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Gay Mafia Redux: The only thing he/she did was love another human being. I can't imagine why it's an issue?
Jack writes: If there's no gay mafia, then how did Victor Salva, a convicted child molestor, get a job directing for Disney?
JMT writes: If the fact that a convicted homosexual child molester was allowed to continue directing movies is supposed to prove that there is a gay mafia in Hollywood, then how do you explain the fact that convicted heterosexual child molester Roman Polanski is also allowed to continue to direct (in France, or someplace, since he's still a fugitive from justice here. Goddamn French . . . .)? Don't you think that the gay mafia, if there is one, would rather hire homosexual non-child molesters, homosexual child molesters, or, as a last resort, hetersexual non-child molesters, than heterosexual child molesters?
Luke says: If the only thing he/she did was love another human being, I can't imagine why it's an issue?
Let he who has not videotaped himself receiving oral sex from a twelve year old boy, let him throw the first stone.
Disney hired Victor Salva, a convicted child molester, to direct its movie Powder. When Salva's victim, Nathan Winters (now 20), publicized the hiring, some of the police officers who investigated the 1987 molestation were incredulous that Salva was working again as a movie director. "It just blows me away," said Officer Gary Primavera. "He has serious signs of being a pedophile." Responding to Winter's demand that Disney fire Salva, Disney's John Dreyer said, "What's the point other than you want to make headlines?" (Washington Times, 10/25/95)
SF Examiner 10/25/95: "He [director Victor Salva] paid for his crime [videotaping himself receiving sex from a 12-year old boy], he paid his debt to society," said Roger Birnbaum, head of Caravan Pictures who also recently produced "Dead Presidents" and "The Big Green."
"What happened eight years ago has nothing to do with this movie." Birnbaum said he was tipped about Salva's conviction halfway through filming "Powder" and confronted him. Told only the basics, Birnbaum elected to neither dismiss Salva nor inform the entire cast and crew. Instead, Birnbaum said, "Key production people were told to keep an eye out for anything, just in case." Nothing improper was observed, Birnbaum said.
From Minneapolis Star Tribune 5/26/95: The director of "Powder," a new Walt Disney film about a troubled teenager, is a convicted child molester who once videotaped himself having oral sex with a 12-year-old actor.
The film's release Friday in 1,200 U.S. theaters has prompted the molestation victim, Nathan Winters, now 20, to go public with his ordeal to protest Disney's employment of filmmaker Victor Salva. On Monday night, Winters and five friends picketed outside the industry screening of "Powder," handing out leaflets about Salva's conviction to hundreds of Hollywood executives.
"Please don't spend your money on this movie," the leaflets urged. "It would just go to line the pockets of this child molester."
Disney and the film's producer argue that Salva has served his time.
Salva confessed to having oral sex with Winters in 1987 while directing him in "Clownhouse," a low-budget film about three boys terrorized by clowns.
Salva, sentenced to three years in state prison, served 15 months and completed parole in 1992. Salva, 37, said in a prepared statement Tuesday that he regrets his actions. "I paid for my mistakes dearly," he said. "Now, nearly 10 years later, I am excited about my work as a filmmaker and look forward to continuing to make a positive contribution to our industry."
Roger Birnbaum, whose Caravan Pictures made "Powder" for Disney, said: "He paid for his crime; he paid his debt to society. What happened eight years ago has nothing to do with this movie."
Salva won the director's job for "Powder" because Birnbaum was so impressed by his original script. The movie is the story of a boy with telekinetic powers and pure white skin, which repels his peers.
The actor who plays the teenage Powder, Sean Patrick Flanery, is 29, but Birnbaum said Monday he could not state definitively whether all others in the youthful cast were 18 or older.
LA TIMES 5/3/97: Reports that the actor [Harrison Ford] was upset with her revelation [costar Anne Heche's lesbianism] are unfounded, says Roger Birnbaum, chairman of Caravan Pictures. "Harrison, director Ivan Reitman and I all found out about Anne's homosexuality before we hired her and it made no difference to us, " he said. "Harrison had veto power over casting and was immediately supportive. If Anne did something heinous, that might interfere with the public's ability to accept her in the role. The only thing she did was love another human being. . . . I can't imagine why it's an issue."
From the 5/14/95 Toronto Sun: MINNIE KNOWS: Is there a corporation anywhere on our corrupt planet more obsessed with fostering and maintaining a straight-arrow, family-values image than Disney? Of course not. But Buzz, a lively monthly out of Los Angeles - it's sort of like Toronto Life but more fun - says in its cover story that a lot of people who push the squeaky-clean, mom-dad-two-kids-plus-dog, relentlessly upbeat Disney image are more than just cheerful, gang: they're gladly, joyously gay. Yes, kiddies, as many as 40 per cent of Disney's 63,000 troops are gay. Yeah? Who says so, I can hear you asking. Well, how about Disney chairman Michael Eisner, who gave this estimate to a gay-rights activist. Working for the far-flung Disney kingdom is "magic," says one gay employee. Recently, a gay and lesbian pride day was held at Walt Disney World and 12,000 showed up, walking down the streets of the Magic Kingdom "holding hands, embracing, and kissing."
Dear Rabbi, What Should I do About Kids Watching Hard R Movies?
Amalek18: I remember watching Blue Velvet in a theatre, and cringing at the presence of little kids watching along side with their welfare mother skank.
Producer Si Litvinoff on the Art of the Interview
Producer Si Litvinoff writes: YOU ARE NOT AN ACCURATE REPORTER-YOU CHANGE CONTEXT-AS ONE WHO PRACTISED LAW FOR 12 YEARS ON BEHALF OF SUPERIOR TALENTS OF CELEBRITY I AM CONFIDENT IN MY GRAMMAR AND SPELLING-INTERVIEW RESPONSES TO GOOD JOURNALISTS ARE NOT REWRITTEN TO SUIT THE INTERVIEWERS EDUCATION OR IN YOUR CASE-THE LACK THEREOF-I WOULD LIKE TO KNOW WHAT SPELLING ERRORS OR ERRORS OF GRAMMAR YOU HAVE FOUND THAT IN YOUR MIND REQUIRED CHANGE-ONCE AGAIN EITHER PRINT WHAT I SAID,AS PROMISED OR I WILL TAKE FURTHER ACTION INCLUDING TALKING TO THE MANY FRIENDS OF MINE WHO YOU HAVE INTERVIEWED WHO I AM SURE HAVE GIVEN YOU INTERVIEWS FOR A SUPPOSED BOOK AND WHO ARE NOT YET AWARE THAT THEY ARE BEING USED ON YOUR WEBSITE-AND I AM SURE THAT MOST DO NOT WISH TO FIND THEIR RESPONSES TO YOU CHANGED BY YOU AND WILL REACT AS I DO-THE DIFFERENCE HOWEVER IN MY CASE IS THAT MY INTERVIEW(FOR A BOOK)WAS CONTINGENT UPON YOUR PRIOR AGREEMENT TO PRINT WHAT I WROTE WITH NO CHANGES-SL
INTERVIEWS ARE NOT BIOGRAPHIES-BIOGRAPHIES PRESENT THE VOICE OF THE BIOGRAPHER-INTERVIEWS ARE SUPPOSED TO PRESENT THE ACTUAL VOICE OF THE INTERVIEWEE-THAT IS WHY IN AN INTERVIEW BY GOOD INTERVIEWERS (LIKE MY FORMER CLIENTS,GEORGE PLIMPTON(PARIS REVIEW),BERNARD GIQUEL(PARIS MATCH),ANDY WARHOL(INTERVIEW),TERRY SOUTHERN(ESQUIRE)RICHARD SEAVER(EVERGREEN)AND OTHERS LIKE DOMINICK DUNNE(VANITY FAIR) AND JAMES BRADY(PARADE) PROVIDE THE ACTUAL UNEDITED RESPONSES SURROUNDED BY QUOTATION MARKS!!!!! AN INTERVIEW IS AKIN TO AN AUTOBIGRAPHY NOT A BIOGRAPHY THE LENGTH OF A SENTENCE OR A PARAGRAPH IS OF NO CONSEQUENCE IF SURROUNDED BY QUOTATION MARKS-THAT REPRESENTS THE ACTUALVOICE OF THE INTERVIEWEE- OTHERWISE ALL OF YOUR SO CALLED INTERVIEWS WOULD HAVE ONE VOICE-YOURS-AND THAT IS NOT AN INTERVIEW-EVERY BEGINNER IN ANY COLLEGE JOURNALISM #1 LEARNS THAT!!!A SEARCH FOR CLEAR,CRISP SHORT ACCURATE SENTENCES IS A REQUIREMENT FOR NEWS REPORTING BUT NOT FOR GOOD INTERVIEWS.BEST YOU START LOOKING AT THE WORK OF THE GOOD INTERVIEWERS-SL
Martin Brimmer writes: Luke Ford is trying his old tricks on mainstream Hollywood as he interviews scores of producers for his nebulous “book about Hollywood producers.”
