Interview – Nick Redman
Bruce Kimmel: Hello, Nick Redman, International Man of Many Talents (IMOMT, in Internet lingo) and welcome to haineshisway.com and our Unseemly Interview. Okay, first things first – you, Nick Redman, IMOMT, do not come from these here United States do you? Tell our dear readers where you actually are from.
Nick Redman: Well, I actually come from good old Blighty. That’s the UK for non-military types. I was born in Wimbledon, near London, famous of course for tennis. Speaking of which, that’s where I first saw Guy Haines, in the late 70s, near the end of his career, play Chico “The Bull” Gonzaga, a match famous fot its niggling fouls and general ugliness. The game was finally abandoned when “The Bull” vaulted the net and caught Guy with a left-handed chop to the jugular. After writhing on the ground for what seemed like hours, Guy climbed to his feet and broke into a smart, surprising rendition of “Oklahoma.” Guy and Chico left the court to loud applause and a smattering of boos and catcalls.
BK: So, there you are, a lad in the UK. When did your interest in cinema and film music first begin?
NR: We lived right opposite a cinema, but my Mum wouldn’t let me go, claiming I’d catch whooping cough inside it. Eventually, around the age of eight or nine, this picture palace, named the Rembrandt, became my second home. Every Saturday morning I would watch from my bedroom window as the old posters were taken down, and the new ones went up. (In those days, the program changed on Sundays.) This big old edifice was a magical building, and my childhood was very similar to that of the lad in “Cinema Paradiso.”
BK: Can you remember the first time in a movie theater where you conciously remembered the film score and had to make note of the composer?
NR: Absolutely. No question it was the film ZULU with a score by John Barry, and like a lot of Brits of my generation, John Barry was my introduction to film music. Very soon after I saw the early Bond films, and I was hooked on the music. I was struck by the way you could re-watch a film in your head by putting the theme to it. I was also aware that no-one else knew what you were talking about when you mentioned the music! Very soon after I had a bunch of favorite film composers. Lalo Schifrin, Ennio Morricone, Michel Legrand and Jerry Fielding were early stand-outs for me.
BK: What, Nick Redman, was the very first soundtrack album you purchased in Merry Olde England?
NR: It was the aforementioned ZULU, followed by the Bond films and spaghetti westerns…Bullitt drew me to Lalo and I became his biggest fan….The Thomas Crown Affair and Butch Cassidy had wonderful music too.
BK: What were some of the “life-changer” films that you saw as a wee sprig of a twig of a lad of a tad of a youth – you know, the ones that really had an impact.
NR: It’s funny isn’t it about how you lock on to some of your earliest exposures..?…I remember The Magnificent Showman with John Wayne and Claudia Cardinale, (called Circus World over here), really enchanted me, and yet as an adult, it’s quite terrible. Zulu naturally, The Professionals with Lee Marvin, Von Ryan’s Express (of all things), The Great Escape, 2001, but life really changed for me when I saw The Wild Bunch….I knew that every film that came after would be measured against my reaction to that film, which I still believe to be one of the great masterpieces of cinema… but I also loved The Sound of Music, and I thought it was great such different kinds of film could co-exist in the same universe.
BK: Tell us about some of the jobs you had in England, and what your first exposure, work-wise, was in the film industry.
NR: I left school at 15 years old, not that unusual for British kids of the time….and I applied for a job at the Ministry Of Defence…to my immense surprise I passed the exam and they let me in! So there I was, in the Old War Office Building in Whitehall, signing the Official Secrets Act…and soon I would be immersed in a strange clandestine world of be-suited Military gents and slim, prim, bespectacled women, investigating weird goings-on in the cold war. As a “clerk” on the bottom rung of the ladder, I wasn’t privy to much, but my classification allowed me to read “Secret” documents but not “Top Secret.” Every day for months I spent my lunch hour in the vaults reading as many secret files as I could get my hands on. Just down the hall from where I worked was Profumo’s office. He was of course long gone by then (1970-71) but the scandal still reverberated. I knew I wasn’t cut out for a career in cold-war administration, and when I got a chance to apply for drama college in 1972, I took the opportunity. But I still think back to the two years I spent in Government, and marvel at the many things I learned, and what further training could have accomplished.
The lure of music and movies was too strong, and I spent a year in drama school before embarking on several more years as a bit-part theatre and TV actor. I played a lot of neanderthal teenage layabout types, but I wasn’t that interested in acting and wanted to spend more time learning about production. I remember being at an audition in the late 70s and the producer asked me why I wanted the role, and I told him I didn’t…I said I wanted to be his assistant instead, and he said ok. So from that day on I was “assistant producer” and treatment writer on a number of UK-based projects.
BK: All right, Nick Redman, there you are in the UK. How in tarnation did you come to these here United States of America and furthermore, how in tarnation did you end up in Los Angeles, California?
NR: It was either Dr Johnson or Samuel Pepys, who said that when “….a man is tired of London, he’s tired of life.” By the mid-80s, I’d become that man. I’d never been to America and I spent all my money from a script-sale I’d made to spend three months travelling the U.S. I started in New York, and ended up in LA, via the beautiful deserts of New Mexico. Over the Christmas holidays, (1985) I met Nectar Goldman at a restaurant…and for the next year or two we carried on a long-distance relationship….I was going back and forth to England. By early 1988, we had got married and I settled in Santa Monica, California, where I still am to this day!
BK: Our history, Nick Redman, goes back quite a few years now. Can you tell our dear readers how we met?
NR: I believe we met through Nectar, in 1989, when she was helping you out while you were doing “Totally Hidden Video.” She mentioned I was preparing a documentary for the BBC on film music, and you told her you’d just formed Bay Cities. We met, became friends and you asked me to help get some soundtracks for the new label.
