Escape From L.A. >
Exclusive Interviews > Kevin J. Gorman (Director:
The Making Of Escape From L.A. - Snake Is Back)
How did you end up
directing special content such as featurettes, promo spots and EPKs (Electronic
Press Kits) for Paramount?
After graduating from USC (University of Southern California) film
school, I started working in the Paramount Marketing Department and for over 20
years produced and directed BTS (Behind the Scenes) specials, promo spots and EPKs. All these elements were shot to promote our films and support additional
products like DVDs. We had a great team of editors, sound mixers and DVD
producers working there as well.
How did you get the assignment to direct The
Making Of Escape From L.A. - Snake Is Back as well as the EPK and how did
you prepare for this project?
Escape From L.A. was picked as one of our projects because we knew
Escape From New York was a popular movie, John Carpenter had a built-in-fanbase,
and that Kurt Russell and the visual effects would be fun selling points.
We mainly concentrated on the biggest films for that particular year and as the
on-set producer, I worked with my boss to figure
out what aspects of production we wanted to emphasize, what days to cover with a
camera crew, and who to interview to support our footage. The final shows we
produced for HBO and Showtime were often 30 minutes in length. Today's audience
has no patience for that kind of length, but it gave us a chance to really
explore different parts of the production challenges for each movie.
How do you work on
When shooting behind-the-scenes material on
set we always try to be as unobtrusive as possible. We don't generally ever
stand in an actor's eyeline, place ourselves in the way of a dolly or tracking
shot, and otherwise ignore the crew around us. That's because we know the most
important thing happening on that set is getting the movie made. At the same
time, to get great shots with camera references at the beginning or end of a
shot, we need to work our way into positions where the crew and actors know we
are there. We don't want to surprise the actors or filmmakers and thereby ruin a
shot. But standing miles away across the street isn't going to get the material
we need. Which is why some people say shooting on set is 90% politics and 10%
shooting. You need to convince the producer, director, studio, actors and crew
that you will show due consideration for what they are trying to do while also
shooting great BTS material. A lot of that is accomplished by working out a plan
before we arrive with the 1st AD (Assistant Director) about the ground rules for
actors and the plan for that day of shooting. We don't seek to surprise people
or shoot them in unexpected places. And the interviews are generally coordinated
through an on set publicist who serves as a liaison between the film and any
crews visiting for publicity purposes. As far as the director and major star of
the movie, we often interview them later when we have a better idea of how the
movie plays and what sequences we want to emphasize in our conversation.
How often were you on set, how much footage did you
film, did you encounter any problems and how was the experience working with the
cast and crew?
By the time we had completed all interviews
after production and special 2nd Unit shoots (like the miniature freeway
collapse) as well as 1st Unit coverage, we probably shot somewhere in the range
of 25-30 days. I don't remember the number exactly as it was 23 years ago. I do
remember the interview with Kurt Russell took place on set around 2 AM in the
morning and the John Carpenter interview took place much later at Paramount
during post-production. We usually do the directors last in the interview
process as they have the most to tell. I was a big JC fan so it was great fun to
see him work on a set. He was always prepared, a little cantankerous, had a
great dynamic with Kurt Russell due to their long-standing collaboration, and
was always a total pro who knew exactly what he needed to shoot. That was
especially important as this movie shot for something like 70 nights and that is
really hard on any crew. Luckily JC was often ready to wrap by 2 or 3 AM because
he was so efficient in getting his day completed. One sign of a less experienced
director is being there to watch the sun come up. You can get away with it for a
few days, but when you have 70 nights in a row, you have to get through as
quickly as you can. As with the actors, maintaining the energy of the crew is an
important factor in getting your movie made.
Do you still have the footage or do Paramount own it?
Paramount owns all the
footage which is probably in their deep mine vault somewhere in Pennsylvania. At
least that's where we used to send material to be archived. We shot everything
on tape for a project like this (not film or digital) and while the final BTS
show is available to view on your website and elsewhere on the internet, I don't
know if the tapes themselves are still viewable. Or even still in existence. I
didn't keep copies myself. So that's a question for the Paramount Archives.
What's your favorite memory or memories of working
on the movie?
Kurt Russell is one of the coolest cats ever on set and it was just fun
to watch him work through this latest genre movie. The rest of the cast was fun
too, especially Bruce Campbell (Surgeon General of Beverly Hills). Also great to
watch JC at work and see his dark and sinister spin applied to a studio feature
film. The broad swagger and hatred of authority that define Snake Plissken are
clearly present in John Carpenter himself. No surprise as he is the creator of
I have always loved working on movies where miniatures were incorporated
into a bigger Visual FX plan as it is amazing to see what the craftspeople can
create. IMO (In My Opinion) this is one of the greatest losses in the transition
to digital filmmaking where CGI (Computer-Generated Imagery) is used to create
everything. Just not the same. Last but by no means least, it was great to have
the pleasure to sit down and ask John and Kurt all about the movie they made. I
was also a big fan of Debra Hill (Producer/Co-Writer) who worked with JC starting with Halloween.
She's no longer with us but was a great producer for JC and the production team.
What do you
think of the movie personally?
It's a blast to watch. It's bold and fun, a full-on popcorn, silly, dark,
and dystopian JC send up of a future none-of-us-ever really want to see. It's
not quite as dark as Escape From New York but still has some uniquely JC
sequences, like surfing the tidal wave, etc. And Snake Plissken is such a great
character I wouldn't be surprised if he makes an appearance some day again.
I also have a great admiration for filmmakers like John Carpenter who
have worked for decades to get their creative vision on film. That's so hard to
do for so many reasons and takes real tenacity, vision, and most of all -
TALENT. Personally, my all-time favorite JC is probably The Thing, a
remake of the Howard Hawks movie from the 1950's, also starring Kurt Russell.
But I am also a big fan of the first Halloween movie, Escape From New
York, Starman and Big Trouble in Little China. This guy has
done it all so do yourself a favor and seek out some of the movies he's directed
on Netflix, Amazon or at your local library. And don't forget, beyond writing
and directing these movies, in many cases he was also the COMPOSER. An amazing
range of talents.
What are you
currently doing and what do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
I'm currently working as a freelance
producer (I'm available!), raising my teenage son along with my wife and
enjoying living in Southern California. I still love movies, still love watching
behind-the-scenes featurettes and TV shows, and just wish I had been able to
work on a Stanley Kubrick movie or two, or maybe even a Billy Wilder movie! You
get the idea. At the end of the day, the true goal is to make a great movie.
Being on a lot of sets taught me how difficult that can be. I hope I was able to
give you some insights into what it was like watching this movie get made. Thank
you for your interest.
Thank you for your
The Making Of
Escape From L.A. - Snake Is Back