Problem is that old cut and paste, rearrange-comments-any-way-I-see-fit style of writing that Luke employs does not tickle the funny bone of Tinsel Town movers and shakers.
Luke recently interviewed Si Litvinoff, producer of the classic films The Man Who Fell To Earth, Walkabout, and Kubrick’s masterful A Clockwork Orange. Litvinoff was livid with the interview as it appeared on lukeford.net and sent Luke the following angry missive on Sunday (the caps are from Litvinoff’s original message)...
Ah, the same old Luke we know and love. As a friend, I feel qualified to comment that Luke’s most enormous problem is not his conflict with his father that has scarred him so deeply and compelled him to run toward a religious faith that he was not born to, nor is it his misogyny that is so deeply-rooted in the death of his natural mother. No. Neither of those. Luke’s biggest error is in thinking that he is a writer.
As the esteemed Litvinoff points out, that occupation - like Judaism - is something that Luke Ford was not born with a gift for. Oh sure, there was the book that Luke wrote but it was accepted by the publisher with no remuneration up front and I doubt that Luke has made enough cash off A History of X to buy a month’s supply of yarmulkes.
Luke’s own ego is so enormous it obscures everything else he should be observing and making careful note of, such as the fact that if he continues to piss off and antagonize the Hollywood crowd he will find himself isolated in ways he has never thought of.
Wanna write for the magazines, Luke? You might care to take a gander at how many of them are owned by media conglomerates that also own the movie studios that the producers you irk work for. Same goes for book publishing houses.
Watch your step, my friend, or you’ll be on the next Greyhound back to Auburn.
Khunrum writes: I see nothing wrong with Luke's writing. Just as James Dean was a "method" actor I believe Luke is a "method" writer. One has to search out the performance just as we had to with Dean. The obvious is not always what Luke has intended for the reader. If Luke has a problem it is with subject matter. He is writing about "producers" nobody cares to hear about. What's more, most of these people have not produced anything in the past twenty-five years. Imagine a book about producers who don't produce? Non-Producers as it were.
As for this Brimmer person I suggest he change his name to Bummer. He is clearly jealous of Luke's professional stature. It is extremely rude to bring up Luke's personal family life and various afflictions. I suggest that Brimmer is an extremely sick man. Probably a bed wetter. Does he have a book of his own on the market? How humiliating it must be to rise each morning and have to write under the banner of Luke Ford.com for a living. Let us hope that this person finds an identity of his own someday. Perhaps then, his bitterness will disappear.
LA Times' Rachel Abramowitz
I've long found the articles by LA Times Hollywood correspondent Rachel Abramowitz, the not-quite-up-to-it replacement for Amy Wallace, tame and lame.
Now I realize she wrote a PC-titled book: Is That a Gun in Your Pocket? Women's Experience of Power in Hollywood.
From the 7/5/02 SF Chronicle: "It is incredibly discouraging that you have three female studio heads but the studios are still unwilling to entrust a $50m movie into the hands of a woman," said Ms Abramowitz, who added that even in the independent sector the situation was not much different. She said that although there was near parity between men and women in film schools, this was not translating itself into directors' jobs for women. Many of the young men who were making it as first-time directors were hired on the basis of their video work, said Ms Abramowitz, but this did not seem to be an avenue open to women. "I think there is still more pleasure in hiring a boy genius than a girl genius."
Why doesn't Abramowitz find it discouraging that there are no conservatives or evangelical Christians or Orthodox Jews entrusted to direct $50 million movies?
Tom writes on Soc.men: The below article is from the LA times Saturday [by Rachel Abramowitz]. You can believe there is a "gay mafia" in Hollywood, and the rest of the country for that matter, but it's more effective in Hollywood because of the greater numbers of them there. The reaction to this story is an object lesson in how the gay mafia has gained and maintained their power. It's all on the up and up and has to do with PC and their powerful coalition with the feminists. It's an informal kind of brow beating and a ganging up by harpies and gays agaisnt the offender which ultimately leads to social isolation and career losses. Even the McCarthyites of the Fifties pale in comparison to the "gay mafia" and their allies the feminists.
To sophisticates out there, notice how this journalist spins things to shame Ovitz and portray him as an outcast in the Hollywood community. She will truly be a darling of the gay community and her career furthered. I know, it's just the way things work and it could be worse if we had family and men's advocates doing the same. Great day when that happens!!
Writers are making more of this obvious force behind the speech control of PC, the gays and lesbo-feminists, who in turn control vast segments of the population and politics in doing so. The suckers need to be called on this bullshit that's running the country and all we have doing it are some poor and oppressed musicians like Eminem or the Offspring. Yeah, I know, they have money now, and rightfully so, but most of us get the boot by society when we challenge it. Outbursts of anger have been going on dramatically in social events for ten full years and it's obvious, yet do you see any media commentary on it other than dismiss it as "homophobes", "racists", "sexists" or "crazed malcontents and terrorists"? I mean really, what do I say to my kids about this society when this bullshit is going on?
Rachel Abramowitz writes: Ovitz's self-immolation in the pages of the August issue of Vanity Fair, in which he claims a "gay mafia" engineered his downfall, has flared up higher than any Westside barbecue. It's just the kind of delicious gossip that passes for communal bonding here; despite what Ovitz might say, hatred of Mike Ovitz crosses all class and clique lines. It's an enmity that links all the warring social groups that make up Hollywood. Indeed, those truly in the know are already talking about what author Bryan Burrough cut out of the piece, allegedly vile and incendiary remarks by the onetime super agent that never would get by any libel lawyer. "That's the Holy Grail. The unedited tapes," one top executive says with a sigh.
