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Low Budget Legends

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.

13BIT:

Twenty grand?

MANNY K:

Yeah, I know.

13BIT:

How did — how was that number arrived at?

MANNY K:

Well, it’s a very approximate number, but it has to do with — they want the — I don’t know, my son is handling it for me. They’re assuming there’s going to be 5,000 DVDs sold at first and they want money for that in advance, and then — I don’t — there are four record companies involved. I don’t know how it’s arrived at but, we added it up and it came to around that.

13BIT:

But, it’s perpetual now.

MANNY K:

No. Certain things, if they exceed the sales would have to be paid for beyond that.

13BIT:

Yeah, we really try growing everything ourselves if possible.

MANNY K:

Yeah.

13BIT:

I know. I mean, it’s great to use other people. It’s great to use — Oh, we dream about using, like, classic songs and stuff like that. But, you know, money. And video and, you know, images. But, we just don’t have the money to pay for it.

MANNY K:

Yes.

13BIT:

And it’s funny, though, it’s the same thing. I mean, on our own we discovered, yeah, the first thing we’re going to pay for is a mix. And maybe we’ll get a professional colorist. I mean, we can do color pretty well. We’re, you know, we’re pretty experienced.

MANNY K:

Yeah, I think that’d be a good thing to pay for. I think I would pay for that except that I happen to have a guy who’s by now, I mean, he’s a student from 1975. Student from 35 years ago, so he’s an older person. But, he’s a cameraman and he’s an expert at that. And he comes in and does it for me.

13BIT:

That’s great.

MANNY K:

Yeah.

13BIT:

He works on your system?

MANNY K:

Yeah.

13BIT:

Maybe he wants some extra work?

13BIT:

What’s the one thing that you would never pay for, that people pay for?

MANNY K:

I’ve never asked myself that question, so I don’t know the answer.

13BIT:

Like, when you see, like, these bloated productions, where people spending half a million dollars, pulling up three trucks and an RV to shoot a 20 second scene.

MANNY K:

Well, you know, commercials cost $5 million these days, or so, for a commercial that goes on the Super Bowl, you know — one of those kind. They must think it’s worth it in returns. But, what I’d never pay for? I don’t know. I’d pay for anything if I had the money. I don’t know. I really don’t. You know, I wouldn’t — of course, I wouldn’t pay for an interview. I don’t know if that’s done. I guess sometimes it’s not, right.

13BIT:

That’s become an issue, I’ve heard. We wouldn’t do it, either. We don’t think it’s right. You compromise certain things, too, when you do that.

MANNY K:

But, you know, what they did? There is a controversy, right. There’s — and I’m talking about a moral controversy. I’m not talk — right, there’s this guy — forgot his name. Wonderful, wonderful man on the left. An old-timer, who — says, “Well, you know, you’re stealing people’s stories.”

13BIT:

If you don’t pay?

MANNY K:

I don’t know. But, there’s something to that. You know, because that person — or, the person is usually giving it to you gladly. The person likes to be on camera. The person likes the importance, the notoriety of it. But, on the other hand, you’re going to maybe make big bucks, you know, when your interview goes on the networks and the networks will make big bucks and the sponsors, you know, will pay for it, and so on and so forth.

And everybody gets big bucks except the person who’s the subject. So, yeah, but I don’t think I’d pay for an interview.

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