Tag Archives: John Badham

Not a circuit short by Kent Hill

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We have to go back to Fritz Lang’s Metropolis to find the roots of Garo Setian’s AUTOMATION. A machine, a construct, built in man’s image. It will walk like him, talk like him . . . but can it feel? Can an artificial intelligence handle all of the the complexities of a human? If you prick it, it will not bleed, but it can simulate pain. If you tickle it, it will not laugh, but it could simulate laughter. RoboCop and Short Circuit are in part, about machines dealing with that veritable head full of bad wiring we call the human condition. We have the built-in propensity to be all right and all wrong in the same sentence. So if a machine were to feel the betrayal of a lie, be heartbroken by the bitterness of a romantic rejection; if we wrong it . . . will it not revenge?

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Setian’s film packs an enormous subtext for an independent production, but the small budget hasn’t stopped this cast and crew from firing on all cylinders. A workplace robot, AUTO, transforms into a killing machine when he discovers he will be replaced by a more efficient model. AUTO fears being terminated and will stop at nothing to prevent his own destruction. The human employees must band together to stop him before it’s too late.

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A few words from the Director:

It seems every day there is another news story or article concerning the threat of machines replacing people in the workplace.  We are also seeing stories about the development of robots that can learn to behave more human by observing human behavior.
So what would happen when a robot with this ability to learn, replaces humans in the workplace, but then faces the prospect of being replaced by more advanced technology?  Our movie AUTOMATION is a cheeky take on this concept.
Our goal was to tell an interesting and timely story with characters the audience cares about.  So despite the film being a satire of corporate cost cutting and planned obsolescence, there is a true heart to the movie in the relationship between Auto and Jenny.
We are so grateful to our talented cast and crew of pros who came together out of love for this script, and the desire to make something fun. We hope the audience finds AUTOMATION an entertaining 91 minutes that is funny, exciting, has a few surprises and is ultimately kind of moving.
 
Thanks for watching!
Garo Setian
Writer /Director/Producer/Editor –
Automation
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And now the director and cast…

GARO SETIAN

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PARRY SHEN

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JEFF J. KNIGHT

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KH: You join a great tradition of suit performers, like Anthony Daniels and Doug Jones; is that a mantle you aspire to?

JK: ABSOLUTELY! The performances that Doug Jones manages to portray through all those layers of special effects make up is just unmatched. There is something to having your character be presented as real as it possibly can be.  I love C3-PO, and would love to have met Mr. Daniels but we were in the strong capable technical hands of @evilted_smith, master at what he does, prop armor, weapons, helmets, guns.

 KH: What was your first impression upon reading the script?

JK: It really felt like a winner right off the bat, but then they kept adding layers to the characters and back stories which only enhanced the emotional center of the movie. This movie really does have a heart of gold. 

KH: Garo, the director, has come from a prolific career as an editor, how do you feel carried over to his directing style?

JK: He wasn’t an asshole at all! Just Kidding …. he was open to suggestions, and worked great with his first AD And DOP. He had a vision for scenes and how they would cut together and he really brought all that to life on the screen. 

KH: Actors infuse their own life experience into the characters they play; what did the part you played bring out of your own personality and in turn, what did you find the role demanded of you?

JK: Before starting onset I took some intense acting classes at the Clu Gulager school of acting here in LA. Clu is literally an old time cowboy (Gunsmoke, Bonanza)  and really told me how it was and didn’t sugar coat anything. His advice on how to present the robot to the world and how he would interact back was some of the coolest memories I have in almost 5 years of Acting and Cosplay here in LA. 

KH: Do you think the world is truly ready for a machine with the complexities of human emotions?

JK: GOD NO, we can barely keep our own emotions under wraps. Let’s work on becoming better people ourselves before we try and perfect the human being in a robot form. 

KH: If you were to wake up one morning to find all that you are transferred into a robotic body….what would you do?