"Seriously, the man's ego has just taken over," says another top producer. "If he actually thinks there's a cabal formed with the sole intention of destroying him, that's an ego at work."
"It's one of the most pathetic throwings of blame I've ever read. It was so weird and homophobic. What kookiness," says another top player. "I think people are just fascinated by this incredible fall from grace, that no matter how powerful you are it can all be gone in a blink of an eye. It's also the reminder that maybe karma really does matter."
To most, Ovitz's "gay mafia" comment was just more evidence of how out of step he was with the times, at least in Hollywood. "Public homophobia is out of style," notes one top executive. "It's in very bad taste. It's like going around making racist comments."
MAERAS writes on alt.tv.xena: "There's a good book of interviews with female Hollywood power players, like Dawn Steel- the only woman who's ever been CEO of a major movie studio, called "Is That a Gun in Your Pocket?: Women's Experience of Power in Hollywood," by Rachel Abramowitz. It's pretty funny - very irreverent towards the prima donnas and divas, like La Streisand, etc. There are very real problems in Hollywood, which make even the most powerful women frustrated as hell, and it talks about them without pulling the punches. And it talks about how it's tied up in why men in Hollywood feel just as frustrated, or end up completely self-destructing, and why so many potentially good movies end up being crap."
From Rush & Molloy in the New York Daily News June, 2000: Don't try to flatter Barbra Streisand. It may only make her mad.
Rachel Abramowitz' new book "Is that a Gun In Your Pocket?" hails her for battling the male Hollywood establishment. But we hear Babs didn't appreciate the description of her as "a funny-looking, fatherless, Jewish girl from New York, who deemed herself pretty and triumphed through chutzpah."
Streisand had no sooner put the book down than she got hold of Abramowitz' home number and blasted her. "Rachel was stunned to hear Barbra on the other end of the receiver," a friend says. "Streisand said to her: 'Are you one of those women who are jealous of other women? How could you have written such a book?'"
"Rachel tried to calm Barbra down and tell her to look at the book as a whole," says our source.
"But Barbra said, 'Well it's hard to look at the big picture at this moment.'"
Streisand's rep confirms Streisand's call. "Rachel submitted questions to Barbra," says Streisand rep Dick Guttman, "and quoted her accurately. But she also used a number of stories from books that were salacious and fallacious. Barbra said, 'You were talking to me! Why didn't you check those stories?' "Abramowitz declined to comment.
Many people wonder why my writing has become so boring. The fault is not mine but America's.
Because of the despotism of the Oral Law, I am no longer permitted to receive the kinds of rewards that made my previous, more dynamic writing, worth the effort.
There are a number of factors that mitigate against my producing quality work. We're an ahistoric culture. There's a despotism of the present. We're a reductive culture. Everything is reduced to compressed, simple, intense ideas. I think that's the influence of advertising and the exponential growth of information. The only way to take in all this information is to compress it. Unfortunately, we've lost essential information in the process.
We've lost the deliberation of information and knowledge. The kind of knowledge we receive does not permit us reflection. There is no contemplation any longer. There's certainly no contemplation in popular art, film or television. There's not only an intellectual change in the way we perceive things, but thanks to the introduction of the computer, there's a sensory change in the way we receive information. We're no longer a linear, sequential, chronological. We're now a random binary culture. Thanks to video games and music videos, our narrative structure has been altered significantly.
Why we can't deal with other kinds of information is of interest to me. American culture defends itself against pain and suffering and history, loss, death and ultimately life. We're a death-denying culture. We're a life-denying culture. We're a sex-denying culture. This is a residue of the fact that we're fundamentally a Protestant culture and therefore we're a culture that is sexually guilty and bodily shameful.
There is no willingness in America to deal with dark intent. We had artists who did - Edgar Alan Poe, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Mailer - but they don't speak any longer to the culture. American life has been homogenized and sanitized. We're the residue of an English culture. Remember the E.M. Forster comment about the English not being disposed to accepting human nature.
I think that most of it has to do with sexual guilt. I have always felt there's a relationship between sexual repression and the violence that is so endemic to American culture. One part of American's fascination with horror is that horror is basically sexual projection. If there was a greater genuine sexual permissiveness, we would be less violent. The moralistic self-righteous critics of American culture say there is too much permissiveness. I find that to be a coy permissiveness. It's manufactured. It doesn't allow the genuineness, the pain, the raggedness of real emotion and therefore sexuality.
Our notions of beauty have become artificial. The constructed, the manufactered, the augmented breasts, is now what is perceived as the ideal. The human, the regular, the slightly misformed is repressed and denied. This is a residue of the Protestantism of the American culture. One of the premises of that approach was grace through good works and purification and that we are a very insistently self-improving culture. This process of self amelioration denies and attempts to cleanse human nature, which I think is impossible.
It's not unlike when Marquis De Sade wrote.
Producer David Friendly
I interviewed producer David Friendly (born 5/1/56) of Deep River Productions on July 9, 2002.
David: "Normally when I talk to a reporter, I have a single agenda. And I stick to my script, no matter what question I'm asked. This is different because it's for a book. But you have to be careful in what you say for publication. I've said a throwaway line and it has come back to haunt me."
On background, Friendly gives me a sizzling example.
Luke: "Good quote."
David: "It was a good quote but it was upsetting to them. I busted them a bit. And in the end I thought, 'Not very smart.' I wouldn't do it again because I need to work with these people. I'm getting a minute of pleasure for a pithy quote that ultimately could've endangered my long-term relationship.
"I inherited my father's tendency to sometimes say what is on my mind. Because that was an issue that bugged me."
Luke: "Like Ovitz and the Gay Mafia quote. Many people in the industry talk about the Gay Mafia, they just don't do it on the record."
David: "Exactly. And for good reason."
Luke: "Because you get your head handed to you."
David laughs: "Your job is to get those people to say those things that they wouldn't normally say."
We discuss my first book about sex in film.
David: "I know people who are adverse to doing a movie with any action. They're not into violence on the screen. They feel it contributes to violence in the culture. So you say, well, you can do comedy and drama. But look at what movies are working today. Bourne Identity. The Minority Report. Action is a big part of the American movie-going experience. And so is sex. Imagine if you had to eliminate that. You'd be fighting with one hand behind your back against people using two hands.
"So what's your thesis in this book?"
Luke: "I don't have one. Just that it is about the different kinds of producers."
David: "There is no specific definition of a modern day producer. Many producers do it in different ways and many of them are successful are doing it differently. I was trained under Brian Grazer. He was my mentor and boss and the person who recruited me from the halls of journalism into the plusher halls of show business. Brian is a very different producer from a Scott Rudin who is very different from Jerry Bruckheimer. Yet they are all wildly successful.
"I have been intimately involved in all my movies. And I want to change this so I can make more movies. I'm not trusting enough to turn that over to other people. But the guys that get five movies a year done have whole systems so they can delegate. I'm trying to get to that place because I have aspirations to be a bigger producer. But I've found that it is highly important to be around all phases of producing a movie.
"For instance, on Big Momma's House, I sat next to Director Raja Gosnell every day, from first shot to last shot. It was good to have a second opinion there. Directors get so caught up in the technical and what they need to accomplish to have the scenes cut together that it is good to have somebody like a producer sitting there to say that this didn't play quite as funny as we thought... Or did you notice that he's wearing the hat differently in this take... It's good to have someone to manage the outsized personalities.
