that way? What are you looking at, you know? I find I’m not doing that nowadays. I’m getting what I want. Lucky. You have to be lucky. That’s part of it.

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