JK: Not shower or shave…. for like, a while.
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KH: Tell us a little of your journey leading up to AUTOMATION?
SK: I had been filming a lot of strictly horror films and was really excited to shoot something that was also mixed with syfy elements.  I’ve known Garo as well as Esther for quite sometime and I was really stoked that the right project had come up for us to finally work together.  
KH: What was your first impression upon reading the script?
SK: I actually really fell in love with Auto and loved his relationship with Jenny (Elissa Dowling).  As much as the script was fun and quirky I really appreciated that bigger questions were being presented in the story about future A.I. and how companies are facing a lot of conflicts on saving money versus employing humans.  I was a little thrown off by Susan because I’m used to playing villains in horror but I really didn’t want to play Susan as a villain.  There’s a rule in acting of not judging your characters.  I really wanted to find humor in Susan as well. I thought that there was a lot of fear of failure in Susan which is why she had so many guards up.  I don’t want to give anything away but I really wanted the audience to forgive her and be able to root for her as well.  What I loved about the script was that it had a lot of quick jokes and was a fun ride too.  It’s a gift when you’re doing an indie film and they don’t take themselves too seriously.  I think that’s what makes a B movie really worth watching and kinda anoints it into an instant classic.    
KH: Garo, the director, has come from a prolific career as an editor, how do you feel carried over to his directing style?
SK: Knowing Garo as a friend and how excited he was about directing carried over in his enthusiasm about the project.  As an editor I think it was hard for the cast at first to understand how carefully the film was already edited in his head.  I won’t say that’s a bad thing when someone has the amount of editing experience Garo does. It’s just a different style as an actor you kinda have to take that in but not allow your work to be results based.  Garo is an extremely kind, somewhat careful, super respectful human- he goes out of his way to be a nice guy.  I felt like he was open to all our ideas about our characters.  But, there’s a point as the director where they sometimes have to kind of take the wheel and drive.  Sometimes, especially on shoots that have limited days it means not always being the nice guy.  It was exciting to watch Garo grow in a short time into a director who knew what he wanted and trusted that.  They say a movie is made three times; first writing the script, then shooting and again while editing.  Sometimes you work with a director who you think is amazing on set and then you see the film and you’re like oh no!  They don’t understand pacing or the overall tone of the story.  Watching the final cut; I was blown away by the finished film.  His attention to detail was just lovely and the movie is consistent in tone- that’s not always an easy thing when your film is a mix of genres. 
KH: Actors infuse their own life experience into the characters they play; what did the part you played bring out of your own personality and in turn, what did you find the role demanded of you?
SK: I related to Susan because I’m naturally a pretty nervous person but I can be pretty relentless in getting what I want.  I touched on this before but I thought Susan should have a little vulnerability. I love the idea of people showing who they really are in stressful situations.     
KH: Do you think the world is truly ready for a machine with the complexities of human emotions?
SK: I’m giving myself away here but I graduated highschool right as the internet was becoming available for everyone.  I personally don’t believe we were really ready for that kinda barrage of information.  So, the idea of a machine able to generate emotions is terrifying to me.  I think the purpose of technology should be to bring people closer and make life easier but I don’t think it should ever be a substitute for real human interaction.  The biggest problem is relationships are all about compromise and fear of rejection.  I’m afraid that robots would be a one way compromise from the robots- when to grow as people we both have to be willing to risk rejection and also to learn from it. 
KH: If you were to wake up one morning to find all that you are transferred into a robotic body….what would you do?
SK: Find a very high bridge and jump.
Here is a link where you can see where AUTOMATION is available to view or purchase…
 
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John Badham’s Nick Of Time

What if someone kidnapped one of your loved ones and informed you that if you don’t assassinate a politician within ninety minutes, they’d kill them? Johnny Depp finds out exactly how a situation like that would play out in John Badham’s Nick Of Time, a stylish real time thriller with fantastic performances and a high powered premise that is milked yet never overdrawn.

Depp plays what might be his most down to earth, Everyman role here as an a humdrum accountant travelling by train with his six year old daughter (Courtney Chase), until he’s targeted by a mysterious pair of shady characters pretending to be cops, and then his nightmare begins. Christopher Walken is a force of evil nature as Smith, a menacing assassin who snatches up Depp’s daughter, puts a gun in his hand and tells him to go shoot a visiting Governor (Marsha Mason) before she’s to speak at an evening rally. Why? Because a patsy was needed and he looked like the poorest sap getting off that train, apparently.

Because the film is set in real time and doesn’t hop around to a zillion different plot threads like 24 does, we get to see the big moments and the small, the suspenseful hills and the mundane valleys in between them as Depp either tries to make harebrained escaped in order to save his daughter and avoid killing someone, and when he simply catches his breath for a moment or grabs some downtime. He’s good in the role and we’ll likely never see him in something as middle of the road as this again in terms of what he’s casted in, which is mostly garish theatrical gimmicks these days. He plays it somewhat Hitchcock and it works well that way, especially with the opening credits that seem directly lifted from one of his films. Walken is adorned in a porn moustache and slick suit, doing that thing only he can do where he’s somehow terrifying and hilarious all in the same note, it’s one of his hallmark 90’s baddie turns and I love it. Roma Maffia is slightly goofy as his second in command, and there’s work from Peter Strauss, Gloria Ruben, Yul Vasquez, Bill Smitrovitch, G.W. Spradlin and scene stealer Charles S. Dutton as a verbose shoeshine dude who helps Depp out in a tight spot. It ain’t a be all end all thriller or anything super amazing but it fires up a good time for ninety minutes, plus Depp and Walken are pretty much watchable in anything. Great stuff.