"Some producers don't go to the set. You can't criticize it. It's just a different way of doing it.
"For me, the creative satisfaction is having input in the process. If I'm not there, it's hard to have input, either in the present or later, because you don't have the credibility of having been around. For example, Betty Thomas, who directed Dr. Dolittle, is a character. She's eccentric, prickly and funny with strong opinions. We would dailies every day on this eight-wheeler truck. If you weren't at dailies, how would you possibly have a strong point of view about how you wanted to shoot the movie? Unless your philosophy is: I develop the project. I put the elements together. I let them go make the movie."
Luke: "Like Bob Kosberg, the pitch man."
David: "He sells ideas. That's different from producing."
Luke: "He still gets the credit."
David: "That's the thing that still makes producers a little crazy because you have this broad spectrum of people who call themselves producers. It's like anybody can have a business card printed and describe their occupation as producer. The people that I look up to - the Brian Grazers, the Doug Wicks, the Scott Rudins - these people are not here to go to premieres and cocktail parties. They're creating movies."
Luke: "But a Brian Grazer is not on the set."
David: "He has built an infrastructure. When he and Ron Howard were starting out, creating movies for Paramount together like Night Shift, he was on the set. But as his system grew, and he got more financial wherewithal, he was able to recruit a team of people he trusts and he lets them do their job. Who can quibble with his success?
"Dick Zanuck is about 75 years old and he goes to the sets. He lives on the movies he produces."
Luke: "What did you think of the movie The Player?"
David: "It was exaggerated. People have gone to great lengths to sell ideas in this town but the goofier approaches usually don't work. There was a point where David Permut sent out a pitch on videotape and he sold it.
"You can bracket the different types of producers. There are the salesmen [like David Permut, Bob Kosberg], the creative producers, the line producers... I pride myself on being a creative producer. On the first day of production, that becomes the director's movie. I get to come back in in post-production but when we're making the movie, there can be only one boss on that set. And that boss has to be the director.
"There's an old expression that in pre-production, the producer holds the gun. And on the first day of production, he hands the gun to the director. I live by that rule. My job is to keep that director calm and focused.
"When we were doing Courage Under Fire, I was in Texas with [Director] Ed Zwick. We were shooting a scene next to a private airport. It was an intense scene between Denzel Washington and Matt Damon. Denzel was interviewing this kid and finding out that he was hiding things about his drug use. Every take was getting blown by these little airplanes. After one particularly rough take that had been going well and then was blown because of sound, Ed Zwick took his headphones off, threw them to the ground and stamped on them. It was like watching a kid have a temper tantrum. Then he said, 'You're the f---ing producer. Do something about this.'
"To that point, he and I had this brother to brother relationship. I decided to send one of our PAs to the terminal, a 1000 yards away, with a walky talkie. And ask the air traffic controller to wait to send the planes between the takes. And it ended up working out.
"I left my home a week after my son was born and I spent six months in Texas on Courage Under Fire. My family joined me for one month."
Luke: "How did you meet your wife [Priscilla Nedd-Friendly]?"
David: "She's a film editor. I was an executive at Imagine Entertainment. I was overseeing The Dream Team starring Michael Keaton. We had a music supervisor named Becky Mancuso, who was a good friend of my wife. I was having dinner one night with Becky. She said, 'Oh, I want to bring this friend of mine.' It wasn't a setup or anything. We quickly struck up a relationship. We've been married eleven years."
Luke: "How do you feel about her having a hyphenated name?"
David: "It's fine with me. That's her choice. I love seeing her name on the credits with 'Friendly' at the end. I've learned about movies from being married to an editor. Studio executives want to have input but because they don't get to produce the movie or experience the editing process, their opportunities to have input are based on a couple of screenings. That's not to say their opinion isn't valid but it's not from within the eye of the storm.
"A producer like Jerry Bruckheimer is close to being a director. He's proactive, both in the process of making a movie and especially in post-production. In many of his movies, he'll work with directors who are controllable."
Luke: "When you were a kid, what were your career ambitions?"
David: "I grew up in the shadow of a famous journalist. My father was a larger-than-life human being devoted to his journalistic mission. I thought that was my path. I edited my high school newspaper. I went to Northwestern [outside of Chicago], which has an excellent journalism school. While at Northwestern, as a sophomore, I got the producing bug by becoming the concert chairman. I had an office and I was on the phones to the coast every day and I got Billboard magazine and I loved putting on a show. I produced concerts with the Beach Boys and Jethro Tull and The Grateful Dead. My ego came out. I made it part of the deal that any band played Northwestern, I had to introduce them or we wouldn't do the deal.
"At the same time, I produced a radio show that was hosted by the dean of the journalism school. When I graduated, I had a couple of offers to work for big Chicago concert promoters. But because of the influence of my father, and my major, it didn't seem serious enough. So at age 22, I got a summer internship at Newsweek and I stayed there for six years (1978-84). I was one of the youngest staff writers in the history of the magazine. It was a crazy job because they had reporters out in the field sending in files and then you as a staff writer compile everything and boil it down to six paragraphs. So from Monday to Thursday, you're sending out queries and monitoring the reporting, and then Friday morning, the pressure was on. It was not what I wanted to be doing. It froze me. It was too much too soon.
"I wanted to be a reporter, out in the field interviewing people. I didn't want to be sitting in a little office in New York writing up files. So I transferred to the LA Times covering Hollywood.
"What got frustrating for me as a journalist was that I got tired of observing life and I wanted to participate in life. I was 30 years old and I out interviewing people in my same age group who were driving BMWs and had big beautiful offices. And then I'd drive back to this windowless cubicle at the LA Times. It wasn't exciting enough for me. I had bigger dreams. And, I don't think I was as good at journalism as I wanted to be."
Luke: "You had a once-a-week column like Patrick Goldstein."
David: "Mine was called First Look. His is The Big Picture. I look at his column all the time and I can always tell when he was out of ideas and he does some story, like a couple of weeks ago, about a father-son producing team. You do that when you're stuck. That's just the run of the mill profile. I don't begrudge him. It's hard, even if it is just once a week, to come up with a good column."
Luke: "Did you break any stories?"
David: "I did a Sunday Calendar story about the leaders at Disney. I called them 'Team Disney' and the label wound up sticking. It was all about the new regime at Disney. The lead was about this black convertible mustang rolling into the lot at 6AM. It was all about Katzenberg and his crew. I was proud of the fact that they started calling themselves Team Disney.
"I also did a piece on why there hasn't been a Godfather III. Later there was one. I did some controversial stuff. My column got a lot of attention. I concentrated on the business. I wasn't interested in doing profiles of stars. I tried to give the reader a window into the day to day process of movie making.
"I did a piece about writer Dale Launer (Ruthless People, Blind Date). He didn't have an agent. He did his own deals. David Permut was producing Blind Date with him. And I published Launer's fee, which at the time was about $150,000. The head of the studio, Jeff Sagansky, didn't want that published. That was the angriest any source got at me. I remember holding the phone two feet from my ear, with Jeff screaming away: 'You've made it impossible for Tri-Star to do business in this town.' It was like something out of a movie. It was great. And all I'd done was print the number that David Permut had shown me."
