RODMAN FLENDER

JORGE: You have directed an amazing amount of TV shows and movies in your prolific career but I'd like to focus on some of your work in horror. But before that, could you tell us how you got your foot in the door of the movie business.

RODMAN: I saw a small opening in Roger Corman’s door and I jammed my foot into it as fast as I could. I was initially hired to be a one-man ad department for Corman’s Concorde/New Horizons. And I mean ENTIRE ad department: from creative – designing the posters, writing the catch lines, cutting the TV commercials and trailers – to the business side of things, which involved negotiating newspaper ad buys with exhibitors. I was fresh out of college, had no training, experience, or much interest in the business stuff. But it was a way for me to get my foot in the door and once it was in, it was sink or swim. I managed to dog paddle my way through it and quite enjoyed working on the posters and the trailers. It also gave me an opportunity to work closely with the boss. Roger cared a great deal about the campaigns – with some films, he cared more about the poster than the film itself. After I had done the ad gig for about two years, Roger made me his Head of Production. This was a big job with a huge amount of responsibility, especially since it was around the time that Roger went back to directing, on Frankenstein Unbound. He went to Italy to shoot the movie and left me to mind the store. This was my film school; I produced 23 movies during my two years as Head of Production, and I got to see how a lot of good filmmakers work as well as see what mistakes different directors made. When Roger finished his Frankenstein picture, he finally gave me the directing break I had hoped to get when I started working for him about fours years earlier. And I was very lucky that I got that break right at the end of Roger’s theatrical distribution days. The one-two punch of home video and the major studios releasing huge-budget genres movies on 5000 screens hadn’t yet killed off the small theatrical releases of low-budget, independently-produced movies. I think my movie In The Heat of Passion may have been the last of those Corman movies to get a national theatrical release. I got spoiled early on, having my first low-budget horror movie (The Unborn) play big screens in Hollywood and on 42nd Street.

JORGE: You directed LEPRECHAUN 2. What are your memories with that particular film? With cast and crew or anything...

RODMAN: Leprechaun 2 was my first non-Corman movie. It had a slightly larger budget than what I was used to and an even wider theatrical release. Here in L.A., it opened at the Cinerama Dome. The cast, the crew, the writers, everyone was very good, very professional. Warwick Davis, who plays the Leprechaun, is a wonderful actor, and it’s great to see him in the Harry Potter movies. I thought he deserved more roles where you could clearly see his face. The shoot itself was very difficult because of time. We started shooting after Thanksgiving and we raced to make a St. Patrick’s Day release, in March. That’s three and half months, from shoot to screen! The late Sandy Baron, who played Morty, was a very funny man, a real old-time comedian, who kept everybody laughing between takes. I remember shooting fourteen days in a row at the end of the shoot with two different crews, and those were long days. When we wrapped, I came home, collapsed into bed, and slept for something like 30 hours straight. It freaked my wife out – she thought I had lapsed into a coma.

JORGE: How about with IDLE HANDS?

RODMAN: Everything went great with Idle Hands. Great cast, crew, supportive producers and a big studio that let us goof on all the stuff that we loved. It all went so well – until the horrible tragedy at Columbine High School ten days before the release date. Then the movie got swept into a political debate about the influence of the entertainment industry on teens and violence, which is pretty weird for a movie about a chopped-off hand and wise-cracking, burrito-eating, pot-smoking zombies. It was at the wrong place at the wrong time, and that hurt the movie. But Seth Green recently told me that people come up to him and tell him that they love it. I guess it has found an audience. Love it or hate it, I’m glad people are viewing it on its own merits. It is, after all, the only movie where the lead singer of The Offspring gets scalped on stage.

JORGE: Now I know this is going way back (again) but could you tell us some more about that Roger Corman produced THE UNBORN?

RODMAN: I had been making all kinds of weird little movies since I got my first camera when I was nine. When I went to work for Roger Corman, I got to direct re-shoots for movies and additional shots to spice up some trailers. But The Unborn was the first professional thing with my name on it as director. (The one from the early 90’s – I guess I’ll have to clarify that now that there are two "Unborns".) A lot of very talented people worked on that picture. Lisa Kudrow and Kathy Griffin were unknown at the time and had small parts – I was a huge fan of theirs from The Groundlings, local sketch comedy here in L.A. Wally Pfister, my Director of Photography, has been Oscar-nominated and has shot some of the biggest blockbusters ever, including the last two Batman movies. And my second-unit Director of Photography, Januz Kaminski, went on to shoot every movie for Steven Spielberg since Schindler’s List. Not a bad crew for a low-budget horror movie shot in three weeks. The movie also had a great soundtrack. Gary Numan, the British pop star, did the music. I was a star-struck fan of his and he’s still making great music. I can’t believe he hasn’t done more soundtrack work. I’d like to work with him again..

JORGE: Which would you say you enjoy directing more: films or TV shows?