-Nate Hill

The STUNTWOMAN: An Interview with Cheryl Wheeler by Kent Hill

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It was an absolute thrill to sit and chat with Cheryl Wheeler, legendary stunt woman, stunt double, and stunt driver of the movie industry. She has been the stunt double for Rene Russo, Kathleen Turner, and Goldie Hawn.

Cheryl began studying Yoshukai Karate at 15 – coming from a family of mostly boys; she was forced to learn to hold her own. She started kickboxing when her instructor commenced training an amateur team. She has also studied Judo, Aikido, and grappling and trained for a while with kickboxer and actor Don ‘The Dragon’ Wilson, and is a three-time WKA World Kickboxing Champion

Beginning work in the film industry in 1987, Cheryl’s extensive filmography of stunt work in such films as Back to the Future Part II, Bird on a Wire, Die Hard 2, Lethal Weapon III & IV, Demolition Man, The Thomas Crown Affair and Charlie’s Angels. She was inducted into Black Belt Magazine’s Hall of Fame as 1996 Woman of the Year. She appeared on the cover and in a feature article in Black Belt Magazine in July 1997, and also received a Stunt Award for “Best Stunt Sequence” in the 2000 film of Charlie’s Angels.

I could honestly have spoken to Cheryl for hours – slowly traversing and delighting in the stories from all of the films she has participated in. We also chat about her involvement in The Martial Arts Kid 2 which she comes to as a producer with her long-time friends Don Wilson and Cynthia Rothrock.

It was a true pleasure, and I trust you will enjoy this fascinating interview with an awesome Hollywood veteran. Ladies and Gentlemen . . . Cheryl Wheeler.

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“I’m not scared at all. I just feel kind of … feel kind of invincible.” : An Interview with W.D. Richter by Kent Hill

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To talk about W.D. (Rick) Richter, is to talk about one of my all-time favorite films, Big Trouble in Little China. It is, to put it simply, one of those films that comes along (not so much anymore) once in a generation. As we know in this age of remakes, reboots and re-imaginations, there is a very good chance that this film, because of its staying power and built-in fan base, will more than likely resurface with Dwayne Johnson playing Jack Burton. Just like Hansel in Zoolander he is, as far as the Studios are concerned, so hot right now!

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And you can be your bottom dollar that it will try like hell to recapture the magic of what was – and more than likely – crash ‘n’ burn in its attempt to do so. I might be wrong. Because, BTILC, was and is what is often referred to as a “happy accident”. What began as a seemingly awkward combination of a western with a plot that involved Chinese black magic became, thanks to my guest, a glorious blending of genres that there is really no recipe for.

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I rarely get nervous doing interviews, but I was glad to be sitting down for this one. When the person on the other end of the line had a hand in creating a couple of the seminal film of one’s existence . . . it is tough to play it cool, plus for the first time in a long time, I found the need to have my questions written, rather than merely see what the conversation would provoke. Primarily because I knew I was only going to have a limited time, and secondly because during our email exchanges prior to the chat, I found Rick to be extremely matter-of-fact and, wishing not to have the interview published in audio form, he merely wanted to be concise and not ramble on as, he says, has happened in the past.

So I sat and pondered questions. Having read other interviews with him in the past, before he’d stepped away from the business, the focus was on the films he had released at the time and didn’t really get below the surface. Off the record, we spoke about a few of the things that were beneath the polished exterior of the press kits, but that was not all that interested me. There have been many books and articles on his films, as well as many having excellent special features and commentary tracks which mine their depths – so I wasn’t going to waste time there.

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In the end I waited till the last minute and scribbled down the first questions that popped into my head. Some of course are elementary, but one or two I’ve had on my mind for a while.

Well, it took a long time, but sometimes, good things do. It was well worth the wait and the frustrating silences in between messages from Rick’s friend who very graciously made the introductions, and I, as a fan first, was humbled, honored and thrilled at the prospect of speaking to yet another film-making idol of mine.

While Rick, early in our email exchanges said, “I prefer to let he films, for better or worse, speak for themselves.” I am and will be forever grateful he took the time to talk a little about his work. In the end I wasn’t nervous or scared at all . . . I felt kind of invincible.

 

KH: Did you always want to work in movies and if so what were the films which influenced you?

WDR: First I wanted a paper route.  Then I wanted to run a circus.  Then I thought about pursuing a career as an English teacher.  Then I thought, “Why not aspire to become an actual tenured English professor?”  But, by the time I got to college, graduate film programs were springing up here and there.  Having loved movies since childhood, but never imagining there was a route available into the business, I suddenly saw a way to pursue a career in film in a structured, sensible way.

I went to a lot of movies of all kinds as a kid, but mostly B horror films from the mid-fifties through the mid-sixties.  In 1964, I saw DR. STRANGELOVE and in 1965 THE LOVED ONE.  They suggested a new direction and deeply influenced me.

KH: How did you break in to the business?