Luke: "Were you ever conscious of writing beat sweeteners?"
David: "I've never heard that term. It's great. A story that would help your relationship with an important source. I don't think I ever consciously set out to do a puff piece on a guy, but there were people I was definitely seduced by. My favorite source was veteran producer Larry Gordon. He always spoke the truth from his standpoint and he is an incredible raconteur. He represented what appealed to me about the movie business - large than life characters who were fearless. This guy gave the best quotes. Everything was wrapped in a wonderful anecdote. There was a Southern accent on the end of the phone. He remains a good friend and a mentor. He was the kind of guy I'd give a lot of breaks to because he was so entertaining.
"The best ones understand that they have a job to do when they talk to the press, and that's to entertain.
"Some of these guys were just so tough. I remember going to a lunch at Paramount. And Barry Diller was running the studio. There were a couple of dozen people at the lunch. I was introduced to Barry Diller. I said to the head of publicity, Deborah Rosen, for five minutes with Mr. Diller for a piece. She told me to be at his office at 2:30PM. Now it was 1:15.
"So I went to his office. I walked in. He was sitting at this desk that devoid of any paper. He was looking at a legal pad. When I walked in, he said, 'And you are?' It was a naked power move. It was jarring to me. Why is he saying this to me? I had just met this guy an hour ago. And I'm the press, who everybody courts in this town. It rattled me. I don't remember what the story was about but I remember that moment because it was somebody demonstrating power and freezing you."
Luke: "Did you ever withhold writing something you believed to be true and accurate and you just didn't want to burn a source?"
David: "If something I thought was germane to the story, I'd figure out a way to tell it. If I had to shade it, by not identifying the source, I would say, 'one industry observer...' I wasn't out to embarrass people or cost anybody their job but I wrote some tough pieces."
Luke: "Did anyone you write about come back to haunt you as a producer?"
David: "No. In fact, the opposite. When I started working for Imagine, I had a two year deal. Shortly after I started in 1987, there was a writer's strike. You could not meet with writers. And when you're a young development executive, that is what you do. Your day is meeting writers. I was sitting in my office when I got this call from Brian Grazer. He said, 'What's going on?' I said, 'Not that much. I can't meet with any writers because of the strike.' And he said, 'Don't think we're going to keep you around just because there's a writers strike. You better go out and find a movie for us.' I was petrified. When I hung up the phone, I was shaking. I'd just given up a nine-year career in journalism and now I was being told that if I didn't find a movie, I was going to be out on my ass. I couldn't go back to journalism.
"I called a young agent at CAA. I said I need to get to other sources of movies. He said he'd slip me a list of every producer in Hollywood and I could go see if they had any projects they'd want to bring to Imagine. I got to Rafaella De Laurentiis, who I had profiled in my column. It had a famous picture of her with her feet up on her desk, barefoot. I called her. 'Rafaella, I've got to come see you. I'm coming over. I need a script.'
"I came to her office. She was running DEG at the time, DeLaurentiis Entertainment Group, for her father Dino. She said, 'Look, I don't really have anything that you would do. I've got this one movie about firemen but you guys wouldn't do it.' I said, 'Sounds great. Let me read it.' I read it and I gave it to Brian and Ron [Howard]. Over the weekend, everyone at the company read it. On Monday morning, they went around the table at the staff meeting. Everyone was dumping on it. It gets around to me. I said, 'I would make it. It's a strong concept. People are interested in what firemen do.' And Brian said, 'Yeah, I like it too and so does Ron.' Ron then took it on to direct.
"After the meeting, Brian came to my office and high fived me. So in a five day period, I went from the verge of being fired to being the hero. And a lot of that came from having a relationship with Rafaella."
Luke: "How did you come to Imagine?"
David: "About every Monday, I would call about 25 different people in the business. And Brian was one of them. He courted the press. After about two years at the LA Times, I was interested in crossing over. Somebody said to Brian, 'You could hire this guy.' We ended up having a drink at the Sportsmen's Lodge. We had another meeting and he offered me a job at his new company.
"It was a fantastic place to learn. Brian and Ron are two of the most successful people in the history of the business. I was there for seven years, eventually becoming president of production. But ultimately it is the Ron and Brian show, as it should be, and I hit the glass ceiling. I left there and partnered with John Davis, who was a producer at Fox. I wanted to produce movies. I didn't want to be just a guy running a company. There was no chance to have your own byline.
"John came after me to run his company and to produce the movies with him. In three years, we produced four movies together: Daylight, Out to Sea, Courage Under Fire and Dr. Dolittle.
"By going to live on the movie set of Courage Under Fire, my first call and last call of every day was to Laura Ziskin [who ran Fox 2000]. That was a difficult movie. Through that experience, Laura said I'd done a good job and she would give me a producing deal. I said, I definitely want that. And that's how I got the opportunity to open up Friendly Productions."
Luke: "Do producers share techniques with each other?"
David: "Producers talk to each other about challenges and frustrations and out of that you get a sense of how the other people do it. But like a good poker player, they're not going to give away all their moves. Different producers have different attitudes about it. I loved about Brian that he would go to movie theaters to watch movies with the public. He would not go to premieres. It made him uncomfortable to sit there with his competitors.
"You have these relationships with other producers but you're in friendly competition with them. Michael Caton-Jones is going to direct this movie I'm doing with Pierce Brosnan [Laws of Attraction]. Michael is off the market now. He's not available to other producers."
Luke: "Were you excited about all the movies you made or were some just a job?"
David: "I had a movie that didn't work, Here on Earth, but I was really passionate about it because it was my idea. Those are the ones that I get most excited about - when I generate the concept and turn it into an actual movie. Laws of Attraction is an idea of mine to do a modern day's Adams Rib about two divorce attorneys who can't stand each other and fall in love on opposite sides of the case.
"Once you decide to make a movie, you have to be passionate about it or it doesn't get made. Producing is pushing a boulder up a hill every day. And the boulder weighs two tons and I weigh 170 pounds. If I don't have the passion, I can't push that boulder up the hill. The studio or financier that greenlights the movie, if they don't sense that in the producer, they are not going to make the movie."
Luke: "Is it possible to make an intelligent movie at a studio?"
David: "It all depends. I look back on Courage Under Fire as a smart movie. Laura Ziskin championed the movie. It was a problematic story to tell because it had this rashamon quality. I come from the studio world. I'm now doing my first independent film, Little Miss Sunshine. I don't like vast generalizations of any kind. American Beauty was a studio movie. Good work comes from many different places."
David: "At the time, I wanted to attract a different kind of script than I had normally been associated with. Sometimes you say things that are salesmanship. We have a mix of movies here. There are the mainstream high concept comedies that are my bailiwick but we're also drawn to independent fare. My partner would rather make independent movies. But the mainstream movies pay the bills.
"I'm like every other producer. You're looking for a great script. You're looking for a script that wows you and seduces you. You don't categorize studio or independent. You're just trying to find good stories like a journalist is trying to find good stories. I don't think you set out to say, 'Well, this is where the story is going to come from.' You do 100 interviews and maybe the guy you did as a favor for somebody turns out to be the best interview. It's hard to go in and prefab the movie.
"What's great about independent features is that there are less rules. There are still plenty of rules but there are less of them. You can get away with more things and they don't have to be so event driven. Studios today are into event movies. Look at what's out there - Men in Black II, Stuart Little II. Sequels, high concept saleable entities that can become a theme park attraction. The independent world is more about interesting characters and dynamic situations but it doesn't have to be high concept.
