Transcript: How Movies Are Sold | Oct 13, 1988

Elwy appears in the studio. He’s in his fifties, mostly bald with some dark hair on the sides, and he has a moustache. He wears glasses, sand trousers, a brown silk shirt with dots and a yellow cardigan. He hosts the program sitting on a chair against a black background with a red film reel. The reel reads “Talking Film” several times, alternately in white and orange. Elwy holds some memory notes on his lap.

Elwy says ONE OF THE MOST POPULAR
FORUMS OF ENTERTAINMENT IS
MOVING-GOING.
OVER THE LAST FEW YEARS, WE'VE
WITNESSED THE PHENOMENAL
SUCCESS OF PICTURES LIKE
THE
GODFATHER, JAWS,
STAR WARS
AND
CLOSE ENCOUNTERS
OF THE THIRD KIND.
HOW MANY OF US HAVE NOT
STOOD IN A THEATRE LINE-UP,
BOUGHT TICKETS, AND
GONE TO SEE A MOVIE?
OUR PROGRAM TONIGHT IS ABOUT
THE DEVICES EMPLOYED BY THE
MOTION PICTURE INDUSTRY TO
ENTICE US INTO THOSE LINE-UPS
AND TO BUY THOSE TICKETS.
ON THIS PROGRAM, FILM
DIRECTORS WILL DEAL WITH
VARIOUS ASPECTS OF
THE WHOLE INDUSTRY.
THEY'LL TALK ABOUT THE
MARKETING OF FILMS,
THE IMPORTANCE OF PROFITS,
AND THE CONTROL THEY HAVE
OVER JUST EXACTLY HOW
THEIR PICTURES ARE SOLD.
HERE ARE SYDNEY POLLACK,
ROBERT ALTMAN, JOHN MILIUS,
AND ROGER CORMAN
TALKING FILM.

A caption reads “Sydney Pollack. Director. Three days of the condor.”

Sydney is in his mid-forties, clean-shaven and with short curly brown hair. He wears jeans, a pale blue shirt and a pair of sunglasses.

He says I DON'T SEE ANYTHING
OBJECTIONABLE IF IT IS
TELLING THE TRUTH.
BUT I THINK IT'S VERY,
VERY DESTRUCTIVE
TO MISREPRESENT A FILM.
IF YOU TAKE A FILM THAT CAN'T
DELIVER WHAT YOU PROMISE AN
AUDIENCE THAT ITS GOING TO
DELIVER, YOU ARE GOING TO HAVE
WHAT REALLY IS THE WORST
PUBLICITY IN THE WORLD,
AND THAT'S A
DISSATISFIED AUDIENCE.
YOU CAN SPEND 150,000 DOLLARS ON
PUBLICITY, AND IF YOU HAVE 500
DISSATISFIED PEOPLE WHO HAVE
SEEN THE PICTURE, THEY ARE
GOING TO CANCEL OUT EVERY
NICKEL THAT YOU'VE SPENT.
IF, ON THE OTHER HAND, THE
PUBLICITY DOES REPRESENT,
IN TRUTH, WHAT THE
PICTURE CAN DELIVER,
I SEE NOTHING WRONG WITH IT.
I'M ALL FOR ADVERTISING FILMS
AND TRYING TO EDUCATE, IF I
CAN USE A HIGHFALUTIN WORD
IN RELATION TO ADVERTISING,
EDUCATE AN AUDIENCE IN TERMS
OF WHAT TO EXPECT WITH A FILM.
THERE ARE MANY, MANY VERY
GOOD FILMS THAT DIE IN THE
MARKETPLACE BECAUSE AUDIENCES
DON'T KNOW, A, THAT THEY ARE
THERE, THAT THEY ARE COMING,
THEY DON'T KNOW WHAT THEY ARE
ABOUT, THEY DON'T
KNOW WHAT TO EXPECT.
THEY OPEN UP WITH NO
PRESELLING AT ALL.
AUDIENCES DON'T HAVE ANY IDEA
WHAT THEY ARE ABOUT OR WHAT
THEY ARE, ARE INDIFFERENT,
RELATIVELY INDIFFERENT,
AND DON'T GO.
THAT'S A CRIME.
ON THE OTHER HAND, IF YOU TAKE
A SIMPLE GENTLE ART FILM,
AND YOU ADVERTISE IT AS
THE
GETAWAY, YOU KNOW, A BIG
ACTION FILM JUST TO GET
PEOPLE IN, AND PEOPLE GO IN
EXPECTING ONE THING AND SEE
ANOTHER, THEN IT'S VERY,
VERY DESTRUCTIVE.
NOT ONLY THAT, BUT THEN THEY
BEGIN TO DISTRUST THE HYPE.
AND THE HARD SELL
MEANS NOTHING.
THEY DON'T BELIEVE
THE COMMERCIALS.
THEY DON'T BELIEVE THE
COPY LINES THAT YOU USE.
IT'S ONE OF THE REASONS I THINK
THAT QUOTE ADS ARE SO GOOD.
AT LEAST THEY'RE OPINIONS
THAT REAL PEOPLE HAVE GIVEN.
RATHER THAN COPY LINES
LIKE 'HIS DAYS ARE NUMBERED,
GO AND SEE, LIFE, LOVE, AND THE
PURSUIT OF DANGER' AND SO ON.
THAT'S US MAKING IT UP.
BUT IF WE LIST 12 PEOPLE WHO
HAVE ALL SEEN THE PICTURE AND
SAY SOMETHING ABOUT IT, LIKE QUOTES
FROM CRITICS AND
THINGS, THAT'S NOT HYPE
AND THAT'S NOT LYING.
THAT'S GIVING YOU A CHANCE
TO CHOOSE, BY YOURSELF,
ACCORDING TO THE OPINIONS YOU
READ AND PEOPLE YOU KNOW.

The caption changes to “Robert Altman. Director. Nashville.”

