Thursday, December 26, 2013


Lisa Bobal and the staff and volunteers of the Memphis Film Forum should be proud. Day One of the 4th Annual Memphis International Film Festival was a big success. Following a private get together with the various filmmakers in town for the festival, the scene shifted to Malco’s Studio on the Square where Ed Solomon’s “Levity” made its mid-south premiere on two screens. On hand for the viewing were director Ed Solomon and stars Morgan Freeman and Holly Hunter. A capacity crowd was treated to an hour long O&A by the three filmmakers. Your humble reporter was too busy writing to ask any questions. The good news is the audience asked great questions and the stars responded spectacularly. The topic of conversation was Solomon’s “Levity.” In addition to co-starring in the film, Morgan Freeman was one of the executive producers.

Levity” stars Billy Bob Thorton and Manuel Jordon. Jordon spent 23 years in prison for a murder committed while still a teen. Jordon has placed himself beyond the pale of forgiveness. He doesn’t want parole, but has it thrust upon him anyway. While Jordon says he doesn’t want redemption, redemption is what he really thirsts for. He carries the faded newspaper clipping with the picture of the boy he killed during a robbery.

Through a happenstance series of events, Jordon ends up working at a community center run by Miles (Morgan Freeman). Miles is a street preacher with a mysterious past. He allows teens to park their cars in his lot at night. Before the kids can cross the street for a night of PLUR at a local rave they must pay the price of parking in Mile’s lot: 15 minutes of listening to a sermon. It is here that Jordon also meets Sofia (Kirsten Dunst). Sofia is a lost youth who numbs her pain with sex, drugs and rock and roll.

The real reason Jordon has returned to this town is to look for Adele Easely (Holly Hunter). Adele is the sister of the boy Jordon killed. Adele is a poor, single mother with her own troubled teen, Abner Easely (Geoffrey Wigdor). Abner was named after his late uncle.

I shouldn’t go any further into the plot of “Levity.” Ed Solomon’s story is a powerful tale of redemption and forgiveness, or at least the thirst for it. The movie has a few too many fateful moments to be a really good film. It is an interesting near miss. There are certain plot devices used to bring characters together which border on implausible. This complaint aside, “Levity” is a well-acted and directed film, which will spark discussion. The film doesn’t wrap everything up in a neat bow.

Like life itself, the movie moves on down the road, out of site of the viewer. There are questions raised and left to the viewer to imagine an ending. Director Solomon said he wanted the movie to remind you of the films of the 70s. A bit of ambiguity…cinematic food for thought. In that, Solomon succeeded. The deliberately paced film will find an audience among those on spiritual quests. “Levity” isn’t a preachy film by any means. It does however, examine questions of a higher plane of living. Can a man who sent himself to hell, find a way out, even when he says he doesn’t deserve to?

My other complaint has to do with the subplot between Jordon and Sofia. I felt the film would have been much stronger if this part had been eliminated altogether. Certain issues were raised and not dealt with. While I praised the film’s ambiguity above, I felt this plotline should have either been developed more, or discarded. Ms. Dunst holds her own among this cast of heavyweights. The problem lay with the script. “Levity” rated 2 ½ Stars in my book. I enjoyed the themes explored and the great performances.


The filmmakers fielded a variety of questions from the audience concerning all aspects of “Levity.”

Why Montreal?

ED SOLOMON: There were artistic and production reasons. Artistically, it was the right move. It had the right look. From a production view, we had to bust ass to make the movie…

MORGAN FREEMAN: Six million dollars American is Ten Million in Canada.

ES: While there were some ethical considerations, when it’s the end of the day, One Million dollars is huge as far as what we can actually get on the screen.

Did the characters develop through rehearsal, or was everything in the script?

HOLLY HUNTER: There was no rehearsal. I arrived while the film was in production. The script was a done deal. All of the character was in the script.

ES: The actors were instinctive. They read the script and knew what was expected.

MF: We got rehearsal time comparatively. It’s the filmmaking process. We do run throughs for the camera crew before they shoot. You never get it right in one take, so those multiple takes are like rehearsals. There were no formal rehearsals. Movies depend on a certain amount of expertise.


ES: I wanted it to look like the films of the 70s. We shot on film. It was transferred to digital and we edited it on an AVID. It’s a huge computer. You conform your shot to a time code and transfer it to film. We were shooting so fast that I didn’t have time to look at dailies except once a week.

At what stage did Morgan come on board?

ES: I got the idea in 1976. I was a tutor at a prison. There was a boy I taught who had killed someone. He kept pulling a picture of the victim out and looking at it. While looking at this two-dimensional image, something would happen and it would come to life. I wrote 30 pages in 78. Another thirty pages in 1990. I put it aside. In 1996 I was working on a movie that looked like it would go. I thought that now I might be able to get this (Levity) story told. I committed to finishing the script. I finished it and gave it to Morgan in 1997. He made some notes. The story was moving in some untrue directions. I agreed and rewrote it in 1998. I went to Morgan again in 2000. This time I had Billy Bob. Before I was just a schmuck with a script, now I was a schmuck with a script and an actor. Morgan came on board with his company Revelations Entertainment. His partner, Lori McCreary did so much work, practically for free.


MF: Acting is my work. I look for work. I’m primarily looking for work! Some work pays financially, some spiritually. Some is more gratifying in what you get to chew on, as far as the craft is concerned. It is also nice when someone is begging you to do it! And throwing in perks like Holly and Billy to work with!

HH: I thought the script was great. And working with Morgan. (Morgan kisses her). The scripts had unanswered questions. Most movies have nothing but answers. This had innate mystery. I found the unexplained tantalizing and it remained so during shooting.


ES: I met the kid twice. I remember his eyes and smile. I was writing about the idea that we act like our actions have no consequences. But they do. They effect others. I thought about that boy who had killed, about what he had done. I also thought about this idea. If you do one very bad thing, can you do any number of good things to make up for it? Of course you can’t answer that question. I only met that boy twice. I have no idea if he even remembers me, or if he is alive. He got life in prison. In that one chance encounter, he had a huge effect on me and doesn’t even know it.


ES: Morgan and I talked about what his character might have done in his past. Morgan said, “I’m working on that.” We never talked about it again.

MF: He (Miles) is the kind of guy who will try to do everything he can to help others, but he will not look in the mirror himself. He just keeps running. Billy on the other hand looks in the mirror and confronts the truth about himself.


ES: I didn’t have it at all times. I didn’t trust myself. I was intimidated. I was confident in my vision, but not in my ability to express that vision. I had to rise to the occasion and grow up. This was not the time for imaging the movie anymore. I was now involved in turning it into something real and hopefully better than what I imagined. I accepted my place, learned to trust myself, to have no hesitation. I used to do stand up comedy. A comedian once told me to "“step into the room, knowing I was the funniest man in the room."


HH: I’ve worked with a lot of first time directors. I made the worst mistake of my life. I would audition every day on the set. This came from the director’s lack of trust in himself. It was a mistake on my part. It was a destructive position to be in. Since that one experience, I found the greatest way to foster trust: communication. I had great communication with Ed. He was very open. Trust grew quickly. Working with Ed was a real pleasure and a healing experience.

MF: Working with a first time director? I don’t like it, especially if they wrote the script. If they write it, they’ve acted out all the parts in their head. It leaves little room for me. You have to get the writer off the set. In Ed’s case, I just ignored him!


MF: I’ve played comedy on stage. Be true to the situation and it works. I guess I haven’t done comedy on screen because I have to damn much Gravitas!


MF: One sucks and the other is a lot better.


ES: I put up my own money to get this movie going. Billy Bob and I hadn’t agreed on an out date, a date that he would be finished. Billy said he had a family commitment on March 1st. He had to be finished by then. I was getting in over my head. I asked Billy if there was anyway he could work until March 9? Billy said he was flying with his family to Namibia. If he worked until the 9th, he would have to fly there himself. It was a long flight. I asked Billy if he would do it if I got someone real nice to fly with him. Billy said, “What are you going to do, get Pat Boone to fly with me?” I called up Pat Boone’s office. They said he was having root canal. I pressed them on the matter. I mentioned Billy Bob Thorton. They asked if it was an emergency. I said it was to me, but probably not to the rest of the world. Later, I’m in Montreal. It’s 1:45 in the morning and I’m asleep. The phone rings. “Hello.” “Hello, this is Pat Boone. I hear you have a really strange request for me.” I can’t believe he called. I explain the situation. “If it will save your movie, I’ll be glad to fly with Billy Bob to Namibia to keep him company.” I call Billy. “Hello.” “Hey Billy, Pat Boone said he will fly with you to Namibia!” “Bullshit!” Of course, everything worked out and Pat Boone didn’t have to fly with Billy, but that’s why we gave Pat a “Thanks” in the credits, why he was our Guardian Angel.

The hour was getting late. Morgan Freeman abruptly said he had to go. After a round of applause, the crowd dispersed. As I left, I watched Mrs. Bobal, her husband Ron and many of the volunteers. They had exhausted smiles. Day One was a complete success. One down, three to go!


A few weeks ago, I received an e-mail from Bruce Crawford complimenting my review of the Ray Harryhausen DVD "Mysterious Island." The e-mail included a link to Mr. Crawford's website. After seeing just who had paid me a compliment, I was deeply honored. Bruce Crawford is a radio documentary producer, film historian, writer, board member of the "Halfway to Hollywood Film Festival," lecturer, and promoter. Mr. Crawford has been recognized by the American Film Institute for his work, including the promotion and preservation of classic films through his "Omaha Film Event" series.

Mr. Crawford garnered national and international acclaim for his 2 and ½ hour radio documentary "Bernard Herrmann: A Celebration of his Life and Music." Herrmann, possibly the greatest composer, let alone film composer of the last century provided the scores for Alfred Hitchcock's "Psycho," "Marnie" and "The Birds," Ray Harryhausen's "Mysterious Island" and Francois Truffaut's "Fahrenheit 451." The documentary was put up for a Peabody Nomination. It is rebroadcast around the world annually. Mr. Crawford followed that documentary with another focusing on epic-film composer Miklos Rozsa (Ben-Hur). In his home of Omaha, Mr. Crawford has worked miracles with his annual "Omaha Film Event." Beginning in 1992, Mr. Crawford has thrown grand film events rivaling the Hollywood premiere's of yesteryear. Complete with stars and luminaries, Crawford has screened some of the greatest films ever made the way they were meant to be shown: pristine prints on huge 70 by 75-foot screens.