"It's hard to get a movie made, like American Beauty, by a studio. But when it is made, it is great because they put the same marketing muscle behind it as they would behind a regular feature. The Road to Perdition looks like an independent movie that's being sold by a studio. That's the best of both worlds."
Luke: "Is your pecking order among your peers totally calibrated according to box office results?"
David: "I don't think so. Mark Johnson, for instance, is the epitome of the class producer. He's done a range of material. But he's not Jerry Bruckheimer. He doesn't have Jerry's economic success but I respect him equally. I'd like to achieve the economic success of a Brian Grazer or a Jerry Bruckheimer but I'm more drawn to the kinds of movies that Brian does than the movies that Jerry does.
"There are a handful of producers out there who can make what they want to make - Scott Rudin, Brian Grazer, Jerry Bruckheimer... When they call a studio head and say, 'I want to make this movie,' the studio head will generally trust their taste. That's true power because most of us have to sell all the time. Then the response comes back, 'The idea sounds good. Write the script. Get us a star.' You get the star and then you have to get a director."
Luke: "The movies you've made reflect you and your taste?"
David: "Somewhat. There are movies I would have liked to have made but haven't that I feel best reflect my taste. I wanted to produce Dr. Dolittle because at the time my kids were small and I wanted to make a movie that would make them smile and that they would watch over and over again.
"I love comedy. I find it to be a tonic for the world. But I like comedies with heart. I don't like doing big broad dumb comedy. Bob Simons has the market cornered on those. Growing up, I was drawn to much darker fare. I think the best movies our business has ever made were in the early '70s - The Deer Hunter, Serpico, Dog Day Afternoon, The French Connection, The Godfather. With all the technology and everything available to us today, I don't think the movies are as good. Yet I don't want to make those dark movies. I have a family now and I'm sheepish about violence. I'm not quite to the point where I think that violence in movies contributes to violence in society but I'm not drawn to: 'In this scene, do we want the guy strangled with a wire or we should just have him shove a knife into the back of his hand.'
"We change as people. You bring a family into the world and your tastes change and what you want out of a movie changes. I want to make movies that my kids can see. I'm proud of what I've done but I don't think I've done what I'm capable of doing."
Luke: "Another of the Variety stories about you said Deep River was seeking foreign partners. Have you found that?"
David: "No. One of the things you learn when you start a company from the scratch, the game plan is constantly in flux."
Luke: "In many ways, we have less freedom to create today than we did 30 years ago."
Luke: "Have you found yourself running into things that are forbidden?"
David: "Not really. Our tastes are mainstream. Little Miss Sunshine is a movie about a family going through a beauty pageant in south Florida with a little girl. We have to be very careful how we deal with that because of the Jon Benet Ramsey incident. It's not a movie about beauty pageants. It's a movie about a family coming together, but there's a scene at the end of the movie where she dances at a pageant and we have to be careful how we treat that. We've had a lot of discussion about that."
Luke: "Why are studios so afraid of themes of organized religion? In a country as religious as the United States, you'd think that if you wanted to make family entertainment, you'd do some religious themes."
David: "A lot of the conflict in the world today is based on religious differences. A lot of the terrorism that we're facing now has its origins in religion. Studios want to avoid risk. To them, the world of religion is fraught with risk. The Last Temptation of Christ..."
Luke: "That was a blasphemous movie... Most producers don't get it because they're not active in an organized religion."
David: "There was picketing and controversy but they had Marty Scorsese saying he wanted to make a movie and he's everybody's favorite director in this town. We don't turn him down.
"I've never been a particularly religious person. I grew up Jewish in New York. I went to Hebrew school. I was Bar Mitzvahed in a Reform temple. I take Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur off and go to services. My wife who is not Jewish comes with me and really enjoys it... So I'm now drawn to those projects. I don't find them entertaining. I associate religion with history. I wouldn't make a movie about history either unless it has great conflict at the center."
Luke: "Yet 40% of Americans go to religious services weekly."
David: "Bowling is the most popular sport in America, yet nobody is making bowling movies."
Thud, Thud, Thud
Chaim Amalek writes: It is getting so a man of my years cannot even enjoy one of the few simple pleasures of life left to him - fast food at Popeye's or Wendy's - without externalities intruding. I was on 14th street a few blocks from the ConEd transformers, having my lonely meal when the Con Ed transformers blew early this afternoon. This produced a muffled series of booms, immediately followed by a mighty column of smoke, and knocked out power across lower Manhattan. (I wish I lived there - seems thats where all the happenin' stuff is.)
Response of NYPD and NYFD was, as always, very impressive - FAST, massive, and well organized. We have a real army here, very much unlike LA, which would fall apart if anything happened. Indeed, not many cities in the US could handle this sort of thing with the same level of elan as NY.
The press was very cautious about reporting the story. For the first 45 minutes, I kept trying to get some info on the radio I had, with no luck. FM ignored the story, and I could not pick up any AM signals, even outdoors. You would think that with a gigantic fire going right in a residential area, and with F15 fighter jets doing low sweeps overhead, that they would be reporting something. But probably for the best. The way the stock market is, best to err on the side of silence.
That Sinking Feeling
Kenneth Turan writes in the Los Angeles Times: It's not that Hollywood doesn't know a good story when it sees one, it's that it doesn't trust that others will be equally discerning. For proof of that movie business theorem, look no further than "K-19: The Widowmaker."
No, the system hasn't completely wrecked this "inspired by actual events" story of undersea heroism in the face of near nuclear catastrophe. The tale is too potent, and the talents involved, from stars Harrison Ford and Liam Neeson to director Kathryn Bigelow, are too strong for that. Rather it's that "K-19's" determination to push hard for self-congratulatory morals and convenient resolutions undercut the film's strengths and make it more conventional.
Compared to the gold standard of submarine dramas, the crackling German "Das Boot," "K-19's" self-consciousness stands out in unfortunate relief, especially because the potential for something better is definitely there.
Two rabbis always said "Good Shabbos" to each other at shul. Finally the younger of the rabbi said to the older.. "What by you is a good Shabbos?"
The older replied "By me, a good Shabbos is when I wake up, have a good breakfast, go to shul, the bar mitzvah bocher does a good job, my sermon is received well, we have a kiddush, I have a schnaps, go home to lunch, a nap, a little studying, and then say Havdalah. That to me is a good Shabbos. And what is a good Shabbos to you?"
The younger rabbi says, "I wake up, turn over and my wife and I make mad passionate love... I then get up shower, get dressed, have breakfast, snuggle a bit with my wife, walk to shul, do all the things you mentioned in shul, come home and my wife and I jump into bed and make mad passionate leave. We have lunch, go back to bed, snuggle a little bit, go out for a walk hand in hand, come home, hop into bed and make mad passionate love. Wake up, I study a bit, and my wife and I snuggle and hold each other and kiss a lot, and sometimes we make mad passionate love. Then I make Havdalah. And that by me is a good Shabbos."
"That is not a good Shabbos," says the older rabbi. "That is a GREAT Shabbos."
