TRENCHARD-SMITH, BRIAN – GENRE HOMBRE
GETTING BANGS FOR YOUR BUCK
Brian Trenchard-Smith is building a legacy as one of the few Australian
filmmakers dedicated to genre films. Over 30 years ago, he directed what is now
something of an Australian classic, The Man from Hong Kong; in 1982 he made
Turkey Shoot, which Quentin Tarantino frequently cites as a favourite, and now,
from the Ohau jungles of Hawaii on the set of his 37th film, Tyrannosaurus
Aztec, Brian tells Andrew L. Urban it’s possible to make successful genre
pictures with small budgets.
"The whole reason genres exist,” says Brian Trenchard-Smith “is because people
want to see certain cinematic forms over and over again, with new wrinkles,
surprises, developments, bigger, better, etc. The western, the war movie, the
spy thriller, the monster movie. They are the meat and potatoes of the broad
cinema audience’s diet."
"Genre can be made on a low budget"Speaking of monster movies, he describes
his latest film, Tyrannosaurus Azteca as “a sort of Jurassic Park Eats Cortez…
Genre can be made on a low budget. It requires careful choice of cheap
production value locations, creative short cuts, and understanding exactly where
to spend the money to provide the core values the target audience expects. And
the ability to shoot lots of coverage quickly.”
And here’s how he does it: “AIR FORCE TWO was shot in 14 days; 12 days in New
Zealand and two in Vancouver. VFX were done in LA. Sold to DVD and TV all over
the world. The more overt lesbian version titled IN HER LINE OF FIRE also
premiered in four theatres simultaneously with it telecast on the here! Channel,
the gay and lesbian VOD.
“TIDES OF WAR/PHANTOM BELOW was shot in Hawaii without US Navy co-operation in
15 days and sold the same way.
"I was never a critic's darling in Australia sadly"
“PARADISE VIRUS was shot in the Caribbean in 12 days. These pictures still
look good; critics may think they are dumb … But I was never a critic's darling
in Australia sadly. They tend to get my sensibility better in the US. Good low
budget movies rate/sell well, and a lot of people like them. If they didn't, the
market would not support them. They just have to be made on a budget that
guarantees profitability, provided they achieve a certain standard. There is art
and cunning in finding that standard. Australian film makers could develop the
know-how to do this. I will enjoy 300 million dollar's worth of PIRATES 3 when I
see it. But I get the same buzz coming out of the theatre from HOT FUZZ at a
fraction of the price. And I know which one I would enjoy making more.”
On March 31, 2007, Brian was one of the ‘grindhouse gang’ invited to a sort of
genre filmmakers’ summit in Los Angeles, for the preview screening of Quentin
Tarantino’s joint venture with Robert Rodriguez, Grindhouse (to be screened as
two separate films in Australia later this year.)
The summit came about due to Los Angeles journalist, Scott Foundas. “Among
contemporary filmmakers,” wrote Scott, “none harbour greater affection for (or
have been more influenced by) this bygone era [of hard core genre films] than
Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez, whose Grindhouse offers a vintage
double-header (complete with ersatz trailers and print damage) of cheap thrills
and gory chills, starting with Rodriguez’s eco-horror zombie movie Planet Terror
and concluding with Tarantino’s edge-of-your-(car)seat thrill ride Death Proof.
Yet, when I proposed to these two nostalgia junkies that, in lieu of a
conventional interview, we might organize a kind of roundtable with a few
favourite grindhouse veterans, little did I imagine the historic meeting — or,
to quote Tarantino, summit — that was about to transpire.”
Scott described the gathering in style: “Richard Rush, who began his career with
the classic biker movies The Savage Seven and Hell’s Angels on Wheels; Bob
Clark, who directed the 1970s creep-outs Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead
Things and Black Christmas before going on to create the Porky’s franchise; and
the British-born Brian Trenchard-Smith, whose résumé ranges from directing Steve
Railsback in the cult classic Escape 2000 to latter-day entries in the
Leprechaun and Omega Code franchises. Joining them would be three alumni of the
Roger Corman dream factory: Allan Arkush (Hollywood Boulevard, Rock ’n’ Roll
High School), George Armitage (Private Duty Nurses, Vigilante Force) and Lewis
Teague (The Lady in Red, Alligator).”
“It was nice of Quentin to invite me to the dinner/gabfest/interview,” says
Brian. “It was a wonderful night, swapping war stories with some truly great
genre directors. It was tragic to lose Bob Clark within 10 days, the victim of a
drunk driver. At 67, he was clearly still at the top of his game. All of us that
night greatly admired the artistry and love of Cinema that went into Grindhouse.
There's a little of each of us in it. It was very gracious of Quentin to
acknowledge me in the end credits.”
"A piece of my heart will always be there"
Brian is based in Los Angeles these days, but he says “There have been
Trenchard-Smiths in Australia since the 1850s. A piece of my heart will always
be there. And it is great place to make movies. What would bring me back? Well,
when the great director Robert Aldrich was dying, his friends visited and asked:
"Is there anything we can get you?" "A good script," was his reported reply.
Same with me. A piece of Australian history would interest me: the Rum Rebellion
for instance. A high class bodice-ripper perhaps, set against a well researched
background of political intrigue and colonial corruption. From which we learn
government has not changed much...”
Published May 24, 2007
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Brian doing a publicity stunt for The Man From Hong Kong (December 1975) on the roof of the Kerridge Odeon Building in Auckland, NZ.
The Man From Hong Kong
In Her Line of Fire
Long Lost Son
Brian spoke at length to Greg Conly of yourvideostoreshelf about his work. (Podcast).
Brian Trenchard-Smith’s Danger Freaks: compilation documentary - 100 stunts in
90 minutes – made between '73 and '75. “It even includes a shot of me with very
bad hair. There are other amusing moments as well, and Grant Page's abilities
are nothing short of amazing.” Download
PS: Brian Trenchard-Smith tied for third place in the 2006 Southern California
Veterans Epee (Over 40s) Championships.
Find out more about the Australian film industry on Wiki