Mr. Crawford forged friendships with those he honored and documented. As a teenager, Crawford wrote Bernard Herrmann a fan letter that had a little something extra to it. Mr. Herrmann telephoned the teen to discus his work. Mr. Crawford never met Bernard Herrmann in person, but they did correspond with each other. Though Bernard Herrmann died long before Crawford produced his excellent documentary, Crawford remains friends with Mr. Herrmann’s family. Excerpts of Crawford’s documentary may be heard on the Bernard Herrmann website. Mr. Crawford also became friends with Miklos Rozsa. Mr. Rozsa was ill and unfortunately died the week Crawford’s radio documentary aired nationally for the first time. Bruce Crawford was also fortunate to forge a strong friendship with another boyhood idol: Ray Harryhausen. Mr. Crawford will be standing beside Ray Harryhausen in June when the master animator is honored with a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Mr. Crawford also shared a fact that will please Harryhausen fans world wide. Later this year, a coffee-table book covering Ray Harryhausen’s career will be released! The book is going to have hundreds of large color photos of Harryhausen’s magical creations.

Bruce Crawford graciously agreed to sit for an interview. The interview below was conducted over a couple of weeks via phone and e-mail.

RW: You first gained national recognition for your radio documentary "Bernard Herrmann: A Celebration of His Life and Music." How did this project come about, and why Herrmann?

Bruce Crawford: It came about when I was wondering why there were no tributes to Herrmanns' music.

I was introduced to his music when I saw MYSTERIOUS ISLAND as a child and just was bowled over by the music. It is this score that pushed me to do the work that I have done honoring films and the music to them.

RW: You produced the documentary locally. When did NPR come on board?

BC: We had the first broadcasts locally, but I wasn't satisfied with that. I contacted the people of WGBH in Boston and they took a listen and loved it and then broadcast it. I followed that with uplinking it on the NPR extended services network and made available to all the NPR stations nationwide. That took place in Nov. 1991. It has since been rebroadcast every year and now has been played in Europe as well.

RW: Brian De Palma has been accused of being a Hitchcock plagiarist by many. It has been said that not only did he rip-off Hitchcock's style, but he also had Herrmann score his early films. Did Herrmann ever discuss his feelings about De Palma's work with you?

BC: No, but his scores to SISTERS and OBSESSION are among his finest. Particularly OBSESSION, which I rank among the top 5 of his achievements.

RW: How would you compare Herrmann's scores for De Palma's "Sisters" and "Obsession" with his Hitchcock scores?

BC: I know there are purists who would not necessarily agree, but I feel OBSESSION is superior to VERTIGO upon which the film is loosely based on. Herrmanns' music is so profound as to be bordering on the spiritual. Deeply moving.

RW: How did your Miklos Rozsa project come about? Was this before or after your "Ben-Hur" event in Omaha?

BC: It came about because I feel Rozsa is the other "great" film composer that I admire most. The documentary also went into production during and after my BEN HUR event.

RW: What about Rozsa's film work makes him "great" in your mind?

BC: His unique ability to re create the sound of the ancient world. His Roman marches and his music of antiquity are second to none. His spiritual music of deep religious nature is profound. I call his score to BEN HUR the 20th.Century's answer to Handel's MESSIAH.

RW: Are there any current film composers that you feel are in the same category as Herrmann or Rozsa? What do you think of Ennio Morricone?

BC: I don't think there will ever be anyone to compare to Herrmann or Rozsa, but I do like much of Jerry Goldsmiths music, and feel he is the finest composer for films today. I like much of Morricone's work. I also admire Basil Poledouris's music to CONAN THE BARBARIAN, and Trevor Jones' THE DARK CRYSTAL and the scores to THE YEAR OF LIVING DANGEROUSLY and WITNESS by Maurice Jarre. John Williams music to CATCH ME IF YOU CAN is also a fine score from a recent movie.

RW: I've seen many films that were ruined by terrible scores. Marvin Hamlisch's score for "The Swimmer" comes to mind as I just reviewed the new DVD. If you were going to produce a documentary about bad film scores who would you choose for a subject?

BC: Boy that is a loaded question! There are a lot of bad scores today , I wouldn't even know where to start! Herrmann once said that even music of a poor quality can help a film, because it is nearly impossible to stand to watch a film without some kind of music.

RW: You and I have something in common in that we first noticed Bernard Herrmann's work while watching Ray Harryhausen's "Mysterious Island" as kids. I said in my DVD review that I could listen to that score alone. It is a majestic piece of work. Which of Herrmann's scores stand up best from a musical standpoint? Not just as an accent to the action on screen?

BC: I agree that MYSTERIOUS ISLAND stands on it’s' own as pure music. As do many of his scores, FAHRENHEIT 451, and OBSESSION as well as HANGOVER SQUARES' Piano Concerto Macabre and many others stand as great music alone.

RW: Your first "Omaha Film Event" was dedicated to Ray Harryhausen's films "Mysterious Island" and "Jason and the Argonauts." Was that when you first met Mr. Harryhausen? How did your friendship develop?

BC: No I first met Ray over 20 years ago, and was corresponding with him even before that.

We first wrote to one another and then I called him when he was in LA. We kept in touch till we met in 1982 and in 1992 I honored him after his Oscar for lifetime achievement. We have been very close since then. I spent Christmas week with him in 2001 in London.

RW: Do you think we will ever see another big screen film using the techniques Harryhausen perfected, or has CGI sounded the death kneel for stop-motion animation on a grand scale?

BC: No, stop motion is hardly dead. JAMES AND THE GIANT PEACH and NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS were hit films that were exclusively stop motion. And CHICKEN RUN was also a stop motion film. I am sure there will be others.

RW: How do you feel the work of Harryhausen and Willis O'Brien holds up in comparison with the CGI dinosaurs of today? It seems that Harryhausen would have been locked away for years to turn out something like "Jurassic Park." Is it feasible for someone to take up the gauntlet, now that Harryhausen retired?

BC: I don't know. I think that the studios are obsessed with CGI and films that incorporate live action with CGI are now the rule. The "stop motion only" films like CHICKEN RUN I think will continue to be made. I think that the original KING KONG is unsurpassed. And the Harryhausen films are more popular than ever. I feel the creatures in MYSTERIOUS ISLAND for example look and move completely lifelike even by today’s standards. CGI couldn't make those creatures more life like.

RW: I noticed on your web-site that you will be accompanying Ray Harryhausen in June to LA when he receives his Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Why did it take so long for this tribute?

BC: I can't speak to that other than an obvious oversight from years ago, but now it is happening and we can thank people like Arnold Kunert for that.

RW: Who is Arnold Kunert?

BC: Arnold is the man who spearheaded the letter writing campaign in 1992, to get Ray Harryhausen his lifetime achievement Oscar. He is also responsible for the campaign to get the star on the walk of fame for Ray.

RW: Your "Omaha Film Events" have featured pristine prints of some of the greatest films ever produced in Hollywood. Where have you found the films? Have you been aided by AFI or any of the various foundations dedicated to film preservation?

BC: No, I just did what I could to access the best prints possible, and after a few successes the studios knew of my reputation to some degree and have been very good about their prints to us.

RW: Is the "Omaha Film Event" a for-profit event, or do you dedicate the proceeds to film causes?

BC: All net proceeds go to various charities.

RW: You are on the board of directors of the "Halfway to Hollywood" film festival in Kansas City. What is the focus of that festival?

BC: Yes, I am on the Advisory Board to the film festival. I was a guest speaker in 2001 and now I will be hosting Ray Harryhausen in September with a showing of up to 5 of his films. The festival focuses on classics and foreign and other type of films.

RW: What do you have scheduled for the next festival in Kansas?

BC: They have the Harryhausen event for Sept. 12th. and I know Tom Savini is also scheduled.

RW: Any favorite films you would recommend and why?

BC: My favorites? Well of course MYSTERIOUS ISLAND and THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL and also THE GHOST AND MRS.MUIR, which is also among the top of Herrmanns' achievements, if not the very top of his Romantic scores. And BEN HUR for me is the very top of my list of films.

RW: How well do you know Forry Ackerman? Being about the same age, I imagine you grew up on "Famous Monsters of Filmland." How is his health? I've heard he is not well these days?

BC: Yes, I have known Forry for several years and he was a special guest at my KING KONG salute with Ray Harryhausen and Ray Bradbury too. Famous Monsters kept my love of the Harryhausen films alive when I was a child in the late 60's and 70's. Forry is back in good health and I am told resuming his speaking schedule to his normal routine.

RW: Anyone who visits your web-site will see just how elaborate your "Omaha Film Events" are. I noticed several faces and names in the coverage of each of the events. How big is the coalition that puts these events together? Do you receive civic support to promote the events? I imagine any city would be proud to have such an event occur.

BC: No I have not received any civic support. The coalition is primarily several good friends and the co sponsorship that I acquire from various businesses like airlines, hotels, etc.

RW: Have you thought of spreading the Events to other cities, or have others approached you for help in setting up similar events in other places?

BC: Yes, in fact that is part of why I am working with the Halfway to Hollywood people. I have not pursued it in other cities too much, though I have been offered to do these in cities like Seattle and Salt Lake City and others.

RW: What do you have planned (or hope to feature) at future "Omaha Film Event" series?

BC: I am working on a possible salute to SINGIN IN THE RAIN and also THE MISFTIS. It is always hard to tell what will come together or not. Sometimes none of the ideas come together and then something else out of the blue comes to me and it all falls into place. You just never know!


