Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Sam O’Steen. Excerpts of interest. Bobbie O'Steen. Cut to the Chase, Forty-five Years of Editing America’s Favourite Movies. Michael Wiese Productions. 2001.

1.       You returned to Warner Brothers when some of the best writers in the country were under contract.
2.       But even they had to punch a time clock, and they worked long hours and six-days weeks. Sometimes I had to sit at the desk where the writers checked in and I remember seeing some great ones, like the Epstein Brothers and [] Faulkner. They also used to have a lookout in their building, and when Warner was spotted heading their way, all the writers would suddenly start typing.
3.       I guess Warner didn’t understand that writers didn’t just type, they had to think, too.
4.       I’m not sure Warner even read scripts, but he knew who the big names were, and he could get guys like Faulkner for a few hundred dollars a week. And having all those great writers was something, because it all starts there.
5.       There was a famously violent strike that took place at Warners soon after you started in the print shop.
6.       Yeah, it was an outlaw strike, because all of us who worked for the studio had a no-strike clause in our contracts. The painter’s union was striking for better working conditions, but this real asshole was head of the union, and there were fights all over the place. I was up on the roof of a diner across the street from the studio when hundreds of cops showed up with tear gas and clubs and finally cleared the crowd of picketers. But they fought back with bottles and stones. It was rough, boy.
7.       Were you afraid to go on the lot?
8.       Yeah. The cops finally made a blockade of cars so we could drive in, but I was still scared shitless. Guy were turning over cars and swinging these giant chains around, beating people up. Stuff like that kept going on, even after the cops moved in. So I stayed on the lot for two weeks, a lot of Warners people did.

1.       Then how did anyone on the outside get moved up?
2.       You bluffed. When I moved up, the union representative came right out and said, Come on, you can’t do that, there’s a lot of guys out of work. Fred said, I want him. But the union guy kept saying, No, and Fred said, Well, I want him. I’ll go to Taft-Hartley for it.
3.       What did that mean?
4.       The unions had been getting too strong – they had too much control over who worked and who didn’t – so Congress wrote this bill, the Taft-Hartley bill, that said if you get a job they can’t take you off of it without reason. Fred was just bluffing when he said he’d call them, but finally the union rep said, “I’ll tell you what. We’ll let him be an assistant on this show, but when the show is over he goes back to apprentice again.” Fred agreed, but when the show was over, I didn’t go back to being an apprentice. And from that day on, I’ve never called the union.

1.       Next you were hired to direct the miniseries Centennial, for Universal. You knew it was a tough shoot.
2.       [skip]
3.       What you had to shoot the first day was already ridiculous.
4.       [skip]
5.       So inevitably you were behind schedule even though you were as fast as anybody.
6.       Right.
7.       You faced another challenge when you cast the local (Colorado) indians.
8.       [skip]
9.       Your biggest challenge was finding indians who knew how to ride horses.
10.   I had river crossings with Indians who never rode horses on horses that had never been ridden before and, I’ll tell you, I’d never seen so many flying Indians in my life. The horses were flipping ‘em off left and right as they were running down the hill.
11.   The conditions were tough, too.
12.   It was cold, boy. One actor ended up freezing to death – his feet were frozen in his boots – because the heat had gone off in his trailer.
13.   Then what happened?
14.   [skip]
15.   The director who replaced you was eighteen days over schedule.
16.   ... and that’s what I told them I’d be. Soon after that I got a call from Tim Zinnema. He asked if I could recommend an editor.
17.   Assuming that you were no longer cutting.
18.   Yeah, so I said, What’s the picture? He said, A remake of Hurricane. I asked him where they were shooting it. He said, Bora Bora. Well, I had heard of Bora Bora, so I turned to you and said, You want to go to Bora Bora? and you said, Sure. So I said to Tim, How about me?
19.   You had a meeting with Dino [De Laurentiis, the producer]. What was your first impression?
20.   That he was a shyster, that I’d better keep my hands in my pocket at all times.
21.   Why did you get that impression?
22.   I don’t know, I just felt it. And as it turned out, there was a lot of fishy stuff going on. Most of the people on the movie got paid off the books, but I wasn’t going to do that, because I’d been honest my whole life, and I wasn’t going to start cheating then. Also, the financing of the picture came from Amsterdam, and our paychecks came from Monaco. Figure it out.
23.   Dino had four pictures going at once, some ninety millions dollars going out, nothing coming in, and he wasn’t worried. So you think it was Mafia money?
24.   Probably, but he was also a very savvy producer, and he knew editing.
25.   He started his career by buying up B movies and fixing them.
26.   Yeah, and a lot of that went on in the cutting room.
27.   He was also larger than life, a showman who liked to solve problems in a kind of operatic way.
28.   He had a lot of energy and enthousiasm, he got everybody pumped up, and he had balls, boy. Doing that picture in an isolated place like Bora Bora was ballsy.
29.   You like working for him.
30.   I loved it, because there were only one guy to answer to. The only clinker is his taste. He does seem to make turd movies.

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