Brian Reddin talks to Film Ireland about It Came from Connemara!!, his documentary about the legendary Roger Corman’s time making movies in Connemara.
It Came from Connemara!! screens on Sunday, 15th March 2015 at 13.00 at the IFI as part of its Ireland on Sunday monthly showcase for new Irish film.
It Came from Connemara!! tells the fascinating story of the B-Movie legend Roger Corman who set up his film studio Concorde Anois Teo in Tully in 1996, 20 miles outside Galway – availing of tax breaks initiated by the-then Minister for Arts and Culture Michael D Higgins and spent the next few years making low-budget commercial motion pictures, such as Bloodfist VIII: Trained to Kill (1996), Spacejacked (1997) and A Very Unlucky Leprechaun (1998). Along the way, Corman gave many Irish people their start in the film industry whilst also upsetting the unions and the tastes of cinephiles who scoffed at the lurid “trash” Corman served up. Brian Reddin’s documentary captures that time in Irish film with wild gusto.
Speaking to Brian, I told him I was amazed that this story hadn’t been told before. “I was also amazed that nobody had tackled it before. I can’t imagine why as it is a great story.” Brian’s own personal history ties in with Corman and was one of the reasons he ended up making the documentary. “I was always a huge fan of Corman,” Brian says, “particularly his Poe adaptations with Vincent Price. Then when I heard he was coming to Ireland to make movies, I was intrigued. At the time I was producing a movie review series for TG4 and I tried to get on his sets and get some interviews but we had no joy. So, that made it even more intriguing wondering what was going on there. Then, he was gone almost as soon as he came and we never saw any of the movies and were none the wiser as to what went on there. Then many years later I was producing a drama series out of his studios and I got chatting with a lot of the crew who worked with Corman and their stories were hilarious. I knew there was a great doc in there, so I approached TG4 and they said if you get Corman, then we are on board. It took a while to get him, but once I did, TG4 came on board and then the BAI and we got to make it.”
More than just getting Corman, he proves himself to be a delightful interviewee throughout the documentary looking back on his time in Ireland with an impish glee. “He’s amazing,” Brian tells me, “88 years of age and still making movies. He doesn’t have an agent or a publicist or a manager, so initially I simply emailed his production office and then made a few phone calls and eventually he agreed to be interviewed. The problem was tying him down to a date as he is always so busy. When we were planning to shoot with him, he was overseeing his latest movie Sharktopus Vs Pteracuda – which I think is a love story – and he was making that at 87! He is still incredibly prolific and busy. But, once he committed then he threw himself behind the project. He allowed us use clips from his Irish back catalogue and gave us a brilliant interview in his offices in LA. He was happy to talk about anything for as long as we wanted. He was a joy to deal with. I had lunch with him after the interview and it was like a master class in filmmaking.”
Alongside Corman, the documentary features a list of of legends: Corbin Bernsen, Josh Brolin and Don “The Dragon” Wilson – all more than happy to take part. Brian explains how he approached them to be part of his film: “I went through all of Corman’s Irish movies and made a list of all the stars who appeared in them. Unfortunately David Carradine [Knocking on Death’s Door, 1999] and Roy Scheider [The Doorway, 2002] are no longer with us, but there was plenty of talent to choose from. I got their agents’ details and emailed them all, and every one of them agreed to take part. It‘s the first time I’ve made a documentary where everybody agreed to do it. They all had a great time in Ireland and they all love Roger, so they were more than happy to talk about their time here. Meeting Brolin was a particular highlight. I loved him in Capricorn One and he’s Hollywood royalty but a nicer gentleman you could not meet. They were all very generous with their time and it was great to meet them all.”
Their love for Corman was matched by the hundreds of Irish crew that worked for him. Their fondness of the experience comes through again and again coupled with their gratitude for breaking into the business and the learning curve it provided them. “It was great to get the Hollywood stars in the film, but the heart of it was always going to be the Irish crew,” Brian explains. “They were the ones with the war stories. They worked long hours for little money in tough conditions with pretty shit scripts and they adored it. They all got the opportunity to move through the filmmaking ranks and Corman gave them that opportunity when other places did not. It was an amazing training ground. You could be an assistant one day and directing the next and you could move through departments – grips ended up in make-up and there are loads of stories of crew getting lots of experience in lots of different areas. There remains a great camaraderie amongst the ‘Cormanites’ – as they call themselves – a lot of them turned up for the Galway Fleadh screening last year and it was amazing to hear them reminisce about their time in the trenches with Corman. The list of people who went on to great things from there is huge – David Caffrey for example, who directs Love/Hate, started with Corman, Terry McMahon played a heavy in a few of his movies, even Hector worked for him. There is a long list of people working in the business today who owe a lot to Corman.”