If you want proof that there is life after Hollywood, you need look no further than Gary Gray. The son of a Hollywood business agent who took care of business and stayed grounded, Gary is a man of stability who fondly remembers the numerous mega stars he performed with as "the people I worked with". A child star who's career spanned 20 years, Gary Gray gave it up while he was still working steady, and did so without regrets. Why should he have regrets, Gary has a wife of 41 years, 4 kids and 19 grandkids, plus he is retired from a successful second career as a business man.

Gary worked with many of the best. His favorite of all his films is the classic "Rachel and the Stranger" with Loretta Young, William Holden and Robert Mitchum.

RW: On "Rachel and the Stranger" you worked with Robert Mitchum and William Holden. They were two of the hottest stars of the day. Were you in awe of them?

Gary Gray: These were the people I worked with. I grew up around show business. My dad was an agent. He was a very behind the scenes man. He didn't make a big show of things. He kept me grounded. I just looked at them as coworkers. Now, Gabby Hayes, I was in awe of him because he was a cowboy star and that is what I wanted to be!

Gary fondly remembers William Holden. A lifelong relationship was formed on the set of "Rachel and the Stranger."

GG: I wanted a BB gun. My mother wouldn't let me have one. She was afraid I would shoot my eye out or something. When the film wrapped William Holden came up to my mother and I. He had a present for me. A .22 rifle. He asked my mother if it was OK to give it to me. How could she tell William Holden no! I still have that gun. Years later, my father managed Stephanie Powers' career, this was during the time that she and Mr. Holden were involved romantically. Every time he (Holden) came with Stephanie to my father's office he asked about me and my wife. He was a gracious man.

RW: I was a big fan of his work. I was really saddened by his death.

GG: It was a tragic waste, the way he died. It could have been avoided.

Mr. Gray starred opposite both President Reagan and first lady Nancy Reagan in two separate films. RW: Not many folks can say they starred opposite President and Mrs. Reagan. Any memories of them?

GG: My only real memory of Nancy Davis (Reagan) in "The Next Voice You Here" was her sitting cross legged on the bed wearing peddle pushers, while we practiced our lines. Other than that, I really don't remember her that well. As for the President, I've got a nice story. I was set to be in Washington D.C. during the 80s. A friend of mine said that I should write the President and ask to see him. I told my friend I wasn't going to bother the busiest man in the world. My friend sent a FAX behind my back. I was sitting in my living room when the phone rang. "Is this Gary Gray?" Yes. "This is President Reagan's office." So I met with the President at the white house. I brought a still from the movie "The Girl From Jones Beach." (In the still, President Reagan is tweaking young Gary Gray's cheek. Behind the President stands the sultry blond, Virginia Mayo.) I asked him to sign it. I told him, 'You know Mr. President, I was a lot more impressed with Virginia Mayo than you!' The President laughed and said "She was a very pretty woman."

One thing about Gary Gray that strikes you is his positive outlook on life. His attitude comes from his core. I observed Mr. Gray interacting with other fans over the four days and his attitude appeared genuine to me. During one of the panel discussions, actor Jerry Maren (The Lollipop Kid from the "Wizard of Oz" was asked about his costar munchkins Billy Barty and Billy Curtis. When Mr. Maren made some disparaging remarks about Billy Curtis Gary Gray interrupted to defend Mr. Curtis. Mr. Maren retorted his opinion and again Mr. Curtis stood up for the absent Mr. Curtis. I mentioned the impression the exchange had on me the next day. RW: I was impressed by the way you stood up for Billy Curtis at the panel discussion yesterday. It's easy to back-stab and say bad things about folks. I liked the way you just jumped right in. I mean, take Joan Crawford for example. Everyone knows from "Mommy Dearest" that she was evil and is probably in Hell as week speak. I know that's not a Christian thing to say, but it is to illustrate a point.

GG: I know what you mean. I worked with Billy Curtis. He was a delight to work with and a real decent man. I had to say something. I tell you another thing. As far a Joan Crawford is concerned. On one of my first movies I was a kid playing hopscotch in the park. I fell down and cut my knee. Before my own mother could get to me, Miss Crawford ran, picked me up, took me into her trailer, cleaned my cut and gave me some chocolate. She did all this without publicizing it or telling anyone. I don't care what anyone says, she had to have had a decent side to her to do what she did for me for no reason other than to help a child who was hurt. Besides, she was dead when that book was written. She wasn't around to defend herself.

RW: I feel bad now. I didn't think I would ever feel bad for dogging Joan Crawford. I'd like to ask you about your memories of some of the other stars you worked with. Bob Hope?

GG: He was very business like. He did his work, went to his trailer and came out when he had scenes to do. He funny on film but he wasn't funny all the time. Now Red Skelton, he was funny all the time. Sometimes it was hard to get things done because he would have everyone laughing.

RW: Tommy Rettig (Timmy on TVs Lassie)?

GG: We weren't friends or anything. I was about 5 years older than he was. That was a fun movie (Two Weeks) though. Busby Berkley was directing a musical number. He had grown weary by this time in his career and didn't direct entire films anymore. He just did the big musical number. I remember sitting on the set watching with Debbie Reynolds. We were goofing off and singing along. Berkley almost threw us off the set.

RW: Rhonda Fleming?

GG: She was beautiful. I mean beautiful. All the kids liked her. I was president of the Rhonda Fleming Fan Club. She loved it. She had T-shirts made that said Rhonda Fleming fan club, took us bowling. A great lady.

I was about to say something lustful about Ms. Fleming (Out of the Past), when a woman walked up. Gary introduced me to his wife. The best deal a car salesman ever got. GG: After my last movie, I got a job selling cars. I always got a regular job between movies. No need sitting around when you can work. I sold a car to a man who had a beautiful daughter. I asked her out. We had three dates before she went away for summer vacation. When she came back I asked her out again and asked her to marry me. Six months later we got married, that was 41 years, 4 kids and 19 grandkids ago.

Gary went on to have a second career as a business man in the Northwest. He is retired now.

GG: We have too much fun to work. We travel a lot. Go to these festivals, just enjoy life.

If ever a person had the right attitude to enjoy life it is Gary Gray. I'm glad I got to spend the short time with him that I did. The highest compliment I can pay him is that he is a very decent man.


Troma Films has spent the last 30 years entertaining the world with some of the best of the ‘worst’ in schlock movies. Troma president Lloyd Kaufman has been responsible for such classics as “The Toxic Avenger,” “The Class of Nuke Em High” and “Def by Temptation.” Relying on low-budget production values, naked women, campy dialogue and outrageous scripts, Mr. Kaufman has become an Icon to millions of fans of ‘bad cinema.” Who’s to say what’s bad and what’s good? I didn’t meet and interview Lloyd Kaufman; I experienced him. I had a hard time keeping a straight face as Mr. Kaufman talked with me and worked the crowd around the Troma booth on Day Three of DragonCon. Mr. Kaufman was signing autographs on bananas, cracker packets and anything else his awed fans thrust in front of him. The man is an artist. And entrepreneur in the style of William Castle.

The Troma team with Mr. Kaufman included two pretty Tromettes. There was a blond named Nicky who will forever be stuck in my fantasy closet. Toxie was there as well as Nazi Guy and a few others. While Mr. Kaufman takes his movies very seriously, his tongue is otherwise firmly planted in his cheek. Kaufman’s rants are extremely politically incorrect. More power to him for that! If Bill Mahar wants to know what political incorrectness really is, he should spend a short time with the dynamo behind Troma Entertainment. When my time with Mr. Kaufman was over I told him he had balls. Mr. Kaufman responded, “Yeah, but they are real small.” “They may be small, but they clang loudly,” I said. “I like that. I’m going to use that. They’re small but they clang loudly.”

RW: It's an honor to meet and talk with you.

Lloyd Kaufman: Well Rusty, I can tell you that when I, Lloyd Kaufman, president of Troma and creator of the Toxic Avenger, when I'm not making those great movies like "Terror Firma" and "Tromeo and Juliet" and "Citizen Toxie," I like to kick back and learn from Entertainment Insiders because that's where you get the real truth about art and entertainment.

RW: I interviewed a young filmmaker who was on a panel with you in Cannes. Steve Balderson.

LK: And Roger Corman. We helped Balderson. We admired his film and we got him on that panel. I got him on TV.

RW: He spoke very highly of you. He was awed that you had him up there. He's filming his second film this fall with Dennis Hopper.

LK: Steve. I hope you give me a part in your new movie! Cause it's about a theme I'm rather interested in. "Terror Firma" has hermaphrodites and your movie has a special surprise in it also. I think Lloyde ought to be in it. I've been acting in a lot of my protégé's films and the young fans. I was in,…a guy in Kansas made a film, Chris…I can't remember his name but the movie was called "Zombiegeddon." I play a janitor in the school and I get killed by zombies. I'm in another very good film in LA called "The Janitor" made by Troma fans where I play a homeless drunk and I get my arms cut off. I have a very distinguished acting career. The fact that I'm in these movies helps. For instance, Barak Epstein, who did his first 35mm movie, I did the movie for free. I do everything for free. But he was able to tell Mary Woronov, who worked in my movies and Rhonda Shearer, who's a buddy of ours from "Up All Night." When they heard I was in it, they worked for him for very little. So, if I'm in the movie, it will help get other names.

RW: Both you and Roger Corman have helped many young filmmakers get started.

LK: Roger Corman is the Beethoven of independent film. I'm only, Lloyd and Troma are only the Zamphyr the panpipe player of independent film.

RW: (laughs) So you don't take yourself serious.

LK: Well, I take our movies very serious. I don't take the business serious. It’s the moves. It's an art form. It's art. And it also happens to be a business. I think one of the reasons that Troma has been around for 30 years is that we abide by Shakespeare's dictum with the emphasis on the 'dick,' 'To thine own self be true.'

A fan comes up with a DVD to sign.

LK: Let me sign this.

To the fan.

LK: Oh, this is great one. This is a very good movie. And now that we've got a lot of war going on in our lives I think it has a special significance. What's your name?

Fan: Jeff.

LK: Are you glad that we went to war in Iraq?

Fan: I don't care one way or the other.