Amalek18: I suppose that now that you have found a CHRISTIAN, you no longer need to seek out a jewish woman to love, with her meatier thighs, curly black hair, and feminist wiles
Producer Carl Craig
I talked to producer Carl Craig at his office on Wilshire Blvd June 7, 2002. He's a smart, genial, light-skinned black man.
Carl: "I grew up in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. I had five brothers. My father was a music professor at Southern University. I was into music as a kid. I was deemed a child prodigy. Because he pushed me too hard, I backed off by the ninth grade. I was playing the trumpet in concerts at Southern University. I went to Southern University High School. The student body at the highschool and college was 5% white and 95% black.
"I made some adaptions to this Vandegraf generator. The U.S. Navy flew me out to Los Angeles on an F-16 plane in the ninth grade and gave me an award.
"I went to the University of Rochester, which was predominantly Jewish. I studied mechanical engineering. It was more theoretical than practical, so I switched my major to English and Drama. I graduated in 1976.
"I moved to New York and worked with the critically acclaimed dramatic group the Negro Ensemble Company (NEC). It was my first interview where I spoke to someone through a mirror. I performed in several off-Broadway plays with NEC."
Luke: "Can you pass as white?"
Carl: "I haven't but I'm sure that I could. I remember when I was doing extra work in New York, this producer comes up to the extras casting person right in front of me says, 'I thought I ordered black people.' And I turned around and said, 'I am black.' And he replied, 'Look at you. My skin is just as dark as yours.' He really irritated me so I said, 'Where's the f--king mop? Because I know you're going to give me a janitorial job.'
"A couple of times when I went to auditions, I'd go up to the receptionist who'd send me to the white audition. That led me to not want to audition for people as much anymore. That's when Robert Townsend and I got together and we started to make Hollywood Shuffle [released in 1987]."
Sonic writes on Imdb.com: "Robert Townsend has made a great movie about the stereotyping of blacks in Hollywood. The movie mocks both the people who created the stereotypes, and the stereotypes themselves. A lot of great little sketches are spliced in among the main plotline, and they all are....I can't think of a better word than wacky. They're all wacky. The movie also has Keenan Ivory Wayans, and Damon Wayans (if you look closely). A great movie, especially for the miniscule $100,000.00 budget."
Carl: "My brother lives in Norway. He says, 'I guess I'll never see that film.' And that was the first place it opened overseas."
Luke: "What's your brother doing in Norway?"
Carl: "His wife is Norwegian. He was an attorney here. The only way he could work there was to learn the language, so he started teaching law. Now he's writing Norwegian law books.
"We worked on Hollywood Shuffle for two years. After the first year, Robert Townsend noticed that the little boy who was playing his brother Roy was getting older. So we realized that we had to finish. I was living in New York at the time and I'd fly to LA so we could shoot on the weekends. We started to panic because we were running out of his money.
"One day I was listening to talk radio as I drove from New York to New Jersey. And this guy talked about how he bought his dreamhouse. He said he had a good job and he had credit cards, he just didn't have the bulk money for the down payment. He got about 30 credit cards, and on each he took out a $3000 advance. And he ended up paying in full for the entire house. He then extracted the equity from the house to get a bank loan to pay back his credit cards.
"That's when I called up Robert. 'Dude, I've got an idea. Let's do it on credit cards. I see credit cards coming in your box all the time.' I explained the theory to him. He asked, 'What happens if nobody buys it?' I said, 'That's a chance we're going to have to take.'
"The last distributor that we looked at, Samuel Goldwyn, bought the film. Samuel Goldwyn told us, 'My gut tells me this is funny. I don't get it because I'm an old Jew.' The movie grossed about $8 million domestically.
"Our actors worked for two years without getting any money. So when we got the movie picked up, we had to pay them SAG wages. A lot of them were going to get into trouble with SAG because we'd never gotten releases. So with the attorneys from Samuel Goldwyn, we were sitting in a meeting with SAG. One. We had to get some people in the union. Two. We had to get people in the union out of trouble with the union.
"So we got permission. We said there hasn't been a black film in ages. Our attorneys said they wanted the low-budget rate for the actors. SAG said, 'Let us think about it.' We all get up and leave. Then Robert and I go back in the room and ask SAG to talk to them for a minute. 'These guys have worked long and hard. They've waited for their money. They should at least get the regular rate. We know that it is the right thing according to your rules but we don't agree with it.' So we ended up getting them the higher rate [about 30% higher].
"When the Samuel Goldwyn attorneys came back the next day and they were told they had to pay the actors the higher rate, the attorneys got mad. SAG said, 'Take it or leave it. The higher rate.' And then they started repeating what we'd said to them.
"HBO saw Hollywood Shuffle and asked Robert to do a special, Partners in Crime. We won an ACE award for it. After that, Robert went off to Jamaica to do The Mighty Quinn with Denzel Washington. Keenyan [Ivory Wayans] and I got together and made [the 1988 movie] I'm Gonna Git You Sucker."
Luke: "Are you happy making movies targeted at a black audience or would you rather branch out?"
Carl: "I'd rather branch out in two ways. One, I like universal humor. Two, I think that most of the comedy I've done in the past has been linear. It's usually someone running into money problems so they have to throw a party, like House Party III. The Players Club (1998) was about exploring power levels in a strip joint."
Dale Roberson writes on Imdb.com: "This is basically a black, very superior version of "Striptease" and "Showgirls." It's not as sexy as "Showgirls," but what I really looked for was a better plot. This had one. LisaRaye gave an impressive debut performance as a college student trying to make ends meet. Bernie Mac can make the most dramatic piece of dialogue into stand-up comedy with his extraordinary vocal strength and stamina. I was very impressed with Ice Cube, his writing-directing debut, because, honestly, I didn't know he was capable. I like how he staged the scenes and built suspense. The great thing about it is that there is a considerable amount of violence, but no one is killed. For once, a black film where everyone lives. Another thing, this movie has the best, most vicious catfight I have ever seen."
Carl: "No matter how big and powerful you think you are, you always answer to somebody else. That goes from the lowly stripper, the queen of all the strippers, who had to answer to owner Bernie Mac, who had to answer to the thug that loaned him the money for the place. It wasn't all about the sex and the stripping.
"I knew Ice Cube from my experience making videos with NWA (rap group Niggas With Attitude). They made a song years ago called 'F--- the Police.' That was how they got on the map. They couldn't perform that song in certain states or they'd get arrested.
"Hollywood Shuffle made me want to put out new actors. When I did House Party 3, I didn't want to use Bernie Mac because I'd used him in Mo' Money (1992). Chris Tucker made his debut in House Party 3. Ice Cube saw him in House Party and decided to use him in Friday (1995) where he blew up."
Luke: "Which of your movies have had the most meaning for you?"
Carl: "Between Hollywood Shuffle and The Players Club. In Players Club, the girl was struggling. She was being a stripper, going to school, and trying to make something out of her life. I always try to give audiences the message that no matter how hard it gets, you can fight through. I always try to bring a sense of heroism to the party. This film might've inspired one girl a little too much."
Carl: "The movie says that you have to fight for your rights. When the movie came out, a young lady in Chicago was killed. You didn't hear much about it. The couple was walking out of the film. He called her a bitch and she stepped up and said you can't talk to me that way. And he killed her."
Luke: "Did you do a lot of research in strip clubs?"