WDR: I wrote screenplays at USC, and one of them secured me an agent.  I then worked as a reader for Warners and wrote on the side and continued to do so when Warners and Irvin Kershner let me work as his assistant while he was prepping DIRTY HARRY for Sinatra.  That project fell apart, but a spec script I’d written, SLITHER, got to the director Howard Zeiff, and he set it up, odd as it was, and we shot it.  Presto!  I was a produced screenwriter.

KH: Your early career was full of greats like Dracula, Body Snatchers and your Oscar nod for Brubaker. How much does momentum play a factor in one’s career (films coming out and performing well) as well as recognition for one’s talent?

WDR: Actually, none of those films did perform well, but they were respected, and, as a result, I was respected as a young writer with perceived potential.  You must remember that during the seventies and eighties eccentric characters in unusual, small stories were nothing Hollywood ran screaming from.  That came later.

KH: You are a part of two of my favourite films of all time with Banzai and BTILC. How do you feel as an artist to be remembered for singular works rather than your entire body of creativity?

WDR: I’ve never given much thought to being “remembered”.  After all, sooner or later, this whole planet is going to be forgotten.

KH: If people want the skinny on Banzai, you have already provided an excellent commentary. What I would ask is, did you ever see Kevin Smith’s Q & A whose guests were Weller and Lithgow, and how did you feel about possible versions of the continuing story of Banzai?

WDR: I thought Kevin did a spectacular job that evening, and it was nice to learn how much the movie shaped him.  As long as Mac Rauch is involved, I feel quite confident that a “new” BUCKAROO could be as startling as the original.

KH: BTILC was ahead of its time, in my opinion. What I’ve always wanted to know is, what the “western version” was like prior to your work on the script, and how much of the finished film remains your work?

WDR: The “western version” just didn’t work for anybody, sad to say.  It all seemed too distant…the Old West and the Asian occult, etc.  So I proposed moving it to a modern, familiar setting and swapping the hero’s horse for a big rig.  The pitch went over well, and, with a writers’ strike looming, I dug into the challenge of creating a contemporary script in about seven weeks, choosing to do that with a somewhat dim but hopefully lovable hero at the center.  The finished film stayed absolutely true to my screenplay, apart from the inevitable ad libs here and there.  Jack Burton’s John-Wayne cadences, though, are definitely nothing I wrote or endorsed.  John and Kurt settled on that themselves.

You asked me prior to this conversation: “Did you write the line or was it improvised: I feel pretty good. I’m not, uh, I’m not scared at all. I just feel kind of… feel kind of invincible?”

Turns out I did write it.  I wrote the whole script furiously in longhand in several spiral notebooks, and a typist transcribed them into script format.

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KH: There was a significant gap between Home for the Holidays and Stealth. I have interviewed many writers who talk of these periods. They say, it’s not that I wasn’t writing, it’s just my scripts weren’t getting made. Was that true of your career at the time?

WDR: Definitely.  I had movies actually green-lighted then cancelled when directors went over budget in pre-production.

KH: I understand Stealth was a troubled production.

WDR: STEALTH was just a bizarre and massively unpleasant experience.  Directors and location scouts shouldn’t rewrite writers, if you want my opinion.  Kind of like Presidents shouldn’t tweet.

KH: Did your involvement end after the writing?

WDR: The “writing” never really stopped.  I was removed from the picture several times when my revisions failed to please the director.  But I was repeatedly brought back by the studio to pull the script back from the brink after the director (who shall remain nameless) had worked it over again in his spare time.  It’s the only film I’ve had made that, with great care, I kept my distance from during production and through release.

KH: I also love Needful Things. What was it like to adapt King?

WDR: Crazy.  The book is 690-pages of single-spaced prose.  My script was 124 pages, and you know how much “air” there is on a script page.  I figured that if one were to retype the novel in a crude screenplay format, it might easily hit 1000 pages.  So I lost roughly 876 pages while trying to keep King’s story and mood intact.  I have no sense of how that worked out because I’ve never reread the book, but I always imagined a looser, grittier, less-arch movie.

KH: Any advice you would give to a struggling screenwriter – not unlike myself?

WDR: Write.  Write.  Write.  But always try to imagine the movie itself playing to paying strangers.  Why would they — or you! — want to watch it?

KH: Sir it has been a profound honor to converse with you. I cherish the moment and humbly thank you.

WDR: Thank you, Kent. Take care.

Episode 46: SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER and Top Five John Travolta

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GIVEAWAY ALERT! Answer the trivia question that’s asked at the end of the podcast and a winner will be randomly selected and they will receive the newly released 4K transfer of SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER on blu ray! The winner will be announced when Frank and Ben return to for a STAYING ALIVE podcast!

Join Frank and Ben as they discuss John Badham’s SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER which they both just saw for the first time on the big screen due to a recent Fathom Events release. They also discuss John Travolta’s top performances.