LK: But you have to admit that every time you hear about some of them Arabs getting shot you feel good. Right. Come on, admit it. And when you hear of a couple of Israeli kids get blown up on a bus. Thank you George Bush, right. Feel real good. Take your SUV and get five miles per gallon folks. Let's buy 'People' magazine, which encourages $50,000.00 gowns to be worn at the obscene Oscars. Let's see another couple of planes... Let's brag about it and shove it in people's faces and maybe we'll get a plane crashed into DragonCon. Huh. Thank the good Lord for Troma! Giving the right values! Good values! Sex and violence. No, no, just kidding. Social satire.

We continue.

LK: I've written a book: "Make Your Own Damn Movie!" Published by St. Martins Press. Just came out, now in its second printing. It's aimed at people who want to learn about filmmaking and learn how Troma raises the money. How we find our scripts. How we write our scripts. How we distribute our movies. It's "Make Your Own Damn Movie." It's quite a good book. You can get it at Barnes & Nobel or Borders. It's fun for film fans as well as filmmakers.

"Make Your Own Damn Movie!" will also tell you how to get people naked! How to get your women naked! We don't say women we say Gynos.

Troma worker: Gyno-American!

LK: That's right! Gyno-American. That's Justin and Jason. They run the Troma delegation to NAMBLA!

Jason, Justin and everyone around laughs or groans. For those who are unaware, NAMBLA is a pedophile organization. Like I said, Lloyd Kaufman is an experience, not an interview.

RW: Oh man. That's low.

LK: Troma felt that we could widen our audience by appealing to some nice young people. So these guys convinced me to that we should join.

What? What? They told me NAMBLA was a Shakespeare society! Some New Age, something. Veegan Shakespeare!

Robert Burden, the creator of "The Flaming Carrot" walks up and breaks up Mr. Kaufman's shtick.

LK: Hey Bob. Here's a giant in the industry. "The Flaming Carrot." He liked the company so much, he bought it! You should interview him! People line up around the block for him. A gentleman and a genius.

Mr. Kaufman introduces Mr. Burden to the hot blond I have been fantasizing about for the last ten minutes.

LK: This is Nicky, by the way.

Nicky: Hi.

Bob Burden: Nice to meet you.

Interviewer's lustful thought: (Now I have a name to go with the fantasy!)

LK: Nicky, Bob's a nice guy. A Handsome guy. NAMBLA likes "Flaming Carrot."

Bob shakes his head.

Bob: Have a safe trip.

RW: What's next for you?

LK: "Tales From the Crapper." Lila was here. She wrote the theme song. We performed it two nights ago. "Tales From the Crapper," the upcoming Troma movie had the world premiere of the title song by Lila Sullivan. She brought her harp and played it two nights ago. The theme song from "Tales From the Crapper." Troma, as a public service, did that and I have to admit, DragonCon didn't really give us much respect. I think bringing a harp, and playing a harp and doing a very witty song Cole Porter style. I don't see Miramax doing any public services. You know what I mean! Well, anyway, Troma is! Thank the good Lord for Troma!

RW: We know who has heart around here!

LK: Yes, heart. And hard-ons!

FAN: (noticing Lloyd's autographed banana) Nice banana!

LK: Thank you. It's full of potassium. And Troma put the 'ass' in potassium!

Lloyd is getting ready to leave Atlanta, so we take a few pictures for the story. I luck out. Nicky wraps herself around me for the photo. What a soft little body. Of course I'm distracted because Mr. Kaufman tells Nazi Boy to grab my crotch. This has been a wild experience.


Kansas Clarity. Those were the words that popped into my mind about an hour into my conversation with movie director Steve Balderson. Mr. Balderson is the writer/director of the sardonic black comedy "Pep Squad." I spoke with Mr. Balderson as he was in the middle of pre-production on his up-coming crime-thriller/character study/murder mystery/ "Firecracker." What label you use to describe "Firecracker" will depend on your own perceptions. Steve Balderson has a lot to say about perceptions. His work is work of vision. Steve Balderson realizes that others will bring their own perceptions to his work. He doesn't make his movies to fit anyone's preconceived notions. Balderson stays true to his vision. Part of his vision is working full time as a motion picture director while living in Kansas. Some may call him foolish, but when you consider the fact that Dennis Hopper, Edward Furlong, Karen Black, James Russo, Sally Kirkland and Deborah Harry all signed on for "Firecracker" based on personal conversations with Mr. Balderson, he might not be so crazy after all. In fact, Steve Balderson may just be the point man on the future path of movie making.

Rusty White: Give our readers a little background info on yourself.

Steve Balderson: I was born in Wamego Kansas. This part of Kansas is really pretty. It has a lot of hills and the prairies. I was raised here. We moved to a nearby city, Manhattan when I was in high school. I went to Cal Arts in Valencia, California for film school. I left after three and a half years to come back to Kansas to make "Pep Squad."

I think the first time I started working with videos, I was under 10. We had a video camera and I would always make my family be the characters in them. My sister, Brooke (EI Note: the bitch high priestess in "Pep Squad") would be a part of them at whatever age she was, 2 or 3. My brother Scott who was a year younger than her would always be the "dead body" or the villain. My mom really loved "Dynasty" so I was raised actually watching "Dynasty" and re-enacting the wedding massacre repeatedly.

RW: You parents didn't think to get you any psychological help from that?

SB: Hell no!

RW: That's good to hear.

SB: Instead of playing house or doctor like the normal kids, we had the epic saga of this family we invented that was full of murder and intrigue and blackmail. Of course we were so young that we didn't know that that was absolutely insane. But, damnit, it was a lot of fun, I think.

I think confrontation and dialogue are much more powerful than a gun.

RW: I got the impression from the commentary track of the "Pep Squad" DVD that you had a lot of family support for your artistic inclinations while growing up. You father was on the track with you. He was the executive producer of "Pep Squad."

SB: Yes, when I dropped out of film school and needed to figure out how to actually make a film, I did hire a consultant who had experience. That was Eric Sherman who played the principal in "Pep Squad." He and my father were the ones who led the process, for the business plan and things like that. My dad has done a lot of really great things in his business, and knew very little about the film industry. Though now, through working with me, and guiding me, I think he knows more about what's going on than a lot of people in Hollywood. Just because he comes at it from a business stance instead of as someone involved creatively. I knew I needed his help in raising money for the film. I didn't know how one goes about it, but I knew that he knew because he had done it before in a variety of projects: museums and art houses and things like that. He was extremely important in raising the funds to renovate the Columbia Theater here in town. So, raising funds for a film, while a little different, because the community can't really participate in, or is fleeting, or is there later on. It's really strange. I don't know why anyone would want to invest in a film, which is strange, because those are the very people I need to support me. For whatever reason it worked. We were able to approach a lot of local business men. They were a collection of really interesting people. None of them had ever invested in a motion picture before, or seen any part of the making of one. Since this was one of the first features shot in this part of Kansas, all these people got to come by and be involved in it. The local support was one of the best parts. We would set up catering in the neighbors yard and they would say "Just patch into our electricity and use our plumbing. We don't care." It was so neat because everyone was working together.

RW: Speaking of budget, the film has a very expensive look. It is very well shot and looks better than many Hollywood films. There's not a bad shot in the movie. It is very stylish. What was the budget?

SB: Thank you very much. I think you can do that with no money. I think all it takes is, I think it would seem pointless for me to say 'a vision.' I think a lot of people who look at things forget about color and things like that because there are so many other things going on in the film that you have to worry about at that exact moment. I, personally, am so anal that I have to completely organize things repeatedly. So when I sketch the storyboards for the film, I not only sketch them, I put them in an editing layout. I retold my storyboards in every way you could. And now, for "FIRECRACKER" I've got maybe five inches thick of notes of how I want it to look. Because I understand that somebody reading it may not understand what I'm saying here, might understand it better if I said it a different way. I do all of this before hand, so by the time I get to the set I can really concentrate on the texture of the image, and where to put the red bulb, and separations of color and stuff like that.

But our budget for "PEP SQUAD," getting back to your original question was including marketing, travel, advertising and food and housing was less than $500,000.

RW: That's impressive. I watched the 30th Anniversary DVD of Easy Rider this weekend. Dennis Hopper did the commentary track. He talked about the budget of that film being $350,000. You look at the quality of that film and ask "How could somebody make film like that today for that amount?" Well, you've done it.

SB: Well I think you can based on preparation and planning. Kansas is a right to work state, so the crew didn't have to be union. That certainly helped us because we couldn't have afforded it otherwise. The actors worked for hardly anything. In fact my sister, who would have made about $800.00 for the entire shoot, waived her salary. Little things like that really helped us. Now, doing "FIRECRACKER" though, it would be pretty damn impossible to do it for that amount. Unless I convinced everybody to do a deferred payment or something like that. But once I get into the SAG rules, it totally changes the spectrum. It could be made for a $1,000,000 perhaps, but that is pushing it. There are so many luxuries that people spend money on when they are making a film. I believe that the money you spend in the movie, should be money you see on the screen when you are sitting in the theater. If you can't see it, if an audience member can't see it, then why spend the money. Certainly it is important for everyone to be fed and housed properly, and make sure they are safe, and healthy and comfortable, but you don't need 17 trailers or these luxuries.

THEY tell Me that I have to live there in order to do it. That I have to play the games, and do what is expected of me in order to have success. I say that you don't have to do that anymore. I can live in Ohio, I can live in Canada, I can live in Kansas, or Florida or Texas and still make films. The only thing that makes me not able to make films is simply not making them.

RW: Have you set a date to start rolling on "FIRECRACKER"?

SB: We were looking at Spring. Edward Furlong is supposed to be in "Terminator 3," though now, he's been dropped from that project, for whatever reason, I'm not sure. So that schedule has opened up, but we have Debbie Harry to consider. "Blondie" is getting back together for their first world tour since their reunion album. If she goes on tour, then I really want to wait until Debbie can do it, or do it before. I really don't know what their schedule is.