Carl: "I did. All the way from Jamaica to Atlanta. It's all about power. I became knowledgeable and numb at the same time from going to strip clubs. I found that a lot of girls were going to school and trying to get out of the strip world but the money was too good. And beyond the money, it was the power they possessed over men. They couldn't give up the power. They loved to see the man's face drawn and the mouth open with desire and want. That was one image they couldn't get out of their mind.
"I learned how to turn strippers against strippers. Usually a stripper is empowered because she's got the booty. And when the guy goes in, the only power he has is the money. One day I was just screwing around. And when a girl asked me if I wanted a lap dance, I said no. But if she was pretty, I said, 'You sit right here. I'm going to get her to give you a lap dance.' Then I'd pay the other stripper to give her a lap dance. And I'd say, 'Now, close your eyes.' And I'm telling her what to do. And I'd use them against themselves."
Luke: "It's difficult to pick up a woman in a strip club."
Carl: "Exceedingly difficult because you are a john to them."
Luke: "Did you encounter girls who didn't want to give lap dances to black guys?"
Carl: "No. Green is the only color the girls are interested in.
"One club I went to in Atlanta got so desperate that they set up a little boxing ring and it was 'Knock a bitch out night.' Two strippers would put on the gloves and get in the ring, butt naked, and duke it out. None of them got hurt. But the idea was so repulsive. Titties flopping while they were trying to fight.
"It's the DJ's job to get people to spend. To invigorate it, he dropped the price to two lap dances for $5. 'Why the f--- is he going to say that sh--. I don't have any motherf---ing change.'"
Luke: "Most of the strip club chains are run by the mob."
Carl: "They are. They are the new pimps. The strip clubs are the new pimps. Some girls do farm out. Pimps and street walkers are a dying breed."
Luke: "What do you think are you strengths as a producer?"
Carl: "When I work on a project, I envision it as an organic piece. My strength is to muster all the organic pieces and make them fit. I work with people and make them gell and get what I want out of them. Usually what happens when you do a picture is that producers and directors become parents and workers become kids. And they desperately jump up and down and say, 'See. See what I did today. See what I am going to do tomorrow.' You have to recognize that they need attention and you have to give it to them because it feeds them to give you more.
"I remember on The Players Club, I went to toe-to-toe with Ice Cube's partner [Patricia Charbonnet] from the beginning to three weeks into shooting. It was exhausting. One of the people that the exec wanted in a key position, I didn't want. But she made me fire my guy for her guy. From that point on, we were bickering back and forth. And this guy that she wanted was a troublemaker. He was a pot stirrer. I don't believe in that.
"There are two different types of producers. Some like to keep you on the edge, thinking that you are going to lose your job. He tried his tactics on a crafts service girl, which almost started a riot on the set. He wanted to fire her. She told the other crew people who came to me wanting to know what was going on. I knew the crafts service girl's husband had been diagnosed with cancer at the beginning of the shoot. She was late several times setting up. It annoyed that guy.
"I said to her, 'What do you need to make this work? Do you need to bring on an assistant?' I kept her on and I gave her another person to help her out. He wanted to fire her. I said, 'Dude, this is a movie we're making. We're not curing cancer. The more you have people with good vibes the more the picture will be successful. People can feel the energy and love that you put into it.'
"From that beat, the executive producer [Patricia Charbonnet] came to me and said, 'Ohmigod, I was so wrong about you. I see now how the crew loves you.' She took me out to dinner, Dom Perrignon, flowers and the whole nine yards. We buried the hatchet.
"I turned over all the financial stuff to the guy she insisted we hire. I said to her, 'Either he's the best guy in the world at handling money or you are over-budget.' And it turned out that we were over by $400,000 in a $5 million picture.
"When I did House Party 3, the director shot his whole wad in the first week of film. I get a call from New Line screaming at me. 'Either you get this under control or we will assigned somebody who will.' So I go to the director and ask him how he feels about the first week. He says he feels good.
"Then I say, 'Here's something I've always wanted to ask you. Who are some of the directors you admire?' He named Stan Latham among others. I called Stan. I asked for his help. I told him the situation. Stan comes over on Monday. 'Hey man, congratulations on your first movie. So what are you shooting today? Do you have a shot list I can see.' The director says, 'No, I do not have a shot list.'
"Stan reams him. You've got to have a shot list. And by the time it was all over, the next day, the director had a shot list and everything was under control. The director came from music video land. He felt like he could shoot all day.
"I knew the director wouldn't listen to me. Directors often think of the producer as their adversary.
"Editing can make or break a film. Music can sell a movie. It can lift you, take you down and swoop you around. What many first-time directors don't understand is that I am not paying $9 to see a mastershot, a medium shot and a close-up. I am paying for you to fuck with my head for 90-minute emotionally. I want you to make me laugh. I'm paying you for a psychological rollercoaster ride. And by the time it is all over, I want to feel strong and good. When you boil it all down, you're selling emotions. The pictures you put together should sell emotional beats and nothing more.
"That's why when M. Night did The Sixth Sense, all of those shots were long shots. He didn't bounce around with six different angles. He just sat there. And you got sucked into it. It worked for what he was trying to sell emotionally. Approach each scene in terms of what you are selling. When you sit down with your DP (Director of Photography), say I want to create a sadness with the scene. How can we light it? What angle will give us that?"
Luke: "What's the most desperate thing you've ever done to finish a movie?"
Carl: "I came close but I didn't do it. We came close to somebody coming off a plane with a brown paper bag filled with money to start a low-budget film I was doing with one of my video directors. He came to me and said, 'My family has the money.' We did one week of filming and I'm about $60,000 in debt. His family didn't come through. He says, 'I didn't want to tell you this but I know this guy out of New York. He sells things. Like? He sells drugs. So we've got drug money. Our last resort is to have this man go to his backyard and shovel some drug money out of the ground. Yes.
"We're up to $75,000. We start calling everybody [for money]. I went to Keenyan [Ivory Wayans]. 'Keenyan, I've got this lovely little film. It's only $300,000. We're already filming.' I send him the script. He calls me back. 'It is funny. I like it. Carl, I'd love invest in it but in this business, you use other people's money.' I broke up uncontrollably. I said, 'You are the other people now. Don't you get it? You are in the million dollar zone. I'm not. You're doing all the TV shows.'
"I went after a lot of the talent that had crossed over. You could hear it in their tone. I said to the director, 'Get your guy on the phone. We may need to send a shovel to his house.' Finally, we found another investor. A group of girls married to pro athletes who wanted to get into the film business.
"It's a cute film about the director's life, split into three guys.
"All my films have made money. I look at myself as a meter, as an emotional string. I reflect what the masses feel. I have a strong sense of empathy.
"Robert Townsend and I went our separate ways in 1988. Now we're talking about working together again. He has to stay in touch with what people want and instead of a fantasy world. We work together well. A lot of our best moments in our films he wanted to take out.
"I just saw Undercover Brother. I was disappointed. It wasn't based on reality. It relied too much on racial humor. A movie can't survive on drawing differences between the brothers and the white man. It's like Tom Hanks in Money Pit. The whole movie was based around one thing - that the house he bought was always sucking up money."
Kate Coe writes: I worked with Carl Craig on the very short-lived ICE-TV, which was a talk show for HBo starring Ice-T. Carl was the best--the show was way too radical and strange for HBO, and eventually ended up on Britain's Channel 4.