The documentary is deceptively fun but contains within it an important part of the history of Roger Corman and his time working in the Irish Film industry. It’s particularly interesting to recall how Corman was seen from the outside by the filmmaking status quo in Ireland, causing ructions from unions and the so-called film cognoscenti. “I wanted to keep it fun and light,” Brian says. “It‘s hard to take it seriously when you are talking about movies like Spacejacked or Knocking on Death’s Door – however, at the same time, his time making movies in Ireland was fascinating. Apart from the people still working in the business today as a result of working with him, there was another story of people being denied work. The unions weren’t happy with Corman and the press less so and those who worked for him were definitely made to feel as if their work had no value outside of the Corman bubble. That was a shame, but it had a lot to do with a lack of information. Nobody knew for certain what was being made in Connemara and then when they saw it, they were outraged that grants had been provided to someone to make such rubbish. However, and it’s important to note, Corman paid back every penny of his grant, so he left owing nothing. Whether you enjoy the films or not, and there aren’t many who do, you can’t deny that they were professionally made by people who had only begun in the business. Nobody would consider Corman’s movies Irish and yet they were shot in Ireland with an Irish crew, Irish actors, Irish technicians – sometimes directed by an Irishman and often telling Irish stories. Yet, they are never called Irish while we’re more than happy to claim an Australian director with American money telling the story of a Scotsman.”
Whatever anyone thinks, Corman’s guerrilla philosophy and can-do attitude on low-budget film has a lot to say about filmmaking. “He was always way ahead of his time and embraced new technologies. He was shooting digital before anyone else and also embraced the internet very early on. The best thing about Corman is that he is not a cinematic snob. He’ll make anything and he doesn’t get caught up in the aesthetic value of it. It‘s all about making money and keeping the audience happy. He’s currently making movies for the SciFi Channel. When his work wasn’t selling big in cinemas anymore, he moved to the video market and then to television and now to the internet. He just keeps working whatever the medium. Its a pity that we can’t make films the way he used to anymore. For example in the case of Little Shop of Horrors, he was given a location for free for a weekend so he shot the movie in 2 days for $30,000. Once he got an idea, nothing would stop him.”
It Came from Connemara!! screens on Sunday, 15th March 2015 at 13.00 at the IFI as part of its Ireland on Sunday monthly showcase for new Irish film.
Tickets for It Came from Connemara!! are available now from the IFI Box Office on 01 679 3477 or online atwww.ifi.ie
Brian Reddin’s documentary screens on Wednesday 15th October 2014 @ 21:30 on TG4
In 1964, the Gardaí moved their training facility from Phoenix Park to Templemore.
50 years after the first recruits graduated from this new facility, they returned to commemorate the occasion.
During this documentary, we meet the class of ’64 and discover how their lives and careers played out over the last 50 years. Many of them were involved in some of the most high profile cases the State has ever seen – one even became a Garda Commissioner – all of them remember a different, more innocent time as they reflect on their lives as Gardaí.
Profiling both the men of Templemore and the town that embraced them, this documentary provides a unique insight into the lives of the men who served our State.
Featuring interviews with former Commissioner Noel Conroy as well as Sergeant John Reynolds PhD, the documentary features extensive interviews with the Gardaí who passed out in 1964, including, Tom Sands (Galway), Micheál de Búrca (Galway), Michael Dalton (Tullamore), Martin Fitzpatrick (Limerick), Seosamh Ó Conghaile (Killibegs), Pádraig Moran (Roscommon) and Pádraig Ó Liatháin (Killarney).
The documentary was produced and directed by Brian Reddin of Dearg Films.
The DOP was Gerry MacArthur. Trevor Cunningham was on Sound and the documentary was edited by Ultan Murphy in Windmill Lane.
Following its premiere at the Galway Film Fleadh, Dearg Films’ documentary on the Roger Corman Connemara studios has been selected to screen at the Raindance Film Festival in London.
Now in its 22nd year, Raindance is the largest independent film festival in Europe and has a strong legacy of showing alternative films and uncovering new filmmakers to hit the cinematic scene.
‘It Came From Connemara!!’ is the only Irish documentary feature to be selected for the festival.
Director Brian Reddin said, “We are absolutely thrilled to be selected as part of this prestigious festival and to be the only Irish feature documentary selected is a great honour. It’s particularly cool because our doc is in both Irish and English, which proves that a good story can travel in any language. We are equally delighted for both TG4 and the BAI who funded the documentary and have been incredibly supportive throughout the process.
It Came From Connemara!! also screens next Saturday Sept 6th at the inaugral Sky Road Film Festival in Clifden and is also screening as part of the IFI Stranger Than Fiction Festival on Saturday September 27th.
This feature documentary tells the unique story behind Roger Corman’s film studio in Connemara.