RW: You stated in an e-mail that you signed all of these people, with one exception by meeting with them personally. You didn't go through agents. Give us your philosophy of working in Kansas vs. LA. It sounds like you have to have balls to buck the system.

SB: It takes them. On one hand, working here and not living there allows me absolute clarity. Because I can sit here, and I'm the only person that is making a film here. There is nobody else around who is obsessed with the culture of Hollywood, and the stars and people with names. Nobody here is driven by that, so on the one hand it allows me to work all day long, and at the end of the day, I stop working, no matter what I'm doing. At 7 o'clock I put everything away that has anything to do with movies or creativity and I go and I live. I have life, so I can spend time with my family, or make dinner and I the quality of life I really want in order to focus on what I need to do during the day and do what I'm supposed to do on this earth. If I lived in LA, I think I wouldn't be able to focus as well, because a lot of the game playing and back-stabbing, the typical stuff people think of when they see "Project Green Light" on TV, that is actually how it is. I don't know if I would like that very much. It certainly wouldn't make me very happy. In fact, the longest time I spent there since I left school was when we were doing post on "PEP SQUAD" For the life of me I didn't understand why we weren't doing it in Vancouver. There are other places in the world that make films. It's not just centered in Hollywood. Part of the problem with me and them is that, THEY tell Me that I have to live there in order to do it. That I have to play the games, and do what is expected of me in order to have success. I say that you don't have to do that anymore. I can live in Ohio, I can live in Canada, I can live in Kansas, or Florida or Texas and still make films. The only thing that makes me not able to make films is simply not making them. You can do that anywhere now.

RW: Do you think Hollywood is afraid that others will get the message?

SB: I think if the industry, I think a lot of the people who move to LA with the hopes and dreams of becoming whatever it is they want to become, buy into the myth that you have to move there to do it. I talk top a lot of kids and young adults who say they want to become an actor, but they say "I can't move to LA because blah, blah, blah" I look at them and say, "You know, they make a lot of movies in Austin Texas. They've mad a lot of movies there lately. Have you ever considered going to Austin Texas instead of LA. Or Chicago or New York. Anyplace that has some kind of community where you could do this and enjoy it?" My second question is "Why are you doing this? Are you doing it to be famous, or are you doing it because you have to?" A lot of times people say "truthfully, I just want to be famous, then there motivations are completely different.

RW: In the "GEN X Dictionary" there is a term "Fame Induced Apathy" which means that everything you do is centered around becoming famous, so in fact you end up doing nothing, because there is nothing about you that would make you famous.

SB: Exactly. Then there is the whole fear of success vs. fear of failure, and a lot of people who are really talented end up never doing anything because they are so afraid of it. I think that for the people who buy into the myth of the Hollywood dream, whatever makes them choose what they choose isn't necessarily true most of the time. I think maybe ten years ago, or twenty years ago, it would be nearly impossible for me to live in Kansas and be a film director. Because we didn't have the technology and the Internet and the way of communication that seems to be instantaneously available now. SO now, I can live here. But back then, I think that is where the myth started. You had to go there, you had to be within…I mean, shit, it takes as long to drive across LA as it does for me to get on a plane and fly there. So, that I can't understand. How someone could drive two and a half hours to go see someone at a meeting when they live there, but…I need to finish a point before I get into that. I think that those people are very frightened when they are dealing with people who don't buy into the myth, and tell them that the myth is just a myth. I've done that a couple of times when I'm talking to agents and I tell them, look for example, originally I wrote the character in "FIRECRACKER" for Edward Furlong, and I called his agent. He said that he wouldn't even read it unless I offered him money. I said "That's like going to buy a car and having to put money down before you can even have a test drive. Number one, how will I even know that he even fits? What if I'm to big for the car? That doesn't even make any sense." So when I tell people some of these things, and I say, "No I'm not going to play the game, we're going to play by my rules." These people get really upset. I'm not doing what I'm supposed to. I challenge their fundamental beliefs. Of course, if you challenge anyone's fundamental beliefs they will always react. So I've learned lately, just to keep it to myself, and sometime in my life I'll write a nice book about it. I think that within the next five years everything will change. A lot of people who are stuck behind their desks in LA and are miserable and unhappy will start to question the fact that they are there and why they came there, and perhaps maybe they'll make alterations in their life to be happier. Who knows.

RW: You may have what happened with "Easy Rider." If "FIRECRACKER" turns out to exceed your wildest expectations, which leaves the people in the board rooms shaking their heads and asking "How did this movie make so much money? And how can we make lightning strike twice." We ended up with a bunch of studio produced films that tried to capture the magic of "Easy Rider."

SB: I think that the people in the industry who are business men, who think like business men, want to look back on their life when they are 85 years old and say "Damn, I made $100,000,000!" I want to look back when I'm 85 and say "Damn, "FIRECRACKER" was an amazing piece of work, I really liked doing it, or "PEP SQUAD" was really fun, what a great way to start this out." But I think once you tell the business men they can make those millions of dollars, then they will do whatever you want. Unfortunately, I have to get to that point. I can't really call up my friends at MGM and say, "No really! Believe me." Because I have to show them first.

I think that within the next five years everything will change. A lot of people who are stuck behind their desks in LA and are miserable and unhappy will start to question the fact that they are there and why they came there, and perhaps maybe they'll make alterations in their life to be happier. Who knows.

RW: Yeah, you have to prove yourself.

SB: Once you get past the idea that you can actually do anything, anywhere as long as you are in a place where you can do these things, figuratively speaking, I think the biggest thing is choice of mind. If I told myself "One day, I want to be a director." I'm telling myself at the same time, "well, I'm not one right now." Instead, I choose to say "I am one." It is much easier to say "I am a film director living in Kansas, than 'I want to be one.'" Even when I was working on Videos I said I was a film director, even though I wasn't working on film. Because the frame of mind is completely different, and then it allows someone to do things. It's like you start at step 5 instead of step 1 and it makes more sense I think, that way. But I think it's hard for people to get to that frame of mind, because for a while I would think, "Maybe Hollywood is right. Maybe I am nothing. Maybe I do have to move there, and who am I to think I can do these things? Especially when I would approach agents and they would tell me "Oh, you have to give us $10,000.00 before we read anything or forget it!" I would think, "Maybe I do." Then I would say "No, no, no" I'm just going to have to do this personably." Because artists relate to one another in a certain way, and I don't need to talk to someone who only understands money. Instead I just need to get to the artists. So I did cast "FIRECRACKER" completely by friendships. The limitations that I had were based on who knew who, and that was pretty much it. How far was I willing to go to get them. In this case it just snowballed. I had Karen Black and then she said "Oh, call James Russo." I called him and he is sitting there having dinner with Debby Harry. Debby, I had originally tried to approach in the beginning, and her manager was a complete asshole. [He] pretty much said, "Oh, Debby doesn't do movies like "FIRECRACKER." And so I told her this when she called. She said "I want to do this," and she hasn't even read the script. I said "I tried to get you this script a year ago and this is what happened." She made him call and apologize.

RW: Really!

SB: Yeah. It was really nice, but now he won't talk to me and that whole agency hates me, because they were made to look stupid in front of their client. So, I think that is another step. Anyone who is young and trying to make their way, or older and trying to make their way is going to have a lot more bumpy ride if they go the way people in Hollywood tell you to go. I think it is far easier to just do it non-conventionally.

RW: Was Karen Black the first one to come on board?

SB: Yes. I had always loved her work, but I never even thought of her for the part. I was talking to my friend Eric Sherman, who is my film consultant, and he said "My wife is good friends with Karen Black. Why don't we get her on the phone?" So, we talked and originally she turned me down. She read it and she said, "Oh, this is too much, this is too emotionally draining." She said her character in "Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean" was so emotionally draining for her, and so imprisoning in her body, and the character in "FIRECRACKER" is just about imprisonment of the soul in the body. She said, "I don't know if I can live through it." So I met with her and we would repeatedly go through it, and I really wanted her to know that it wasn't as dark and dreary as it read. I needed some life force in there to make it what it is, and she said "Oh, all right." I think once she met me and really understood who I was and what I was about it changed the whole thing. Because the perception of the story is really, really dark and gut-wrenching if you read it. I want to tell it in a beautiful way. I love dichotomy. I love using the violent image with the beautiful music. So I really want to photography it really pretty. So, upon hearing these things and seeing my storyboards she said "OK, great, I'll do it." So then I said, "OK, help me figure out who else we can get in it!" And that is where it started.

Debby Harry. Debby, I had originally tried to approach in the beginning, and her manager was a complete asshole. [He] pretty much said, "Oh, Debby doesn't do movies like "FIRECRACKER." And so I told her this when she called. She said "I want to do this," and she hasn't even read the script. I said "I tried to get you this script a year ago and this is what happened." She made him call and apologize.

RW: How did you hook up with Dennis Hopper?

SB: Karen had his FAX number. I sent a FAX. Apparently, my dad sent a letter. Or a series of letters about Kansas. He [Dennis Hopper] actually grew up down the street from my grandmother in Dodge City, Kansas. So we knew he would remember them, because they ran the general store. We said "You know Kansas is insane, you were there. Here's the story, here's the true story. Here's the people we have in the film, and here's the script. So, we sent it to him. Well, we Faxed him and he called and said "Send me the script." And we did. He read it that Friday. He went to the East Coast to see one of his kids. He said he read it back to back twice on that plane. He said it was one of the best things he had ever read. On that Monday or Tuesday when he got back, he wanted us to meet him at his house for morning tea. We were in LA that week, so we went down to his house. The first thing he said was "I want to do this part." That was it. I didn't even have to ask. It was amazing.

RW: What did that feel like?

SB: The feeling was…it was nerve wracking at first, only because I named the character that is based on a true incident "Frank" because of the similarities with his character in "Blue Velvet." It was the most evil name I could think of at the time. I thought, "Oh, he's going to notice that immediately and he's going to be turned off or say 'I'm not going to do Frank again.' " It's a different Frank, but it is a crazy Frank. When he didn't react negatively, I more relieved and then really calm. I was there with my Dad. My Dad is really funny when he gets into those situations. But Dennis' wife was there, and it was really down to earth. It was like being at home and talking to someone from Kansas.