Robert is in his mid-fifties, with short receding gray hair and a goatee. He wears off-white trousers and a pale yellow shirt.

He says I DON'T THINK WE EVER SELECT,
OR MAKE THE FILM SAYING, OH,
THIS WILL BE EASY TO
MARKET OR HARD TO MARKET.
MOST OF THE FILM I'VE MADE
ARE VERY HARD TO MARKET.
AND, PRIMARILY, I
THINK THAT'S BECAUSE
THEY DON'T DEAL WITH A SUBJECT.
IN OTHER WORDS, IF YOU DON'T
HAVE A SHARK, IT'S VERY HARD
TO FIGURE OUT HOW TO DO,
HOW TO SELL IT, OR HOW TO
ADVERTISE IT, OR...
AUDIENCES LIKE PRETTY MUCH TO
KNOW WHAT THEY'RE GOING TO SEE.
AND THE PROBLEM I FEEL IN A
LOT OF FILMS, A LOT OF FILMS
THAT FAIL, AND PROBABLY
SHOULDN'T FAIL, IS THAT THERE'S
NO WAY FOR THE AUDIENCE TO
SAY, OH, I KNOW WHAT THAT'S
GOING TO BE.
THAT'S SOMETHING
I WANT TO SEE.

The interviewer says IS THAT THE FAULT OF
THE DISTRIBUTION SYSTEM
AS IT STANDS?

Robert says NO, I THINK IT'S THE FAULT OF
THE WHOLE SYSTEM THAT THAT'S
THE WAY WE'VE TRAINED
THE AUDIENCES.
THERE ARE SOME FILMS THAT
WILL HAVE AN AD, OR A SYMBOL,
OR SOMETHING THAT WILL TIE,
JUST TIES THE WHOLE THING UP,
AND IT SAYS WHAT IT IS.
AND I THINK NOW DISTRIBUTORS,
AND THE PEOPLE WHO DO THE
ADVERTISING TRY
TO LOOK FOR THAT.
IN OTHER WORDS, I THINK THEY
ARE AFRAID, BECAUSE OF PAST
FAILURES, TO JUST LET A
GENERAL AREA FILM GO.
THAT'S WHY THEY USE
WORDS LIKE 'HILARIOUS.'
IF IT'S A COMEDY, THEY
WANT IT TO BE A COMEDY.
IF IT'S SUPPOSED TO SCARE YOU,
THEY WANT YOU TO KNOW YOU ARE
GOING TO BE SCARED.
BUT IF YOU MIX ALL OF THOSE
ELEMENTS, IT'S VERY DIFFICULT.
BUT YOU'VE GOT TO KNOW THAT
THE BASIC ADVERTISING OF FILMS,
AND THE PEOPLE THAT DO IT, CAME
OUT OF THE CARNIVAL BUSINESS.
AND THEY'RE STILL IN IT.
AND THEIR THEORY IS YOU GET
THE SUCKER IN THE FRONT DOOR
OF THE TENT, YOU GET HIS
QUARTER, AND YOU GET HIM OUT
THE BACK DOOR.
AND YOU GET OUT OF TOWN BEFORE
ANYBODY HAS TO SPREAD THE
WORD THAT YOU'VE BEEN HOOKED.
AND FILM IS NOT LIKE THAT.
I THINK THE BEST WAY TO SELL A
FILM, IF YOU FEEL YOU HAVE A
GOOD FILM, IS TO PUT IT
INTO A SMALL ENOUGH HOUSE,
AND LET IT SIT.
AND TAKE YOUR LUMPS THE FIRST
WEEK AND THE SECOND WEEK.
BUT THEN WHAT HAPPENS IS THE
AUDIENCE ALSO, AT LEAST IN
OUR CULTURE, IN NORTH
AMERICAN CULTURE,
HAVE THE SUCCESS SYNDROME.
AND IF A FILM
ISN'T SUCCESSFUL,
THEY DON'T WANT
TO SEE IT.
THEY'VE BEEN VERY SUCCESSFUL
IN SAYING 87 MILLION PEOPLE
HAVE SEEN THIS FILM, WHEN
ARE YOU GOING TO SEE IT?
AND THEY'LL THINK, GEE,
WE BETTER GO SEE THAT,
OR WE'RE NOT IN.

Elwy says IS IT IMPORTANT TO YOU THAT
A FILM MAKES MONEY BEYOND
THE CONSIDERATION THAT IT'LL
OBVIOUSLY MEAN MORE WORK
FOR YOU?

