True Indie – by Don Coscarelli

true indie

True Indie:  Life & Death in Filmmaking is a autobiography of Don Coscarelli’s career in filmmaking.  To say it’s a no holds bar into the perils of indie filmmaking is an understatement.  Mr. Coscarelli tells us about how he became a filmmaker, and how he made his films.  I had no idea that when you saw a Coscarelli film it was a “family” affair.   His dad provided the financing to Coscarelli’s first film ” Story of a Teenager” and on “Phantasm”.  His mom (Kate Coscarelli) held down several jobs as a cook, seamstress, and make-up artist.  Don talks about the making of each film, and he really gets into detail.  The most interesting thing Coscarelli does is talk about he and his crew created the flying globes of death in Phantasm.  He uses good old ingenity, and a bit of trick photography to accomplish what we see in the film.  When Coscarelli says that indie filmmaking is not for the weak he is not kidding.  It’s because of his description of how he pulls off his films that makes this book very special.  He tells it like it is, and he doesn’t sugar coat it.  Having worked on several films in my youth and making my own feature I can concur that it’s pretty straight forward, and it pulls no punches.  You’ll love the scene where Coscarelli’s face is on fire after filming a chase scene from the movie Phatasm, and yet he comes out unscathed due to his ingenuity in preparing how to film that scene safely.  If you ask me though the stunt seemed crazy and he was a bit lucky.  There maybe a lesson in that for all of us and that is “safety first”.   But then again the scene shows his enthusiasm to the profession.  I’ve gained a massive amount of respect for Coscarelli and his team, and I think this can help others who want to get into indie filmmaking.  From the highs of making a fantastic film like “Phantasm” to the lows of trying to get a sequel to his film “Bubba Ho-Tep” off the ground it’s all in there.   Coscarelli tells you all the good, the bad, and the ugly of working as a independent producer / director.

Throughout the book Coscarelli shows his enthusiasm for filmmaking and how he tackled problems such as creating flying orbs of death in “Phantasm“, or working with different animals on his film the “Beastmaster“.

It’s a pretty interesting look at how low budget filmmaking is done in the trenches.  I admire Coscarelli for his determination to get it done.  He’s a triple or quadruple threat because he started filmmaking by writing, directing, shooting, and producing his first two films.  When you’re a low budget filmmaker you better know how to get down in the trenches and start digging.  Any filmmaker worth his or her salt should know how to weld a camera or edit a sequence.  Coscarelli is that filmmaker, so he has a lot to say and it would benefit us to listen because we might just learn something.  I have gone back to some of his films and have always been a fan of the first “Phantasm”, and I really have a special place for his film “Kenny and Company“.   Reading the book and re-watching his films puts a lot of things in perspective, and you really see how Cascarelli worked his tail off.

I’d say if you’re a fan of his films it’s a definite read, and if you’re a budding filmmaker it sure could not hurt reading this and re-watching his films.  You’ll learn a lot about filmmaking from this book and it is my hope that we’ll see more from Coscarelli in the near future because the guy kicks butt.




Gary Graver : Filmmaker Extraordinaire…


Who you ask is Gary Graver?  One of cinema’s unsung hero’s if you ask me.  You may have heard of him recently with the release of Orson Welles‘ film “The Other Side of the Wind”.  Just recently I received an email from American Cinematographer that said “for your consideration” Gary Graver for cinematography for “The Other Side of the Wind“.  It would be a nice gesture if he actually wins the award.  Graver passed away in 2006, and he never saw the completion of the film.  He was always trying to get the film finished and their was rumors that Showtime was interested.  Flash forward 12 years and finally Orson Welles last film is being released by Netflix to good reviews.  There is no doubt that Graver was the driving force to complete the film.  Welles passed away on October 10th 1985, and I believe it was due to Mr Graver’s tenacity that it ever so the light of day now.  It would be a great tribute to him if he was given the award for best cinematography for the film.  But this post is about Gary Graver the filmmaker.  I was first aware of him due to his low budget films “the Toolbox Murders“, “Grand Theft Auto“, “DeathSport“, and “Mortuary”.  I am a bit of a low budget connoisseur and I knew good production value when I see it.  Graver was known for his fast set-ups and his striking visuals.  You can see that in “the Other Side of the Wind”.  Each frame of that film is so well crafted it would be hard to dispute that Graver was not a major player in the film.  Graver really worked well with Orson even though Graver sacrificed a lot to help his dear friend Welles.  There is even a book he helped write called” “Making Movies with Orson Welles“, which I need to put on my list.  The documentary “They’ll love me when I’m Dead” is a great companion piece to the film “the Other Side of the Wind”.  In it we see how the film became Welles’ and Graver’s obsession.  There is a good part devoted to Graver and his contributions to the film.  I really wanted to know more about Graver himself after seeing “They’ll love me when I’m Dead”, and have sought as many of these interviews out as I could.

Throughout Graver’s mainstream cinema work he also directed many different porn films under an assumed name as “Robert McCallum”.  Graver’s work in the adult film industry resulted in more than 135 films including Unthinkable, which won the AVN Award in 1985.

I really believe that Mr Graver was a consummate filmmaker.  He knew his stuff, and was always subverted by others who thought they knew more.

The guy lived and breathed cinema.  He was a frustrated artist at times, but anything I can write about Graver pales by comparison to what I can dig up through interviews, podcasts and film clips.  So I’ve embedded all 9 clips from YouTube.  Graver himself made it, and it’s pretty interesting.   He runs through how some of his films were cut and how he actually  cut them.  So without further ado I give you Gary Graver in his own words.  Enjoy!