Friday, July 25, 2014

On the Cheap: My life in low budget filmmaking by Greydon Clark

 I have a fascination of low budget films, and when I heard that Greydon Clark wrote a book about his career my interest peaked, and so I was happily given the book by my family for a father's day gift.  Who is Greydon Clark you ask?  He is the producer and director of such films as: Black Shampoo, Without Warning, Joysticks, Satan's Cheerleaders just to name a few.  Why should you care?  Well if you're a film enthusiast, a filmmaker, or even if you happen just to like low budget films this book may shed some light on how hard and difficult it is to produce these types of films.

Mr. Clark goes about telling us how he financed, and how he produced and directed his films.  Many of these films were ultra low-budget, but you would be surprised to know where all the money goes, and that is talent.  Clark never skimped on his talent, and knew that he needed to draw audience's in by getting bankable stars.  Mr. Clarks budgets ranged from 50K if you can believe that to a couple of hundred thousands, but in each of his films he puts it up all in the screen.  There is one film called the "The Forbidden Dance" that was produced for about two million, and shot within 18 days.  I won't go into details, but the story behind "Forbidden Dance" is a movie in itself.  From conception to actual movie all within 90 days.

The book is littered with stories on how Mr. Clark went about financing and shooting his films.  It's even really amazing to hear how he himself was stiffed by unscrupulous producers and distributors.   Mr. Clark does not mince words here and is a gentlemen through and through.  He does not exploit some of the problems he had with his talent, and he keeps it civil which shows what type of guy Clark is.  No low blows.  The book is all about the films and his career and how he had to fight his way through the production madness we call filmmaking.

The book is laid out in script form, and to any filmmaker it seems familiar but may be a bit distracting for other readers though I didn't find it a bit.  I liked the way it was laid out.  The book does contain photos also of his productions, but here I believe it cold have been laid out better.   But I'm sure publishing costs to do a different layout would be a bit more expensive, and Clark wants to tell us the stories, and that is what's important here.

I have a whole new respect for the man though.  Clark consistently gambled on his future by investing in his films.  I always thought that for someone to consistently put his own money and risk his own fortune on his abilities as a filmmaker shows that this man has stones,  Simple put he saw a market, exploited it, and sold his film off so he could make the next one.  I find it hard to believe that no one in Hollywood would even put up his or her money and have Mr. Clark direct.  It was Mr. Clarks speed, and his cost consciousness that got him the gig for "The Forbidden Dance".   I guess it is as Mr Goldman says in his book "Adventures in the screen trade".  "Nobody knows nothing in Hollywood".

The book is really interesting when Mr. Clark get's personal, and he does share his credit with his late wife who was always behind her husband and very supportive.  It is tragic on how she passed, and it's heartbreaking to read.

If you're interested in filmmaking and want to hear what it's like from the trenches back in the day this book is a great read.  Some of his ideas and his chutzpah would still work, and should be of some value to fledgling filmmakers like myself, but otherwise it's a fun read.  It's available from the filmmaker's at his web site

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