Sydney says YES, IT'S TERRIBLY
IMPORTANT FOR ME, REALLY.
I WORK, YOU KNOW, ESSENTIALLY
WITHIN THE HOLLYWOOD
MAINSTREAM OF FILM.
I'M NOT AN ART FILM DIRECTOR,
PER SE, OR A CULTIST.
I DON'T CONSIDER MYSELF AN
EDUCATOR OR EVEN REALLY
AN INNOVATOR.
I GREW UP LOVING MOVIES, PLAIN
OLD HOLLYWOOD MOVIES AS A KID.
I COULDN'T THINK OF ANYTHING
MORE EXCITING THAN MAKING
HOLLYWOOD MOVIES, WHICH AT
THE TIME THEY WERE MADE WERE
CONSIDERED JUNK, AND THEN HAVE
BECOME CLASSICS ONLY WHEN WE
LOOK BACK ON THEM NOW.
AND I WORK, FOR THE MOST
PART, WITHIN THE MAINSTREAM
OF HOLLYWOOD.
I WORK USUALLY WITH COMMERCIAL
STARS, USUALLY WITH FAIRLY
HIGH BUDGETS.
MY WORK IS CONSIDERED BY
PURIST CRITICS TO BE GLOSSY,
SLICK, ALL OF THOSE
PEJORATIVE TERMS,
AND THEY'RE PROBABLY RIGHT.
THAT'S WHAT I DO DO.
THE INTERESTING THING FOR ME
IS TO TRY, AS MUCH AS I CAN,
TO TAKE STANDARD HOLLYWOOD
FORMS AND PUSH AT THEM
A LITTLE BIT, SEE WHETHER
I CAN'T ENTERTAIN CERTAIN
SERIOUS IDEAS WITHIN THE
CONTEXT OF GENRE FILMS.
BUT WORKING WITH THE BUDGETS
THAT I WORK WITH, AND THE
STARS THAT I WORK WITH, IT'S
ESSENTIAL THAT THE FILMS THAT
I DO MAKE MONEY.
EVEN IF I WERE AN ART
FILMMAKER, MY FILMS WOULD
EVENTUALLY HAVE TO PAY
FOR THEMSELVES BECAUSE
THEY'RE NOT DONE
PHILANTHROPICALLY ANYMORE.
THEY ARE DONE, BASICALLY, BY
CORPORATIONS OR INDIVIDUALS
WHO ARE IN THE INVESTMENT
BUSINESS, WHO PAY FOR THE
FILMS IN ORDER TO SEE A
RETURN ON THEIR INVESTMENT.
SO TO JUSTIFY THEIR
EXISTENCE, IN A WAY,
THEY HAVE TO MAKE MONEY.
OBVIOUSLY, I'M TERRIBLY
PLEASED IF THEY GET RECOGNIZED
AS ART, OR THEY WIN AWARDS,
OR THEY GO TO FESTIVALS,
OR THEY GET GOOD REVIEWS,
THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT, TOO.
BUT I WOULDN'T SURVIVE,
NOR WOULD ANY DIRECTOR,
PARTICULARLY IN HOLLYWOOD, AND
I THINK ACTUALLY NOWHERE ELSE
IN THE WORLD, IF THE FILMS
CONSISTENTLY LOST MONEY,
EVEN THOUGH THEY WERE ADORED
BY MILLIONS OF CRITICS
AND WON ALL KINDS OF REVIEWS.

Robert says WELL, IT'S VASTLY IMPORTANT.
I MEAN, IF YOU JUST KEEP
LOSING MONEY, EVENTUALLY YOU
WILL HAVE TO STOP
MAKING FILMS.
THE OTHER ASPECT OF THAT IS
JUST IN FILMS, IN GENERAL,
THAT IF SUDDENLY
THE TOWERING
INFERNO
MAKES MONEY
AND
EARTHQUAKE
MAKES MONEY,
THEN ALL THE STUDIOS SAY,
HEY, WE WANT TO DO
THOSE KIND OF FILMS.
IF SUDDENLY THREE MOVIE
STAR FILMS MAKE A FORTUNE,
THEN EVERYBODY WANTS TO
MAKE THE MOVIE STAR FILM.
WITH THE SUCCESS OF A
FILM LIKE
NASHVILLE,
IT'S GOING TO HELP
A LOT OF FILMS.
BECAUSE THEY ARE GOING TO SAY,
MAYBE WE CAN DO, MAYBE WE CAN
BREAK THIS KIND OF PATTERN.
MAYBE WE CAN DO THIS KIND OF
FILM THIS GUY HAS AN IDEA FOR.
MAYBE WE CAN BE
MORE SPREAD OUT.
WE DON'T HAVE TO... AND
SO IT OPENS UP MORE DOORS.
I MEAN,
EASY RIDER
CAME
ALONG AND MADE A LOT OF MONEY,
AND I GUESS, I DON'T KNOW HOW
MANY MILLIONS OF DOLLARS WERE
POURED DOWN THE DRAIN TRYING
TO MAKE YOUTH-ORIENTED
ROAD PICTURES.
AND 99 PERCENT
OF THEM FAILED.
SO YOU'RE DEALING WITH AN
AUDIENCE THAT IS PREDICTABLE
AND VERY DIFFICULT.
AND THE PEOPLE WHO ARE
PUTTING UP THE MONEY ARE NOT
INTERESTED IN THE ART IN
99 PERCENT OF THE CASES.
THEY ARE INTERESTED
IN THE COMMERCE OF IT.
AND MOST OF THE FILMMAKERS
ARE TRYING TO WORK.

A slate pops up with the caption “Why do people go to movies.”

Robert says IF YOU GO SWIMMING AND YOU
LIKE IT, YOU START GOING
SWIMMING MORE OFTEN.
IF YOU GO TO FILMS AND YOU
LIKE THEM, YOU SAY, HEY,
LET'S GO DO THAT AGAIN.
THAT WAS FUN.
AND THEN IF YOU DISCOVER --
IT'S LIKE READING A BOOK.
YOU PICK UP A BOOK, AND YOU
REALLY GET TURNED ON BY IT,
YOU SAY, HEY, I WANT
TO GET ANOTHER BOOK.
NOW, I THINK THE ONLY DIRECTOR
THAT LITERALLY COULD ASSURE A
CERTAIN SUCCESS OF A
FILM WAS HITCHCOCK.
AND THAT'S BECAUSE THEY
KNEW WHAT KIND OF FILM
THEY WERE GOING TO SEE.
THEY KNEW IT WAS THE
NEXT HITCHCOCK FILM.
HE WAS A STAR THE SAME WAY
ERROL FLYNN WAS A STAR
OR
IS
A STAR.
ONE OF THEM IS DEAD.
I FORGET WHICH ONE.
BUT THEN -- I HAVE
A CULT FOLLOWING.
BUT IF EVERYBODY WHO KNEW MY
NAME WENT OUT AND SAW EVERY
FILM, I MEAN IF THEY JUST
HEARD OF IT, MY ENEMIES AND
FRIENDS AND LOVERS AND THE
WHOLE, AND EVERYONE SAW THE
FILM TWICE, IT WOULD BE AN
ABSOLUTE TERRIBLE FAILURE.
I MEAN, WE'RE TALKING ABOUT A
FEW HUNDRED THOUSAND PEOPLE.