When Corman arrived in Ireland, he brought with him an unrivalled career, which guaranteed him a place in cinema history. This was the man who launched the cinematic careers of Coppola, Scorsese, Nicholson and De Niro. The name ‘Corman’ meant low budget, but it also meant cult, and crucially, it meant fun. He was never concerned with awards or creating anything of aesthetic value. Instead, he churned out cheap exploitation flicks in the 50’s, which quickly established Corman as a producer and director who gave the audience what they wanted. His Irish films were designed to do just that.
By the 90s, Corman had set his sights on Ireland. His time making movies in Connemara would be marred by controversy as he managed to upset the unions and the tastes of cinephiles. But, those who worked for him adored the experience. Corman gave them an opportunity to learn the film industry and a chance to progress through the filmmaking ranks. He helped to launch many production careers in Ireland and there are many who credit him with their success.
The Corman Connemara Studios employed hundreds of people throughout its few years in production and released almost 20 feature films, all shot in Connemara by Irish crews with Irish actors. Yet, the story of the studios and the movies Corman made there has never been told. With unique access to Corman and his archive of Irish films, along with behind the scenes footage and stills, as well as interviews with many of the cast and crew who worked at Concorde Anois, this documentary tells the whole story of what came from Connemara during those five gloriously gruesome years.
The documentary features exclusive interviews with Roger Corman, Don ‘The Dragon’ Wilson, James Brolin and Corbin Bernsen as well as interviews with the Irish cast and crew, John Brady, Celine Curtin, Maeve Joyce and Evelyn O’Rourke. The documentary was produced and directed by Brian Reddin. The DOP was Gerry MacArthur and it was edited by Ultan Murphy in Windmill Lane. The documentary was funded by TG4 and the BAI.
David Gorman shlocks his way through Brian Reddin’s It Came from Connemara!!, a fascinating documentary about the production studio that low-budget, B-movie legend Roger Corman established in Galway.
The first time I heard Roger Corman’s name, in an interview with Martin Scorsese discussing the influence he had on his career. I remember that I thought Scorsese said, in his fast New York accent, ‘Roger Gorman’. So with a similar surname to myself, I searched into some of his films on IMBD. I was a little surprised for two reasons: firstly, he did not have the same surname (listen to Scorsese say his name and you can excuse my mistake); and secondly, his filmography consisted of names like The Beast with a Million Eyes (1955)Monster from the Ocean Floor (1954) and Candy Stripe Nurses (1974). I was surprised, and wondered why one of my favourite directors was speaking so highly of this B-movie filmmaker.
As I read further into the career of this man I soon realised that the admiration came not only from Scorsese but from some of American cinema’s biggest names. Avoiding a long list of familiar names that are easily recognisable to anyone reading this, it is suffice to say that Roger Corman has an entry in the film lexicon of many filmmakers in America and especially those from the New Hollywood era.
Fast forward about eight years after my first hearing of Roger Corman in a YouTube interview with Martin Scorsese – I am in the Town Hall Theatre Galway watching a documentary about his production studio located just a few miles from where I am sitting.
It Came from Connemara!! is a documentary by director Brian Reddin about the production studio that Roger Corman established in Galway, where in the 1990s for five years an Irish crew manufactured about twenty films. I say manufactured because you get the sense that it was like a machine going from one film to another, covering genres such as horror, sci-fi, action and romance.
From the beginning of the documentary there are hilarious anecdotes conveying stories of a filmmaking regime that will possibly never be imitated again. It is a great insight into a time when inexperienced Irish crews might one day be in the make-up department and the next, be assistant director. Make no mistake, Corman did not want his director spending time worrying about every aspect of a scene or have pleasing aesthetics in mind, it was pure commerce.
The footage from the films made at that time are a great addition to the documentary and much to Reddin’s relief, Corman, who is notorious for being frugal, kindly let them use the footage free of charge. There is something surreal about seeing a huge shoot out in the middle of Shop Street, or a car exploding outside a small garage in Spiddal, and as someone who lives in Galway I am now very keen to see them.
As Ireland introduced higher wages and theatrical releases for the type of B-Movies Corman was putting out decreased, his time in Ireland came to an unavoidable end. You can sense Corman has a genuine affection for that time in his career, he reminisces with a hint of pride “It was the Irish branch of what was known as The Corman Film School”.
His legacy in Ireland might not be as widely known as his American one, nevertheless, similar to the way Corman started the careers of so many accomplished American filmmakers, he achieved the same in Ireland. Many of the people who worked on the Irish branch of the Corman Film School now have significant and accomplished careers. This film is about more than Corman’s studio in the West of Ireland, a sense of nostalgia permeates this documentary looking back at an era that might never be replicated again. For any film fans out there this a great watch.