RODMAN: Films. TV is great, I love TV and I’ve been fortunate to work on some excellent shows that reach a very wide audience, certainly wider than the audience reached by the low-budget movies I’ve made. I also appreciate the speed of TV production. There’s no time to waste when your episode is going to air next Thursday at 9 PM. I’m also very impressed with the quality of writing and acting on TV. But ultimately television is a writer’s and actor’s medium more than a director’s. It’s good work for a director, but when you’re a guest director on a show, the "vision" is already there. It’s the writers and the cast who oversee the tone of the show from week to week. A film, on the other hand, is the director’s baby. The director starts it, finishes it (unless he or she gets fired). An episode of television is never completely the director’s baby. That being said, some of the most talented directors I know work in television. You typically have to shoot eight or more script pages a day in several sets or locations – it takes true talent to do that well. TV directors often talk about wanting to see how some A-list feature directors – directors who are used to shooting a page or two a day - would do with such a grueling schedule. I’m proud of my television work (most of it, anyway). And I’m really happy that shows I’ve done like Ugly Betty and Party of Five are being released on DVD. But it’s the movies I’ve directed – good or bad – that are mine.

JORGE: You directed an episode of Chris Carter's Millennium. This is one of my favorite shows. It has a reputation for being extremely dark. How was your experience directing the episode "A Single Blade of Grass"?

RODMAN: You’re right; Millennium was a dark, dark show. You’re probably going to laugh at what I remember about Millennium. My episode took place in New York City. Now I’m from New York, and the show shot in Vancouver. Vancouver’s a wonderful city, I’ve worked there a lot and I love it there, but I remember looking at the shots through the camera and thinking, "This looks nothing like New York!" I was afraid of Jackie Chan’s Rumble in the Bronx, which shot in Vancouver. I remember seeing that movie and being outraged, thinking, "there are no snow-capped mountains in the Bronx!" I didn’t want my fellow New Yorkers to look at my episode of Millennium and think the same thing. I was afraid I’d lose whatever New York street cred I imagined I still had. The other thing I remember: We had buffalo running down the street in my episode (it had something to do with an Indian prophecy). I remember setting up that shot, then watching the live buffalo stampede in the middle of downtown Vancouver. I had prepped this shot, discussed it, story-boarded it, but I was taken aback when I saw it happen. I was awe-struck at the huge weirdness of it, thinking "this could only happen in the movie business." I was disappointed that Terry O’Quinn wasn’t in my episode. I was a huge fan of his since The Stepfather. He’s amazing in Lost.

JORGE: You also directed two Tales from the Crypt episodes: "99 & 44/100 Pure Horror"(which you also wrote) and "Food for thought" It must have been great to write and direct an episode of Tales from the Crypt.

RODMAN: Yes, I’m proud to have written and directed for that show. I was a kid when the British Tales From the Crypt movie came out. I saw it in the theater and it freaked me out. When I heard that HBO was doing a weekly series, I knew I had to be a part of that show. The TV show had more campy humor than that old movie; in that respect it was closer to the tone of the original comic books from the 50’s.

JORGE: What would you say are your top three Horror Films?

RODMAN: Top three horror films would be the original Night of the Living Dead, the original Dawn of the Dead, The Brood, Alien, the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Psycho, Suspiria, Brian De Palma’s Sisters, Audition, the original The Vanishing, I loved Let The Right One In, Invasion of the Body Snatchers (all of them), The Story of Ricky, and... Wait, is that more than three?

JORGE: When you get time to relax and watch television what do you usually watch?

RODMAN: There’s a lot of good television being made now. Flight of the Conchords on HBO is genius, Lost and Mad Men are terrific, The Office is great in every way, and I also enjoy 24 and True Blood. Conan O’Brien and Stephen Colbert are both incredibly funny. When I catch Cheaters, I’m glued to the set. I particularly love low-low budget, locally-produced commercials. I’d love to direct a commercial for a check-cashing place or a happy hour at a Mexican restaurant. I almost directed a commercial for a mattress store but it was a non-union shoot and I’m a loyal Directors Guild member. I think the best TV show ever made is the Danish show The Kingdom, about a haunted hospital. That’s a scary, freaky and hilarious show. Twice they’ve tried to make an American version; Aaron Spelling did one and Stephen King did another. You can buy or rent the original on DVD.

JORGE: What's something about the movie business that not many people know but you’re willing to share with us. (good or bad).

RODMAN: There’s an insane amount of chess-playing on film sets. Really, it’s crazy. One TV show I worked on had to have the game banned because it was holding up production. Not many people know that.

JORGE: What projects are you currently working on or considering?

RODMAN: I’m juggling a couple of things. I’m looking forward to directing horror again.

JORGE: I don't know if you drink or not, but if you do, what's your favorite beer and if you don't drink then what’s your favorite beverage.

RODMAN: Favorite beer – what an interesting question for a horror movie site! Why do you ask - do you always drink beer when you watch horror movies? Are you the guy sneaking some cold ones into the theater?

My favorite beer is a beer that I used to drink in the 80’s and can’t find anymore. That’s why it’s my favorite; it exists only in my memory. The beer is Carlsberg Dark. If I have to pick something now, it’s usually Guinness (I like dark beers), Corona, Sam Adams.

JORGE: Thank you so much for talking with us!



Interview conducted by:
-Jorge Antonio Lopez

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