The caption changes to “John Milius. Director. Wind and the lion.”

John is in his mid-thirties, with short wavy brown hair and a thick beard. He wears black trousers and a short-sleeved pale yellow shirt.

He says I'D LIKE TO HAVE
AN AWFUL LOT MORE.
I'VE HAD NO CONTROL SO FAR.
BUT ON THE NEXT FILM I WILL.
I'D LIKE TO HAVE AN
AWFUL LOT OF CONTROL.
I THINK THAT'S AN AREA THAT
MOST DIRECTORS ARE KIND OF
LAZY AND DON'T
WANT TO GET INTO.
THEY WANT TO MAKE THE MOVIE
AND MAKE THE NEXT DEAL AND
GET THE NEXT MOST PRESTIGIOUS
PROJECT TO TALK ABOUT AT
COCKTAIL PARTIES AND THINGS
LIKE THAT, INSTEAD OF GOING
OUT AND CONCERNING THEMSELVES
WITH THE SELLING OF THEIR
FILM, THE ADVERTISING, AND ALL
THE ANGLES OF DISTRIBUTION.
THERE ARE PEOPLE THAT DO THIS.
KUBRICK DOES IT, FRANCIS
DOES IT AND, YOU KNOW,
WARREN BEATTY DOES IT.
TO GREAT RESULTS, TOO.

Elwy says WHAT KIND OF CONTROL DO
YOU HAVE, PERSONALLY,
OVER THE SELLING OF
THREE
DAYS OF THE CONDOR?

Sydney say I HAVE A GREAT DEAL
OF CONTROL OVER IT.
I DON'T HAVE THE EDUCATION IN
THE FIELD OF SELLING TO WANT
TO EXERT ANY MORE CONTROL
THAN WHAT I KNOW ABOUT.
I DON'T WANT TO GET
IN OVER MY HEAD.
BUT IN SO FAR AS I HAVE MADE
FILMS THAT HAVE MADE MONEY,
AND THE FILM IS AN
INDEPENDENT PRODUCTION
THROUGH DINO DE LAURENTIIS,
I AM ABLE TO TALK DAILY
WITH THE ADVERTISING
DEPARTMENT AT THE STUDIO,
SPEAK WITH THEATRE OWNERS
AROUND THE COUNTRY.
ENCOURAGE AND ARGUE WITH
PARAMOUNT TO SPEND MORE MONEY
OR LESS MONEY ON THE
ADVERTISING, ON WHERE THE
THEATRES ARE
PLAYING THE PICTURE.
I MONITOR THE BOX
OFFICE RETURNS.
THIS IS SOMETHING I WAS
TOO NAIVE TO DO YEARS AGO.
I THOUGHT IT WAS ALL FINISHED
WHEN I MADE THE FILM.
IT NEVER OCCURRED TO ME EVEN
TO READ A REVIEW OR TO ASK HOW
THE FILM WAS DOING.

Robert says I THINK YOU CAN CONTROL
AS MUCH AS YOU INSIST ON.
I MEAN, THERE ARE CERTAIN
LIMITS, BUT IF YOU FIGHT HARD
ENOUGH, IT'S LIKE
ANYTHING ELSE.

The interviewer says WHAT DO YOU INSIST ON?

Robert says EVERYTHING.

Sydney says I DON'T WANT TO
BE A MONOMANIAC.
IT'S DIFFICULT ENOUGH TO
BECOME FAIRLY EXPERT,
LET'S SAY, WITH A CAMERA,
AND LIGHTING AND ACTORS.
I DON'T REALLY NOW WANT TO
TAKE LONG COURSES IN BUSINESS.
I WOULD LIKE TO KNOW JUST A
LITTLE BIT MORE ABOUT THE
DISTRIBUTION END OF PICTURES
BECAUSE I DO THINK THERE IS
MILLIONS AND MILLIONS OF
DOLLARS WASTED WITHIN THE
HOLLYWOOD SYSTEM OF FILM
MAKING ON DISTRIBUTION.
THERE ARE JOBS REALLY
INVENTED AND CREATED THAT ARE
ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY BECAUSE
OF THE WASTEFUL METHOD OF
DISTRIBUTING FILMS.
WHEN YOU SAY THAT IT COSTS 4
TO 5 MILLION DOLLARS TO MAKE A FILM,
AND THAT NO PAPER PROFIT
IS REALIZED UNTIL
15 MILLION DOLLARS IS IN, THAT'S
TOO HIGH A RATIO TO BE
WORKING EFFICIENTLY.
AS A RESULT OF THESE KIND OF
COSTS, THE NUMBER OF FILMS PER
YEAR IS SHRINKING EACH YEAR.

Robert says THE PROBLEMS THAT EXIST WITH
NASHVILLE
TODAY ARE THE AD
CAMPAIGN, THE THEATRES IT'S
PLAYING IN, AND IN SOME CASES
YOU CAN'T CONTROL THAT.
I MEAN,
THEY
CAN'T CONTROL IT.
I HAVE NOT INTERFERED TO THE
POINT OF BEING REALLY BECAUSE
THE FILM IS MAKING MONEY, AND
IT IS DOING WELL, AND IT WILL
SURVIVE, AND ALSO THE
INTENTIONS OF THE COMPANY,
PARAMOUNT, I MEAN, THEY JUST
OVER... THEY LIKE IT TOO MUCH.
AND EVERYBODY WANTS TO
DO SOMETHING FOR IT.
I FEEL IT WOULD HAVE BEEN
BETTER IF THEY HAD JUST OKAY,
HERE'S THE FIRST CAMPAIGN, LET
IT GO OUT AND STAY THAT WAY.
BUT THEY KEEP TRYING
AND TRYING AND TRYING,
AND THEY ARE
WORKING VERY HARD.
AND I HAVE TO RESPECT
THEM FOR THAT.
IF THEY WERE INTENTIONALLY
JUST SAYING NO, THEN I'D GET
INTO IT LIKE I DID
WITH UNITED ARTISTS.
I MEAN, THEY -- BUT THEIR
ANSWER IS, LOOK, WE'RE THE
ONES THAT LOST THE
MILLION DOLLARS.
YOU DIDN'T LOSE IT.
YOU'VE GOT YOUR MONEY.
YOU'RE PAID.
AND NOW YOU ARE TELLING
US TO PROTECT YOUR ART
WHILE WE HAVE TO GO TO OUR
STOCKHOLDERS AND SAY WE ARE
GOING TO CARRY THIS FILM FOR
A LONG TIME AND LOSE MONEY.

