IFI Ireland on Sunday Interview: Brian Reddin, director of ’It Came from Connemara!!’

Brian Reddin

 

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 at www.ifi.ie

 

 

Carol Hunt remembers her time shooting a B-movie love scene in Roger Corman’s Galway studio for the film The Unspeakable.

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‘It Came From Connemara!!’ Screens at Raindance

On set 'A Very Unlucky Leprechaun'

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.

 

 

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It Came From Connemara!!: Preview of Irish Film at the Galway Film Fleadh

it came from connemara

The 26th Galway Film Fleadh (8 – 13 July, 2014)

It Came From Connemara!!

Wed 9th July

Town Hall Theatre

15.00

It Came From Connemara!!, the feature documentary about Roger Corman’s film factory in Connemara, will have its world premiere at this year’s Galway Film Fleadh. The festival will be a fitting location for a film that documents an exciting but controversial time in Irish cinema history. In the mid 1990’s the legendary Hollywood B-movie producer Roger Corman created the studio that would go on to produce nearly 20 feature films with Irish locations and crews.The film is directed by Brian Reddin, and he spoke to Film Ireland about it screening at the Fleadh.”Galway is central to the story of Corman in Ireland. Galway and Connemara supplied the locations for the studio and the backdrop to all of the movies – regardless of whether they were set in space or Maine – and many of the cast and crew were Galway based. In fact, a great number of people who worked with Corman in Connemara are still working in the business today in Galway, so there is a huge connection with Galway.

“The Fleadh itself played a significant role in the story of Corman in Connemara. It was a screening of Criminal Affairs at the Fleadh in 1997 which lead to negative reports about ‘porn’ being made in the West of Ireland with Údarás grants and a minor controversy about the merits of Corman’s output. Screening the documentary at the Fleadh brings the story of Corman in Connemara full circle and we couldn’t be happier to premiere it there”.

The documentary tells how Corman brought his brand of low-budget, cult, B-movie cinema to Ireland. Responsible for launching the careers of Coppola, Scorsese and Jonathan Demme, Corman came to Ireland and, in a five-year period that was marked with controversies, created films that included Swamp Women, Attack Of The Crab Monsters and The Little Shop Of Horrors.

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.

Tickets are available to book from the Town Hall Theatre on 091 569777, or at www.tht.ie.

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