RW: I knew Mr. Hopper was from Kansas. I wondered if that had something to do with your contacting him.

SB: There is something I feel about taking Kansan talent, or writing stories about Kansas. I'm obsessed with this place. I think it is amazingly haunting and gorgeous at the same time. When I first sat down and said, "OK, what actors are from Kansas, of course he was on the list." And thought, who else is. There are some weird people from Kansas. There's Elvira. She went to Kansas State. There's Don Johnson and Kirsty Alley from Wichita. I don't remember who else, but there are some weird people from Kansas. Actually, Lou Grant. Who played Lou Grant?

RW: Ed Asner.

SB: He's from Kansas. So, I called him [Asner] up and said, "Do you want to do this?" I sent him the script. His response was that he was so "old now that he can't outrun crime, so he wouldn't want to be in a movie where there was any crime going on." It was hysterical.

RW: You know Kansas Has had some notorious crimes?

SB: Oh, I know.

RW: You mentioned growing up in Manhattan. One of the rare African American mass murderers was from you're town. He got up on a Howard Johnson's in New Orleans back in the 70s and started shooting people. They sent an Army helicopter in to shoot him of the roof.

SB: Oh my God! I didn't know that.

RW: It was back in '71.

SB: Well, I was born is '75, so if anything happened before then I don't know because I was so obsessed with "Dynasty" until about '86 that I lost all track of reality.

RW: Yes, well Joan Collins will have that effect on people.

SB: Yes, she really does.

RW: It seems your family has been behind you 100% since childhood.

SB: Well our entire family…there's no one like us. In fact we've just commissioned an author to write a book on our family and they agreed. The emotional make-up and dynamics of our family is …we are so twisted and so nuts that I've got to make a movie about us. But I'm so in to the experience that I need someone else to write the book for us so I can zap that into a movie. We're doing that as we speak, so I can make that movie down the line. We've always been dreamers and doers, not talkers. Even at a young, young, young age I remember my grandfather and dad doing things. They would talk, but then they would put their words into actions immediately. They would never sit around and say "One day we're going to do this or one day we're going to do that." They would say "now we're going to do this, or now we're going to do that." They grew this business that made attachments for Caterpillar Machinery and things like that, that panned out all over the world in just a few decades. So I was raised with this big goal and setting big goals and saying "This is what I want." Instead of saying "I can or can't do that" I've always asked "How can I do it?" So I would say how I would do something. This is how I can get from this place to that. So I start going down the list and then suddenly it's there and it happens. I think that's sort of genetic because even the people in our immediate family that weren't raised in the same household have that drive and determination. They always have. Even down through John Balderston who wrote "Gaslight" and "Dracula." If you watch "Gaslight" you see our family's really dark sense of humor. Not that you wouldn't know that from seeing "Pep Squad." When you see Ingrid Bergman going through the Tower of London you hear the man who is the tour guide talking about a woman who had her head chopped off. They're talking about these things that are completely irrelevant to the plot and it is really, really silent. The humor is so great in our family that it is instantly recognizable. The fmily has always been supportive no matter what we do. Whether it's owning a restaurant or renovating something. We're doers and there's always something else to be done.

RW: Tell me about the book "Issues" you wrote about the experience of making "Pep Squad" with Eric Sherman and your father. I read some excerpts on you're web site, but I stopped to get your take on it. I read enough to know that "here is someone who's is very committed to independent filmmaking..

SB: Well, it was fun because Eric is a Yale grad who is brilliant. His words are brilliant. What he says in a sentence can out do anything I can think of in 10 years. When he would write something about the process (of filmmaking), it would be real analytical. When you compare his experience to mine, which is like this crazy artist who's ordinary life is full of one-liners…it is interesting to go back and forth. And then my dad is writing from the perspective of "Oh my God! Here I am, and my son is doing this and what have I gotten myself into?" So when you read these three perspectives at the same time, it's an amazing combination of stuff. I really wanted to do this for "Firecracker." I started setting the stuff up, but then I thought maybe I should do a documentary and put all of these things up on the screen. I'm still in development, because I personally wouldn't want to do it myself. I don't know who would want to. Who would continually document the process. I don't know what time frame to span. No one lives here who could do it and I don't want to bring someone in to live with me for however long it takes.

RW: Call MTV. Get a "Real World" cast to make the documentary!

SB: That would be good.

RW: How long was the shoot for "Pep Squad"?

SB: "Pep Squad" took 6 weeks.

RW: 6 weeks?

SB: Yeas. The initial script board for "Firecracker" came down to 8 weeks. Though I realized that I had a couple of buffers in there so it could possibly be done in 6 weeks too. Because of the planning I go through.

That was one thing about Kubrick that I could not understand. Because I thought "If he's such a visionary, and he's seriously, this brilliant, why on earth doesn't he know what he wants to use?" I though that didn't make any sense. I mean, anyone can deliver something that matches if they spend two years doing it. Because they'll have absolutely every perception under the sky!

RW: Are you a Hitchcock fan?

SB: Huge.

RW: I got that impression from the commentary track on "Pep Squad." One thing that impressed me on the commentary track was that you stated that you didn't shoot any coverage.

At Cannes with Roger Corman and Troma's Lloyd Kaufman
SB: Well, I've always believed that you couldn't just put the camera anywhere. It has to be where you perceive it should be. When I close my eyes and look at a scene, I look at it in my own way. If you and I were both looking at the same object, we would never see it the same way. You will always see it the way you are looking at it, and I will always see it the way I am looking at it. As long as you follow that rule and say "OK, I'm looking at it this way," then you will never fail. It will only turn into a failure when other people's perceptions come in and you start cluttering you own perception. You aren't sure whether you're looking at it that way or whether they are. Then you say "Is that right or is that wrong. Am I looking at it bad and stuff like that." But I process everything entirely visually. When I just hear a story, I picture the story happening in my mind. If I picture myself standing close to the characters, then I translate that into a close-up. If I picture myself moving to the center of the room when something is happening, then that translates into a dolly shot or a stedi-cam shot. When I picture these things, that's all I record and write down on paper. If that section of the scene, in my mind, is pictured close-up then there's no reason to shoot it far away, because that would not be part of my vision. So, I shot exactly what I needed for the vision to happen. And then, when it comes together, it works. The man who was the technical editor for "Pep Squad" didn't have my perception and didn't understand what I was doing. I would deliver the scenes and he would say "What the hell is this? These don't go together!" He would always try to rearrange the shot, which would then butcher the scene. It wouldn't make any sense. When I would say "No, No, No. Follow the plan because it is already edited for you. All you need to do is put the shots in." He said "Really." And put the shots together. He said "Oh my God, this is the easiest job in the world. I think that the only reason a lot of people don't do that is because they wait to conceive their vision in the editing room. Which is fine. It's just a different way of doing it. I acted in a scene in Sean Penn's movie "The Crossing Guard." It was just a walk on. I didn't have any lines or anything, but I was there for 2 ½ days. When I saw the film none of this was used except for like two shots. I knew all the time they were just getting a lot of stuff which I guess they call coverage. Just to decide later on to use it in the editing however they wanted to. That was one thing about Kubrick that I could not understand. Because I thought "If he's such a visionary, and he's seriously, this brilliant, why on earth doesn't he know what he wants to use?" I though that didn't make any sense. I mean, anyone can deliver something that matches if they spend two years doing it. Because they'll have absolutely every perception under the sky!

RW: I interviewed Ann Gillis once. She played Becky Thatcher in "Tom Sawyer" back in the 30s. She was the voice of Bambi's mother. She retired in the 40s and came out of retirement when she was living in England in the 60s. They needed some American actors for "2001: A Space Oddessy." She played one of the astronauts mothers during the scene where the astronauts get a televised phone call from their parents. She said they did 28 takes, 30 takes. They kept going and going and going. The other actor kept improvising and Stanley would say "sure, try it." This was all for 4 seconds of screen time. She finally got up and said "You have enough footage of me. I'm going back into retirement. Ms. Gillis had the same impression you did. "This guy is a genius? This is chaos!"

SB: There's planned chaos too. I bet he probably did know exactly what he would use in the beginning. I bet he just did it. I can't speculate because I never met the man, but I can't conceive of shooting something that way. That would be like admitting to myself that I didn't have a clear vision. Of course my vision isn't absolutely 100% in the clarity realm, but it's real close because I'm certain of what I see in my head. I can't imagine going against myself, going against my interpretation to make sure I have everything I might need. I think the other extreme from Kubrick is David Lynch. Lynch has a vision, but it is so disjointed that it always looks like a dream. Not just "Mulholland Drive" or "Lost Highway" but all his work. It is always like a dream. If you look at a dream which is maybe steps 1 through 10 and the only things you capture are steps 1, 3, 4, 7, 8 and 10 and your mind makes sense of those missing steps. You could look back on it and say "Oh, I make sense of this." It goes from one point to the next and by the end of the dream you say "Oh well, this happened even though you might not have dreamt it at all. I think his work is like that. I think that is deliberate on his part. I think it is the absolute opposite of what Kubrick did. David Lynch will take half as much footage and be completely satisfied because it makes sense afterwards, when you go back and relive the movie. The problem with that is I don't think the audience gets the change. Either they don't want to analyze it or think about it. They don't let themselves enjoy it. I love Hitchcock because he did, he was a fine middle ground. He was able to take things, ideas and stories that were made from collaborative committees, stories that weren't coming from him, but he was able to take his vision and apply it to that. That's what I think I'll do. I hope I do. Take something that everyone can enjoy, be it the stupid people who just want entertainment or can't let themselves want something they can think about all the way to the people that are very analytical and really read into everything. Every color, every shape and the geometry of the structure of the frame and all these things. If you can do an image that has all of those things covered, then you are right down the middle. I think Hitchcock did that. I think I took to doing those things when I was in college. I had a mentor, Hartmut Bitomsky. He encouraged me with an independent study program. He had me go and review each of Hitchcock's films. I would do scene structures and over view diagrams and art layouts for all of the sets and take it back to him and we would talk about it. It was completely outside of my schooling. It had nothing to do with grades or anything like that. I got more education out of that than from anything else I did. Just watching Hitchcock's films. Because they are so obvious, what he's doing. If you stop and watch it three times, you know, that one scene and you say "OK, why is he doing that? Why is the camera there?" Well, because that's where he saw it!

