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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 (Director/Co-Writer/Co-Composer) had a built-in-fanbase and that Kurt Russell (Snake Plissken/Producer/Co-Writer) 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 (Home Box Office, Inc.) 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 set?

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. Some people say shooting on set is 90 percent politics and 10 percent 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 (John Carpenter) 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 the character.

I have always loved working on movies where miniatures were incorporated into a bigger Visual FX (Visual Effects) plan as it is amazing to see what the craftspeople can create. 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 etcetera. 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 1950s also starring Kurt Russell. 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. 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 time, Kevin.

The Making Of Escape From L.A. - Snake Is Back