Elwy says DO YOU SEE YOURSELF
AS A SALESMAN?

Sydney says UNFORTUNATELY, I DO.
ON TWO LEVELS.
ONE, ON A PRACTICAL LEVEL,
AND ONE ON AN ARTISTIC LEVEL.
IN A SENSE, I'M SELLING
MY OWN FANTASY TO YOU
UNDER THE GUISE OF ART.
AND IN THE SECOND SENSE,
WHATEVER I'VE DONE AS A FILM,
I HAVE TO TRY TO AID AND
HELP REACH AS MANY PEOPLE AS
POSSIBLE, OTHERWISE IT'S AN
EXERCISE IN A KIND OF FUTILITY.
UNFORTUNATELY, MOVIES ARE NOT
A MEDIUM THAT THE CREATOR CAN
APPRECIATE ALONE IN A ROOM.
IT'S NOT AS THOUGH I PAINTED
A PAINTING AND WANT TO SIT
AND STARE AT IT.
IT DOESN'T MEAN ANYTHING IF
THERE AREN'T MOBS OF PEOPLE
SITTING IN AN AUDIENCE EATING
POPCORN OR NOT, BUT SEEING
AND ENJOYING THE FILM.
I'M NOT A SALESMAN IN THE
SENSE THAT MY PRIMARY JOB IS
NOT TO GO OUT AND SELL FROM
DOOR TO DOOR THE PICTURE.
THERE ARE PEOPLE THAT
DO THAT AS A SPECIALTY.
BUT MORE AND MORE, I THINK
YOU'LL FIND FILMMAKERS
THEMSELVES GETTING INVOLVED IN
THE RELEASE PATTERN OF THEIR
FILMS, HOW THE FILM IS SOLD,
WHAT THE DISTRIBUTION DEAL IS
ON THEIR FILM, HOW IT'S
ADVERTISED, WHERE IT'S
PLAYING, WILL IT OPEN IN, FOR
EXAMPLE, EXCLUSIVE HOUSES,
OR WILL IT OPEN IN
A MULTIPLE RUN?
DO YOU WANT IT IN DRIVE-INS OR
DON'T YOU WANT IT IN DRIVE-INS?
THAT KIND OF THING.

Elwy says ARE YOU SELLING ANYTHING
BESIDES MOVIE TICKETS?

Sydney says PHILOSOPHICALLY,
YES, OF COURSE.
YOU CAN'T AVOID IT.
I'M SELLING YOU MY OWN
MORALITY, MY OWN CONCEPTS OF
ROMANCE, MY OWN CONCEPTS OF
RIGHT AND WRONG, GOOD AND BAD,
HEROISM, COWARDICE,
ALL OF THOSE THINGS.
THEY'RE UNAVOIDABLE.
NO MATTER WHAT I TREAT
AS A DIRECTOR, I GIVE YOU
UNCONSCIOUSLY MY OWN
EVALUATION OF THOSE THINGS.
IF A GUY IS A GOOD GUY
IN A FILM OF MINE,
THAT MEANS THAT'S HOW
I FEEL ABOUT THAT GUY.
IN THE SENSE THAT FILMS ARE
AS POWERFUL AS THEY ARE THE
PROPAGANDA MEDIUMS THAT DOES
EXERT SOME SORT OF INFLUENCE
OVER PEOPLE, I THINK.
SO I AM SELLING ALL SORTS
OF VALUE JUDGMENTS,
MORAL JUDGMENTS.
YOU CAN'T AVOID IT.

At the studio newsroom, Elwy says ROGER CORMAN AS A PRODUCER
IS RESPONSIBLE AND FAMOUS FOR
SUCH PICTURES AS
THE LITTLE
SHOP OF HORRORS, THE COMEDY
OF TERRORS, THE RAVEN, THE
PENDULUM, BLOODY MAMA,
AND
THE SAINT VALENTINE'S
DAY MASSACRE.
HE ALSO DISTRIBUTED
AMARCORD.
A COMPARISON BETWEEN
TECHNIQUES EMPLOYED IN SELLING
ART FILMS AND IN SELLING
EXPLOITATION FILMS OCCURRED
DURING OUR INTERVIEW
WITH ROGER CORMAN.
HIS COMPANY, NEW WORLD
ENTERPRISES, WHICH DISTRIBUTES
PICTURES AS DIFFERENT
AS INGMAR BERGMAN'S
CRIES AND WHISPERS, AND
DEATH
RACE 2000, IS AN INTERESTING
SORT OF MODEL OF THIS
PECULIAR KIND OF DUALISM.
HERE'S WHAT ROGER CORMAN HAD
TO SAY ABOUT THAT WHOLE ASPECT
OF THE BUSINESS.

The caption changes to “Roger Corman.”

Roger is in his early fifties, clean-shaven and with very short brown hair. He wears black trousers and a patterned shirt.

Elwy says WHAT ARE SOME OF THE CURRENT
FILM RELEASES FROM NEW WORLD,
YOUR COMPANY?