If you look at my storyboards, it reads like a comic book. Like a graphic novel. It's in editing form. You can turn the pages and there's the script right next to the sketches. The movie is completely finished. I edited it and it's all done in my head. All we have to do now is make it.

RW: Hitchcock always said that he actually hated the process of making the movie because by the time the cameras started rolling the movie was finished for him. He had done what you did, the storyboard was already laid out. Did you have those feelings?

SB: Well, I'm having it now. I did have in "Pep Squad." But it was another shape. When we got on the set and I was shooting my sister and it was the very first shot of celluloid that I would ever make in my entire life, it was a shot of my sister being photographed in my mother's house. It was the moment where everything fit. Brooke did her lines. It was so powerful that I nearly fainted. There was such an energy, a charge in the room. She peeked her vocals, so that the person doing the sound said she went off the vocal range, wherever it was. There was no way they could capture her voice. It was weird. There was some supernatural stuff going on. The sound man asked if we could do it again. I said "No, we can never do that again." I was talking mostly from experience and not necessarily from the actual making of it. When that happened and it became a reality, then where do you go from there? You can go back and relive it. It became so magical because all those pictures and all those drawings and all those words were real. They became something that was in this world and not just in my brain. It was so relieving to get them out of there. And get them off the papers and now there're moving and people can experience them. On "Firecracker," I did the same thing. I did it more animated this time. If you look at my storyboards, it reads like a comic book. Like a graphic novel. It's in editing form. You can turn the pages and there's the script right next to the sketches. The movie is completely finished. I edited it and it's all done in my head. All we have to do now is make it. When the new producer's development guy calls me with script notes, I panic. "What the hell do you mean? The movie is already finished!" What do you mean you have to have me explain this? I was really up set for a while. We fought about it for a while. He could not understand how I conceived this visually. People that are more verbal or auditory have a problem understanding necessarily that people are visual and not auditory. For me, basically I can make a film without using a script. I think the script is worthless. If you're visual director and visual storyteller, it first comes in pictures. The whole process of "Firecracker" came to me in pictures long before I sat down and wrote the script. The words on the papers were descriptions of my storyboards. It was almost done in reverse of the way a lot of people are use to. It's frustration for me because they won't see that. That's just me being reactionary. I keep saying "well of course they won't see it because usually people go down the path walking forward instead of backward, like me. It's not their fault that they don't get it." I stop reacting. It is kind of tough to do that much preparation before hand. When you change one thing, then all the shots on the other side of it have to be restructured.

RW: Like a jig-saw puzzle, let's cut this corner, let's round this corner off that would affect five other pieces.

SB: Yes, exactly. It's certainly been a challenge. I can't wait until I do something that is not from, like I'm in line to direct the "Museum Guard" which is the film based on the book by Howard Norman. I really think I'm going to do it. The only problem is I think David Mamet wants to do it too. I don't want to be going up against him. I really want to do that because it didn't come from me and it didn't come from my soul. It's already been conceived by someone else. It might be kind of fun to envision a story that I have no connection to. It's like I'm sort of the surrogate mother but it's not really my child.

RW: I would think that would be the most challenging thing to do. I've done some screenwriting. I had an uncle in the record business, he optioned "The Picture of Dorian Gray" and sent me like an 8-page treatment and asked me to do the screenplay for it. To me that was challenging because up to that point everything I had written came from my own experience or issues or whatever. Collaborating back and forth with someone else, it was very educational. To me that was a challenge. I had no emotional chip, like in a poker game, other than this thing might sell and I might get my other stuff done. That would be a challenge.

SB: But, I think a fun one.

RW: Oh yes. Anything that does not kill you but make you stronger. You seem to have a self- confidence that I don't see that often. It could be with my profession of dealing with poor folks who are criminals who have no self-confidence. That's why they're out there doing what they're doing. It's very refreshing and I think it shows in your work.

SB: Well, thank you. I think that sometimes, I used to have a self-confidence that was really in your face and unflattering. I didn't like it. I didn't like who I was. I can't understand now who that person was. When I was younger and just getting ready to go the College and I was still in High School and just making all these feature videos, I was doing them for completely the wrong reasons. I didn't like myself. I didn't like the messages that the world was telling me that I had to do this. I had to be this way. I had to look this way. It was really shallow and superficial and really gross. I would make these videos just so that I can be in the papers. Just so I could get this acclaim and all this other stuff. When I was in school, I woke up on April 23, 1995 or 1996, I sat down at my computer and I wrote "Pep Squad" in 4 days. I got up. I looked in the mirror. I was me. I actually felt really good about me for the first time in my life. I realize, you know, I can follow my dream and do what I need to do from my own backyard in Kansas and not have to feel these things and not have to live up to them. Who am I'm living up to, the neighbors or myself? I took the same self-confidence that I had before but then I focused it for the right reasons. Those were well I'm here on earth to do this. I love my family. I love people. I love helping people but I also have some vision to share with them. Hopefully they will encourage other people to things differently. And hopefully they will like the journey I take them on. That's pretty much it. When I look out on the world now, I say, why wouldn't I. I don't feel threaten by what people think of me because I understand that everyone's perception is different. If they look at me and see one thing. They may look at someone else and see another. It had nothing to do with me. It only had to do with them and their vision, as well as mine. When I got the understanding of perception and how no two people on earth see the same thing in the same way. I think it just really allowed me to focus more. Which is weird for me to say that out loud.

RW: No, it makes sense. It's, you know, as you grow part of you…I can tie it into what I read on your Web-site today about you shedding your skin.

SB: Oh, my God, that's right.

RW: Tell me about you shedding your skin?

SB: Yeah, that was weird. I had to have been ten or eleven. I woke up one day. I always had eczema, very dry skin. Now it's completely different than when I was really younger. It's not noticeable. When I was younger, I would be playing in the back yard and get dirty and all that stuff. It would get aggravated. I thought that's what it was. So, I went to the school. I didn't think about it, the next day my whole skin started, you know, it was very scaly, real scaly, like weird scaly. I went to school again, I was sitting in the classroom, it had to have been third grade, no fourth grade, I'm trying to remember exactly, I was in the fourth grade. I took my left arm and I remember getting my hand under my skin and peeling it off. Like "V: The Mini-Series." Underneath was fresh new skin. It was the weirdest thing. I did it all over my body. Everywhere on my body except my face shed. My fingernails grew out. I had a ridge in my fingernail that marked when it happened. My fingernail grew out much stronger on the other side of this ridge than what it was before. So now I have these little knives for my fingernails. We went to the doctors and stuff. I never had a fever the entire time. They didn't know what it was.

RW: It just struck me, as to how you were trying to do everything for the wrong reason in high school. When you woke up. It's like you are mature. In one of your E-mails you said "I'm a different person then the guy who made "Pep Squad."

SB: I enjoy growing as person. Today the feelings I have, I'm able to have adult relationships. I think that's the biggest thing. Growing from the party kid from College, who enjoyed watching TV and making movies like "Pep-Squad." I couldn't have an adult relationship. I was a different person. Now that I spent a little more time with my family, I bought a house in Wamego. I'm a homeowner and suddenly I'm almost 30. Well not really, I'm just 26 but it's coming quickly, my adulthood. I look at life in a less bitter way that when I was younger; than when I made "Pep Squad." I don't see the world that way anymore. I'm not that jaded about it. Like when Cherry (from "Pep Squad") had barriers, her way was to shoot them. I wanted to do that. Brook is playing me in that movie. That's what I felt like when I was in school. Like, you can't make a movie from Kansas. I'm like, fuck you, I can too. I would kick them in the face and shoot them. That's how I felt. Now when I look back, I say God you must be miserable. I look at someone and say like why are you so mean to people? You know to the barriers that stood in my way. I just don't even give them the time to react to them. I just focus on what I need to and I deal with that in a good way. I think that's really beneficial to "Firecracker." I don't think I would have been prepared to do it then. I had the story in my head long before I made "Pep Squad" because I knew it had happened. My family always talked about it since it was the true story that happen. My aunt was actually there in alley when the dug up the body. I've always known of this story and I always was addicted to it and I loved it. But I think the emotion that I have learn, like, I experienced some emotions in the last 2 1/2 years that I never knew existed. I think I had to go through that in order to deliver the emotion on this film. It's highly emotional and highly mature or adult like. I don't think I would have been able to otherwise. I like changing. Who knows, in a few more years I may out grown that and I be learning or focusing on new things and broadening my education.

RW: On your Web-site you give a lot of factual background information about the case "Firecracker" is based on. You have a lot of documentation and interviews. Are you afraid that you may be giving away too much to the public so that when the movie comes out, people might say "Well I know what happens because I read the Web-site"?

SB: No, but I'm also structuring it (the web-site) in such a way that it's not that I'm leaving everything important out, but I'm leaving a hell of a lot out.


SB: Well there are elements in the movie that I fictionalized slightly. Most of it has to do with time. In real life we span a time difference that, maybe lasted three month between the time when he disappeared to when they dug up the body. In the film, I shorten that to about, well I don't put time in my work, I keep it sort of timeless. The days are irrelevant. The year is irrelevant. I think it only spans two weeks in my fictional way.

RW: Talk a little more about perception and trust?

SB: I'm learning how to trust these people with my vision. I know they get it. I know they somewhat see it. I don't think they see it to the degree that I do. But that's OK, I understand that no one will until they see it. You can't believe what someone tells you until you see it on the screen. Truth be told, a lot of people find it hard to believe that Karen Black is gorgeous. They continually photograph her in scary ways. When I tell people, no, no, no, it's like Marlene Dietrich in "Touch of Evil." Picture that and put Karen Black in your mind. It's real hard to do that. I think you have to just wait and see it. And live it. In order to say, "oh you're right."

