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Low Budget Legends

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 —

13BIT:

Nature abhors a vacuum.

MANNY K:

I’m lucky, is what it is, you know. You get — you have an apartment like this, you — and of course, that — you know, it’s a trade-off. That’s why I still work. I mean, it’s — I’d rather work and lose two days a week to school than move to smaller quarters.

13BIT:

Have the students changed a lot over the years with the introduction of new technologies, video and VHS?

MANNY K:

Have they changed?

13BIT:

Has their work changed?

MANNY K:

What’s amazing is that they used to make — they used to meet the deadlines when they had to make a film and go to a mix, and get an answer print. You know what that is, right? You know, when you have to — when you finish your film — okay, when you finish a film you have to then — you have to get the negative cut, have to get it matched, right. You have to have a mix, of course. You have to make — after the mix, you have to make a negative track, optical sound track.

You have to then get a first answer print, which means that the negative is combined with the track, right. Then you have to look at and you have to say, “No, I want this.” I mean, that’s when you start doing your colorization in the laboratory. You tell the guy, the timer, you tell him more red, a little darker, take a little green out, you know, stuff like that.

And so they used to do that and finish, you know, by the end of May — the end of April. Nowadays, they also barely finish at the end of April and they don’t have to do any of that stuff. So that — in that sense, they’ve changed. You know, they bring it down to the wire whereas — and that other stuff — oh, and titles? My goodness, you had to go to an optical house to get titles, so you had to shoot them. You had to superimpose them or you had to do — you know, so there was a month of work that they don’t have to do now. And, they still make it up to the last minute.

13BIT:

So what are they doing in that month?

MANNY K:

Well, it’s not a month. It’s the whole stretching out, you know.

13BIT:

It’s the nature of being a student.

MANNY K:

The whole — it is. It — well, no, I think it’s the nature of everybody. If you give me an extra month, it’s going to take an extra month. I mean, that’s — all right, now, let me show you — here’s —

MANNY K:

All right, I’ll show you the end just to show you — give you a sense of the —

13BIT:

You know, it’s funny. People I’ve asked — yeah, we’re going to look at the — what you’re showing us. I’m much more fascinated with your timeline.

13BIT:

I love looking at other people’s timelines.

13BIT:

Or, you know what I love? Like, what you’re doing — oh, the way that you have your bins set up.

MANNY K:

I know.

13BIT:

That’s very cool.

MANNY K:

I know, I just love looking at other people’s timelines. Okay, so here is — I’m going to give you a little sense of going from live stuff — is that better?

13BIT:

Oh, yeah. No, that’s fine.

MANNY K:

Okay, going from live stuff to stills. And so this’ll take about, I don’t know, four minutes, five minutes.

13BIT:

Do you use After Effects or Motion? Or —

MANNY K:

You know, I use the motion up here, on account of I don’t know how to use After Effects. I don’t have it.

13BIT:

See, that’s the thing, everyone says, “Oh, we have to use film to shoot our movies.” But, you can use digital for a movie, too.

MANNY K:

No, you don’t have to use film.

13BIT:

We love digital.

MANNY K:

You don’t have to use film, I assure you.

13BIT:

No, I think you put it best in a way. I mean, the only thing that film holds for me in a way is a little bit of romance.

MANNY K:

Look, technically film has at its most extreme, a latitude of 60 into one.

13BIT:

The dynamic range, is that?

MANNY K:

Yeah, yeah. From pitch black to white, right. And whereas video has 12, which means it’s really catching up because it used to have four. Really catching up, but it’s not there yet, which means that you can look more into the darks and into the lights on film, still. And that’s about it as far as I’m concerned. I mean, I’ve heard another argument that says grain is random and so it’s more lifelike.

MANNY K:

As pixels are rectangular and premeditated. And, you know, zeros and ones and I say, “Yeah, but you’re sitting in the audience and you got content. Who gives a shit about that,” you know?

13BIT:

If we can make a movie on video, we can’t on film. Well, that’s because —

MANNY K:

True, but I’m talking about the ultimate.

13BIT:

Right.

MANNY K:

That is the ultimate is still film, but it won’t be forever because video is really catching up. No question about it.

13BIT:

If you’re looking at the pixels then you’re doing something wrong with your film.

13BIT:

That’s true.

13BIT:

You know, if you’re like —

MANNY K:

Absolutely. You know, that was my — this is my — by the way, this is by — I’m not going to mention his name, but it’s by a really good camera person who does series on television, and who does a documentary a year. And he’s a fine cameraman. He, you know, they have — there’s a techie aspect to people like that, and they hold onto it. Now, I’m an old-timer, so I should be the last person in the world to stick with film. But, I think video is just marvelous and I think — you know, if you look at that BBC production of Little Dorrit — did you see that?

13BIT:

No.

MANNY K:

It was unbelievable, and shot in video.

13BIT:

What is it?

13BIT:

Little Dorrit.

MANNY K:

Little Dorrit, the — the Dickens —

13BIT:

Okay.

MANNY K:

Oh, it was — I mean, maybe it’s out now in DVD. It’s just, you know, it’s all in the handling. It’s how you handle it, you know. Now they have programs where you can make it — make the video look more like film. And they even throw in some dirt, you know what I mean? That is what we tried to get rid of! Scratches is what we wanted to get rid of! But they — students dote on that. They adore film for reasons like that. Nonetheless, nobody at the end of four years shoots film because it’s too expensive in my school.

13BIT:

It is.

MANNY K:

It is.

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