Roger says WELL, AS WE WERE SAYING
EARLIER, I HAVE TWO
TYPES OF RELEASES.
ONE IS A STRAIGHT
EXPLOITATION COMMERCIAL
FILM AND THE OTHER
IS THE ART FILM.
IN THE ART FILM FIELD, WE
HAVE INGMAR BERGMAN'S
CRIES AND WHISPERS, FELLINI'S
AMARCORD, AND WE'VE JUST
PICKED UP JOE LOSEY'S NEW
PICTURE,
THE ROMANTIC
ENGLISHWOMAN,
AND FRANCOIS
TRUFFAUT'S NEW FILM,
THE STORY OF ADELE H.
CRIES AND WHISPERS
AND
AMARCORD
ARE IN RELEASE AND
WILL BE OPENING WITHIN
THE NEXT MONTH OR TWO.
THE ROMANTIC ENGLISHWOMAN,
AND
THE STORY OF ADELE H.
MEANWHILE, ON THE COMMERCIAL
FIELD, WE HAVE AT THE MOMENT,
DEATH RACE 2000, WITH
DAVID CARRADINE, OUR SCIENCE
FICTION RACING FILM WHICH
HAS BEEN QUITE SUCCESSFUL.
TIDAL WAVE,
WHICH IS
ACTUALLY A JAPANESE IMPORT.
WE SHOT SOME ADDED
SCENES WITH LORNE GREEN,
AND THAT'S DOING WELL.
AND
CRAZY MAMA, AN ACTION
GANGSTER PICTURE WITH SOME
COMEDY LATE IN THE '50s
WITH CLORIS LEACHMAN.
AND I'M STARTING A PICTURE
TOMORROW WITH RON HOWARD
PLAYING THE LEAD CALLED
THE CAR, WHICH IS A CAR CHASE
FILM OF A KID WHO STEALS
A CHAMPIONSHIP STOCK CAR,
AND ALL THE POLICE IN THE
COUNTY TAKE AFTER HIM.
AND HE'S LIVING AN
INCREDIBLE FANTASY LIFE,
AND NO COP CAN CATCH HIM.

Elwy says LOTS OF LUCK.
IT'S A TREMENDOUS TITLE.
IS THE TITLE YOUR OWN?

Roger says YES.
THE WRITER DIRECTOR, CHUCK
GRIFFITH AND I WORKED OUT
THE TITLE.

Elwy says YOUR MAIN FUNCTION IN ALL OF
THESE HAS LARGELY BEEN THAT
OF THE PRODUCER, THOUGH,
HASN'T IT, ROGER?

Roger says YES.
ON MOST OF THE RECENT
FILMS, I'VE BEEN PRODUCING.

Elwy says NOW, HOW DO YOUR TACTICS
DIFFER FROM SAY A
CRAZY MAMA,
OR A
TIDAL WAVE, AND
SELLING A PICTURE LIKE THAT,
AS COMPARED TO
CRIES AND
WHISPERS, A RELEASE,
CONSIDERING THE POLES
APART, THE EXPLOITATION
AND THE ART FILMS.
HOW DO YOUR TACTICS DIFFER?

Roger says ALL RIGHT.
FOR AN ART FILM, WE WILL
GENERALLY OPEN IN NEW YORK,
IN ONE THEATRE, GENERALLY A
THEATRE NOTED FOR ART FILMS
AND WILL BE DEPENDENT HIGHLY
ON THE CRITICS' REVIEWS.
WE'LL FEATURE THE
REVIEWS IN THE AD.
AS A MATTER OF FACT, WE DON'T
EVEN MAKE A PRESS BOOK
ON THE PICTURE AT
THE BEGINNING.
WE MAKE ONLY THE
SLICKS FOR THE ADS.
AND AFTER THE REVIEWS COME
OUT, WE THEN MODIFY THOSE ADS
TO PUT THE REVIEWS IN, AND
THEN MAKE THE PRESS BOOK.
AND THE PATTERN IS GENERALLY
THAT WE PLAY ART THEATRES ONLY,
WHICH IS A ONE
THEATRE BOOKING.
WE THEN DO TRY TO OPEN THEM
UP AFTERWARDS, AND PLAY
MULTIPLES, GO INTO COMMERCIAL
THEATRES, AND WE TRY TO GO
WITH DRIVE-INS.
FOR INSTANCE, IN
CRIES AND
WHISPERS, IT WAS THE FIRST
BERGMAN PICTURE
TO PLAY DRIVE-INS.
BERGMAN WAS DELIGHTED.
THE THEATRE OWNERS WERE HAPPY.
WE WERE HAPPY.
WE GOT MOST OF THE MONEY
OUT OF THE ART THEATRES,
BUT A LITTLE MONEY CAME
FROM THE DRIVE-INS
AND EVERYONE WAS HAPPY.
WE WERE SHOWING THE DRIVE-IN
CLIENTELE A DIFFERENT TYPE OF
FILM THAN THEY HAD SEEN
BEFORE, AND I FELT IT WAS
GOOD FOR THE CLIENTELE,
GOOD FOR BERGMAN, AND GOOD
COMMERCIALLY, ALTHOUGH THE
BUSINESS WASN'T TREMENDOUS,
BUT HE DID REASONABLY
WELL IN THE DRIVE-INS.
ON AN EXPLOITATION FILM
WE GO THE EXACT OPPOSITE.
WE'LL GO STRAIGHT
INTO THE MULTIPLES.
FOR INSTANCE, THE FIRST
DATE ON
CRIES AND WHISPERS,
I THINK, WAS THE PLAZA
THEATRE IN NEW YORK.
ONE THEATRE.
THE FIRST DATE ON
DEATH RACE
2000
WAS... I THINK IT WAS
120 OR 130 THEATRES IN
SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA WITH
OVER 100,000 DOLLAR
ADVERTISING CAMPAIGN.
VERY HEAVY STRESS
ON TELEVISION.
AND A BROAD MARKET
PENETRATION IMMEDIATELY.