RW: I see what you are saying. There are a couple of movies she was dropped dead gorgeous in them.

SB: I think after she did "Trilogy of Terror" other people have wanted her to be insane and crazy looking. They forgot that she's actually attractive, in real life.

I loved Lost Highway. I went to the première. I remember when I went to the bathroom, Kevin Spacey was at the urinal saying "What the hell was that movie about?"

RW: You have Debbie Harry also. I'm just totally amazed by her in "Videodrome." It's such a totally bizarre movie. With one of those images that you can't shake from your head: her putting a cigarette out on her breast. She's brave.

SB: Yes, she's neat. I really liked her in "Heavy."

RW: I didn't see that.

SB: Oh, it's good. It's really weird, with Liz Tyler and Shelly Winters.

RW: That's a dynamic trio.

SB: It was a really low budge like Sundance hit or something. It's real sad. Debbie plays this small town waitress that has the look of how I want her to look in "Firecracker." Just sort of plain looking even though she is Debbie Harry and gorgeous. It's a real interesting movie.

RW: I have to check that one out. Do you have some favorite films you would like to recommend? That you think have not reached the audience they should have.

SB: It's weird with movies, the first thing that comes to mind, I really enjoyed, but it's really ridiculous, it's the movie "Clue" from the 80's. With Tim Curry as the butler, the timing in that movie is brilliant. "Paper Moon" is always a good one, with Tatum and Ryan O'Neal. I think a lot of people don't remember that one.

RW: I love Madeline Kahn in that. "Scoot on over and let Mommy sit up front with her big breasts." You mentioned "Lost Highway," when I interviewed Curtis Harrington that was the one he really recommended.

SB: I loved Lost Highway. I went to the première. I remember when I went to the bathroom, Kevin Spacey was at the urinal saying "What the hell was that movie about?" I didn't know that there was that much more to get. It was so weird, like no one understood what was going on. I though the first 20 minutes of that movie was brilliant, with the video tape.

RW: Kevin Spacey at the urinal?

SB: It was funny.

RW: Gives a new meaning to the word throne.

SB: Exactly.

RW: He's one of my favorite actors. You never know what he's going to do. I still think the best thing he did were the audition tapes on "Saturday Night Live" where Jack Lemmon, Walter Mathau and Christopher Walken was trying out for "Star Wars."

SB: I loved "Nurse Betty."

RW: Yes, nice, demonic, funny and wholesome at the same time.

SB: I would say I was shocked when I saw that movie because the cover of it looked uncanny like the cover of the art work for "Bridget Jone's Diary." When I rented it, I said "Oh, a light headed comedy." When I got home, I see them stabbing this man and shooting him. I'm like, "what the fuck?" Then, I'm addicted to it, I can't believed this just happen. I've got to call every one I know and tell them to watch this movie. Of course, I did and they all had seen it. I was the only one left out on what it was really all about. It was wonderful.

RW: Isn't that a strange feeling? I done that before. Some movie was, in addition of being a great movie a cultural phenomenal and you see it 4 months later on video. You come up to the water cooler, it's like talking about the Super Bowl in May.

SB: And everybody wonders what are you doing with your life.

RW: Yeah, I know. Damn ,I missed it. I'm not hip anymore.

SB: My favorite movie ever was a short film called "Rainbow Wars." I used to always call it "Color Wars." I never knew it was titled "Rainbow Wars." It was maybe ten minutes long and its about the Red World, the Blue World, and the Yellow World. There's no sound in it. There's music and stuff but no dialogue in it. It's about how the colors fights and then when they're shooting the red liquid at the yellow people and it makes orange. They look at the orange and say "What the fuck is that?" Then they start to realize that there is more to life than separating all the colors. It was so neat because it has the same sort of texture of what I think should go into a film and our directions and stuff. I loved that and it's probably really hard to find. That's the movie I always loved. "Gaslight" is great. My favorite movie ever is "Suddenly Last Summer."

RW: I saw that on TV when I was about 6 or 7 and that just about warped me. I just did not get it. As a child, there's no way in the world you would know what it's really about. You know, these cannibal kids at the end. Seeing it as an adult and realizing, or trying to have a better understanding, considering it was Tennessee Williams, what it's really about, the psychologically impact. It's an amazing piece of work that still holds up today.

SB: You know what else does, "Guess Who's Coming To Dinner." When I first watched it, I didn't notice of course all the things I do now. But you know, our culture really hasn't caught up to that. They have with the bi-racial relationships, but I don't think they have in a way that that film confronted in the plain of field of confrontation. They were right up front and honest with their fears. They admitted to each other their fears and confronted it together. I don't think we still do that.

RW: No, that's one of the reasons I love "White Man Can't Jump." It takes a racist white guy and a racist black guy and puts them in a situation where they say exactly what they feel about each other without killing each other. I found that despite the comedy and everything else that's involved, it hit that issue. From that point of view, I think it's a very serious movie in that it allows people to vocalize and get their anger out. Without guns popping out of their waistband and people dead on the playground.

This studio was ready to release "Pep Squad." The weekend we were going to sign the stuff Columbine happen. They said "Sorry, never mind." Everybody just backed away. Then they released their own versions. "Jawbreaker" and "Teaching Mrs. Tingle."

SB: I think confrontation and dialogue are much more powerful than a gun.

RW: That's one thing I hate when I'm watching a movie. Where they build up to something like that. Either the writer or the director did not have the balls to follow through on it. They don't have the conversation. It's like "OK what happened here?"

SB: Well, that goes against everything in "Pep Squad." The person who I was when I thought of that said "OK, well here's confrontation. Now I will deal with it by removing it, instead of really confronting it. I really don't think Cherry confronted her fears in that movie. I think she rid the fears. She shot them. That really wasn't just the brightest idea. Then they came back to haunt her. That's like you denied it. If you deny it and bury it under the rug, one of these days it will come back and haunt you harder. You really have to just hit it straight on.

RW: I don't know if this was your intention, but in the last scene with the flag burning behind her, the image that was invoked was Gloria Swanson coming down the stairs in "Sunset Blvd." She was totally whacked out. In her own little paradise and she's going to the Rubber Room for the rest of her life but she's happy.

SB: At that moment, there's no where else to go. You are in absolute bliss. Like everything is just gone.

RW: Did you get a lot of grief from folks because of the school violence?

SB: It was weird because we shot it before the rash of school violence happen in our country. The only reason I was able to think of that, besides it had been done in "Heathers" was because of what I was feeling. The kids at Columbine who did that in their trench coats, I know how they felt. I was treated that way. I'm not saying that I agree with them because I think their actions were completely appalling, but I understand their emotional make up. Once you're repeatedly push people down, they're going to get so lost and confused and insane they're not going to know which way is right or wrong. They can't think of anything right because the whole world has been telling them forever that they're freaks and they don't fit in. That's all they have to do. In order for me to deal with that, from what I experienced in High School and in College, I was shunned in College because I was the only normal one. I didn't have purple hair. I didn't wear earrings. I didn't walk around naked. I didn't fornicate in the hallway, which was acceptable by the way. People at that school thought you always have the power to turn around and walk away. You could do drugs. You could have sex in the hallway and run around naked because as long as you're not hurting anyone it's your own life. Since I didn't do any of those things, I was an outcast. In High School in Kansas, I was the freak kid because from the perception, I acted like the kids from College. Then I get the College, finally thinking I can fit in and they call me a moron farm boy. I'm like what? All those emotions in me made me do "Pep Squad" because I had to deal with that or I would have done that in real life. Of course, I knew that was incorrect and wrong and not very good to take someone else's life so I didn't. The school violence thing then started and of course no one would want to touch the movie. In fact, we were in negotiation with one of the majors to release it. This was after a couple of studios had said no because there was no stars. This studio was ready to do it. The weekend we were going to sign the stuff Columbine happen. They said "Sorry, never mind." Everybody just backed away. Then they released their own versions. "Jawbreaker" and "Teaching Mrs. Tingle."

RW: I like the section on your Web page called "Sincerest Form of Flattery."

SB: Well, it's true. Several legal people told us we have enough to sue. I've never really believed in that. I though, "Well, instead of wasting the money because, number one if you sue somebody that huge and they have their own team of legal people, we'll be in court so long we will be bankrupt and then what will we do.

RW: Like, Art Buckwald and " Coming to America." That it was his script idea. He proved they stole his script idea. Paramount claims the movie made no money. Buckwald dies before he sees a penny.

SB: Well anyway, I took that feeling and I said I'm not going to do sue. So, I decided to put all my energy into making more films. I have a friend now who is now the Senior VP at MGM/UA. She said it is no secret in the industry what happened with "Pep Squad." Everybody knows. That's why if I call, everybody, including Harvey Weinstein's office, will call me back within a half hour. It occurred to me, the only thing they don't expect me to do is continue to make movies. That's all I got to do.

RW: That may be a chip you can play too. We will make it up to you seeing how we bent you over without the benefit of a KY. This time well be a little kinder. You're going to get a reach around this time. That's how they are.

SB: That's how it felt. Then only reason I will play the game is so I can expose it later. People don't know about it. It's like this "Project Green Light," I love it because they're so evil and so gross. People don't realize because it like this gorgeous place, Hollywood. The myth is everybody looks like Sharon Stone. Everybody behaves like Madonna. They all get money like Arnold Schwarzenegger. Then you get there its not like that at all. I can't wait to tell world, even though I think they've been told repeatedly. I think that a part of them doesn't want to see how it is.

RW: I'm a big horror movie fan. There's a movie where everything was an illusion. It wasn't until the end that you could see the cobwebs and how the people were. How decrepit and decayed.

SB: "Carnival of Souls."

EI: Yeah, it was made in Kansas.

SB: I don't know if they had cobweb but it was along this line. She was dead the whole way though the movie.

RW: Or, "Dead and Buried" with Jack Albertson, James Farentino, and Robert Englund. Everybody in the town was dead and they didn't realize it out until the end.