Elwy says REAL SATURATION.

Roger says YES.
I BELIEVE IN THAT VERY MUCH.

Elwy says HOW DO THEY DO COMPARATIVELY,
THE ART FILM, THE CRIES AND
WHISPERS AND, SAY,
A DEATH RACE
2000, AN EXPLOITATION FILM?

Roger says IT DEPENDS.
IT REALLY DEPENDS
UPON THE FILM.
FOR INSTANCE,
DEATH RACE
2000
HAS DONE BETTER THAN
CRIES AND WHISPERS,
BUT
CRIES AND WHISPERS
HAS DONE
BETTER THAN A NUMBER
OF EXPLOITATION FILMS.
AND THAT'S WHY WE HAVE BEEN
IN BOTH THE EXPLOITATION
AND ART FIELD, AND WE ARE
GOING TO MOVE FURTHER INTO
THE ART FIELD, WHERE THE
COMPANY IS EXPANDING.
IT'S FIVE YEARS OLD AND HAS
BEEN GROWING RATHER RAPIDLY.
AND I DON'T PLAN TO EXPAND
OUR POSITIONING IN THE
EXPLOITATION FIELD.
I'M VERY HAPPY WITH THAT.
OUR EXPANSION WILL
COME IN THE ART FIELD.

Elwy says HOW IMPORTANT ARE
CRITICS IN SELLING A FILM?

Roger says IN THE ART FIELD, THEY
ARE VITALLY IMPORTANT.
YOU ARE DEPENDENT,
TO A LARGE EXTENT,
UPON THE CRITICS' REACTIONS.
IN AN EXPLOITATION FIELD, THEY
ARE OF MINIMAL IMPORTANCE.
BUT THEY ARE OF
SOME IMPORTANCE.

Elwy says WHAT'S THE MOST IMPORTANT
INGREDIENT IN SELLING A FILM?

Roger says THE IDEA OF THE FILM,
PARTICULARLY IN THE
EXPLOITATION FILM.
YOU ARE SELLING THE IDEA MORE
THAN ANYTHING ELSE BECAUSE
YOU ARE IN A NUMBER OF
THEATRES SIMULTANEOUSLY.
YOU'RE IN FOR ONE
WEEK OR TWO WEEKS.
THERE IS TIME THERE FOR
WORD OF MOUTH TO GET AROUND
BUT, PRIMARILY, IF THE IDEA IS
RIGHT AND THE CAMPAIGN CAN
EXCITE THE POTENTIAL AUDIENCE
ON THE BASIS OF THAT IDEA,
THEY WILL COME
TO SEE THE FILM.

Elwy says ARE BOX OFFICE RECEIPTS,
ROGER CORMAN, THE ONLY MEASURE
FOR THE SUCCESS OR FAILURE OF
A FILM, IN YOUR EYES TODAY?

Roger says WELL, THAT WOULD DEPEND
UPON WHAT YOU MEAN BY
SUCCESS OR FAILURE.
IF YOU MEAN COMMERCIAL SUCCESS
OR FAILURE, THEY ARE THE ONLY
MEASURE BECAUSE THAT TELLS YOU
WHETHER YOU HAVE A SUCCESS.
IF YOU MEAN AN ARTISTIC
SUCCESS OR FAILURE,
NOT TOTALLY, BUT PARTIALLY.
I THINK A FILM CAN BE JUDGED
ON AN ARTISTIC LEVEL.
A FILM CAN BE JUDGED AWAY
FROM ITS COMMERCIAL SUCCESS.
BUT I THINK THERE IS A
CERTAIN MYTH ABOUT WONDERFUL,
FINE FILMS THAT NEVER
FIND AN AUDIENCE.
I BELIEVE MOST FINE FILMS
DO FIND THEIR AUDIENCE,
EVEN THOUGH IT MAY BE
A LIMITED AUDIENCE.
I THINK THERE ARE VERY FEW
MASTERPIECES THAT HAVE
NOT BEEN RECOGNIZED.

Elwy says REALLY, I GUESS WHAT I WAS
GETTING AT THERE WAS IN YOUR
LIFE OF MOTION PICTURES, ARE
THERE PICTURES THAT DIDN'T
MAKE IT FINANCIALLY, AND YET
YOU PERSONALLY HAVE TREMENDOUS
FEELING FOR AND REGARD
AS GREAT ARTISTIC,
GREAT SUCCESSES
IN YOUR OWN SOUL?

Roger says PROBABLY, YES.
THERE ARE CERTAIN FILMS THAT
I CONSIDER TURNED OUT TO BE
BETTER FILMS THAN SOME OTHERS
THAT DID NOT DO AS WELL
COMMERCIALLY, AND SO
THEREFORE, MY JUDGMENT AS TO
SUCCESS OR FAILURE ARE
BASED UPON OTHER THINGS
THAN THE COMMERCIAL.

Elwy says ANOTHER WAY AROUND THAT, IS
MONEY YOUR PRIMARY OBJECTIVE
IN MAKING A MOVIE?

Roger says NO.
IT IS ONE OF THE
OBJECTIVES, HOWEVER.
I MEAN, WE MUST WE
LIVE IN THIS WORLD.
AND TO MAKE FILMS, YOU
HAD BETTER HAVE SUCCESSES
IN ORDER TO MAKE
YOUR NEXT FILM.
A SERIES OF FAILURES ARE
GOING TO HURT YOUR CHANCES
TO MAKE ANOTHER FILM.

Elwy says DO EXPLOITATION FILMS, SORT OF
ALMOST HARD CORE EXPLOITATION
FILMS HERE, HURT THE MOVIE
INDUSTRY AS A WHOLE
BY ALIENATING AUDIENCES?
I MEAN, FOR AN EXAMPLE,
THERE MIGHT BE A FEELING
THAT
TIDAL WAVE
WAS SORT
OF CASHING IN ON SUCH
DISASTER FILMS
AS
EARTHQUAKE.
MAYBE I'M WRONG IN
THAT INTERPRETATION.

Roger says NO, I DON'T THINK AN
EXPLOITATION HURTS THE
FILM INDUSTRY IN ANY WAY.
IF IT ALIENATES THE AUDIENCE,
THE AUDIENCE WON'T COME.
SO THEREFORE A REALLY BAD
FILM GETS SO LITTLE AUDIENCE
THAT IT DOESN'T
MEAN ANYTHING.
FOR INSTANCE, PICK THE
TWO FILMS YOU MENTIONED,
TIDAL WAVE
AND
EARTHQUAKE.
EARTHQUAKE
WAS OBVIOUSLY A
BIGGER, AND ON ONE LEVEL,
A BETTER PICTURE
THAN
TIDAL WAVE.
YET,
TIDAL WAVE, WHICH
I THINK I SAID EARLIER,
WAS A JAPANESE IMPORT.
WE SHOT SOME ADDED
SCENES WITH LORNE GREEN.
THE ADDED SCENES WE SHOT WITH
LORNE GREEN, AS AN AMBASSADOR
TO THE UNITED NATIONS, HAD
MORE MEANING IN THEM THAN
ANYTHING THAT WAS
IN
EARTHQUAKE.

Elwy says TO SURVIVE AS AN INDEPENDENT,
DO YOU HAVE TO HAVE A LITTLE
LARCENY IN YOUR SOUL?

Roger says NO, I DON'T THINK SO.
I THINK YOU HAVE
TO HAVE ABILITY.
I'LL GO A LITTLE
BIT BEYOND THAT.
YOU MIGHT HAVE TO HAVE THE
ABILITY TO DEFEND YOURSELF
AGAINST LARCENY.
MOTION PICTURES ARE NOT A
NOTORIOUSLY HONEST BUSINESS,
BUT YOU DON'T HAVE TO BE
DISHONEST TO SUCCEED IN THEM.

Elwy says YOU FIND A GREAT AMOUNT OF
RUTHLESSNESS EXISTING IN THE
PROFESSION, ROGER CORMAN?

Roger says YES, A GREAT DEAL.
AND I THINK THE FARTHER
FROM THE CAMERA YOU GET,
THE GREATER THE AMOUNT
OF RUTHLESSNESS.
THE GREATEST RUTHLESSNESS
IS, WITHOUT QUESTION,
AMONG THEATRE OWNERS.
THEIR ABILITY TO STEAL
FROM THE PRODUCERS AND
DISTRIBUTORS IS UNPARALLELED
IN MODERN SOCIETY.
AND AS YOU GET CLOSER AND
CLOSER TO THE FILMMAKER,
I THINK THE BUSINESS BECOMES
MORE AND MORE HONEST.

Back in the studio, Elwy says THE MOVIE CRITIC IS THE MAN
OR WOMAN WHOSE JOB IT IS TO GO
TO MOVIES AND THEN TELL THE
PUBLIC WHAT A FILM IS ALL
ABOUT AND, HENCE, HOW IT
COMPARES WITH OTHER FILMS.
AND, AS SUCH, HE ASSISTS THEM
IN THEIR DECISIONS TO SEE OR
NOT SEE CERTAIN PICTURES.
IF HE'S GOOD, HE'LL UNDERSTAND
FILM AESTHETICS AND BE ABLE
TO WRITE WELL.
SOME CRITICS ARE
EXTREMELY INFLUENTIAL.
PAULINE KAEL IS ONE.
VINCENT CANBY ANOTHER, OUR
OWN CLYDE GILMOUR IS A THIRD.
AND A NUMBER HAVE BUILT
ENORMOUS REPUTATIONS.
WE TALKED WITH ROBERT ALTMAN
ABOUT FILM CRITICS, AND HE
TOLD US ABOUT THE ROLES THAT
THEY PLAYED IN HIS CAREER.
LET'S GO AND LISTEN NOW
TO THAT MOST ILLUSTRIOUS
DIRECTOR AND HEAR EXACTLY
WHAT HE HAS TO SAY
ABOUT FILM CRITICS.

Robert says THE CRITICS, I BELIEVE,
HAVE KEPT ME GOING.
MASH
WAS A COMMERCIAL SUCCESS,
AND THEN
BREWSTER McCLOUD
WAS AN ABSOLUTE FAILURE...
AS FAR AS COMMERCIALLY
WAS CONCERNED.
IT WAS KIND OF AN
UNDERGROUND HIT.
AND THEN
McCABE AND MISSUS
MILLER
AND
IMAGES,
AND ALL OF THESE FILMS
GOT REALLY GENERALLY
GREAT CRITICAL REVIEW.
I THINK
THIEVES LIKE US
IS
PROBABLY THE BEST REVIEWED
FILM OF THAT YEAR.
AND IT DID NOTHING.
BUT EVERYBODY
READS THE REVIEWS.
AND YOU READ SOMETHING IN THE
NEWSPAPER, AND YOU BELIEVE IT.
I GOT THE COVER OF
NEWSWEEK
MAGAZINE
AND, SUDDENLY,
PEOPLE STARTED CALLING ME.
I CAN'T EVEN BELIEVE HOW THEY
HAD THE CHUTZPAH TO DO IT.
JUST OUT AND OUT FLAT
ENEMIES WERE CALLING SAYING,
'I KNEW YOU'D HIT YOUR
HOME RUN SOMEDAY'
AND PHRASES LIKE THAT.
AND I SAID, WHAT ARE
YOU TALKING ABOUT?
BUT, SUDDENLY, THEY BELIEVE
IT BECAUSE THEY READ IT.
BUT THE CRITICS, I THINK,
I OWE TO THE REVIEWS MY,
THE ABILITY I'VE HAD
TO MAKE THESE FILMS.

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