BK: So, we now have our very own Record Label, Bay Cities. Since none of us were paid more than a mere pittance, we were obviously doing it for love. You came on board to do the soundtracks, but you also loved the musicals we were reissuing, didn’t you, Nick Redman?
NR: I really did, because musicals had always been a “closet” passion of mine. Growing up in a tough part of South London, mentioning musicals would have been a sure way of getting one’s teeth planted closer to the other end of one’s body, so the topic didn’t come up too often, but I saw Sweet Charity and then Cabaret, and I thought Bob Fosse’s films were so sexy and daring. It seemed to me his life was incredible. Some of my fondest Bay Cities memories involve the trips you and I made to New York together, working on “The Anastasia Affaire” and “Classical Broadway” among other things. Meeting people like Wright & Forrest and Harvey Schmidt was a huge thrill, and I remember when you and I both got thank you notes from Stephen Sondheim for reissuing “Funny Thing.” You were pleased as punch about that. One of my so-far unfulfilled dreams is to do a Broadway-related musical project or film.
BK: Tell our readers a bit about the wacky atmosphere of Bay Cities – also, tell us about the kinds of albums we did, and also talk a bit about our first forays into original recordings (which were the precursors of my years at Varese and elsewhere).
NR: Well there were essentially four of us working there, and I loved our dirty little offices near the Culver Studios. Every day we’d have lunch at the Sagebrush Cantina, and sitting at an adjacent table would be Larry Hagman and Patrick Duffy from “Dallas.” It took us a long time, but we ended up on “nodding acquaintance” terms with them. Apart from you and I there was Alain Silver and Michael Rosen, who’d invested in the enterprise although neither of them were keen on soundtracks or musicals. You and I shared a similar sense of humor, and had a genuine love for the material, and I will always be grateful for the amount you taught me about musicals and 20th century American classical music, but the others seemed to rain on the parade quite often, they just weren’t enthusiastic, and after about three years of largely unrewarded effort the strain began to show.
BK: Bay Cities was a company beloved by all, and yet, I believe, it was destined to fail, which it ultimately did. The story has been told by others, but why don’t you give us your perspective on the demise of the company. Hold nothing back (I believe we agree on the reasons it had to die).
NR: It is a great shame for Bay Cities really was loved by the community it was trying to serve. We were a kind of junior Varese Sarabande, but somehow the personality of the company was endearing to people. But we didn’t have a Chris Kuchler, and we desperately needed one. (Chris is the owner of Varese, he’s a financial wizard, and dedicated to the company’s survival.) You and I had the responsibility of gathering product, but we never had the financial backing to go beyond a certain level. The company could not have grown without an infusion of capital, and our other partners were more interested in securing funds for low-budget features. I’m not blaming them. Simply their interests were not ours and vice versa. If you like, Bay Cities was a rock group who all wanted to be solo acts. We were never a team. By the summer of 1992, we were both fed up, and Richard Kraft (who represents Jerry Goldsmith and Danny Elfman), had told me Fox were looking for someone to create a line of “classics” for them. He recommended me, and I interviewed for the post. You were unhappy too, and had been offered a move to Varese Sarabande. We even fell out for a time, as Bay Cities began to fall apart in a less-than-pleasant manner. At the end of 1992, Fox offered me the position, and you were resigned to Bay Cities’ demise. By early ’93 you were at Varese. In the end, we both made the right decision. Bay Cities was a fantastic learning experience. We released ninety three albums in a little under four years. Not bad for a company that never had a pot to piss in.
BK: So, Nick Redman, I move on to Varese Sarabande and you move over to 20th Century Fox where you begin a restoration program for their soundtracks that continues to this day. First of all, tell us how that all came about.
NR: Well as I said, I interviewed for the job originally in the summer of 92, but it took until December for all the details to be worked out. At the time, Fox Records had just been re-activated by the Fox music department as an imprint of Arista Records. They needed to generate “catalog” as well as supplying Arista with both new soundtracks and artists (like Jamie Foxx) that were actually signed to the new label! The idea was that I would excavate the vaults, kind of like the “Indiana Jones” of film music, and discover releasable material from Fox’s illustrious history. Clive Davis, then head of Arista memorably said “that it would be fun to have all those dead guys on my label.” He evidently thought differently after he saw the resultant sales figures. I remember Elliott Lurie, then head of music at Fox, welcoming me on board with the following testimonial: “There’s nobody here in the department that knows how to do what we are asking you to do. So don’t ask us any questions. Good luck, and we want the first batch ready to go in six months.”
BK: Now, I believe you were just about the first person to start doing this. Others have since jumped on the bandwagon and have tried to claim credit, but you were their first, paving the way. Tell us about the process of restoring a classic soundtrack – for example, Cleopatra, one of your major years-long projects. Also, tell us about restoring something like The Sound of Music or some of the other musicals you’ve done. For example, what it was like to hear all those Ethel Merman and Marilyn Monroe takes.
NR: It’s certainly true that no-one up to that point had ever been given carte blanche to do whatever they wanted with archival film music at a studio…and I really was given carte blanche. I was solely responsible for creating the methodology, paving the way if you will, for a studio to absolutely start thinking of its music assets as something that could be treated as a seperate entity and sold as an “historic” item. This came before Rhino’s exploitation of the MGM catalog, although George Feltenstein (then at MGM homevideo), had the foresight to package music with videos and laserdiscs. He was doing it with “Ziegfeld Follies” and “Meet Me In St Louis” at the same time we were re-issuing the Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals on audiocassette, packaged with their respective videos. The most important thing that we accomplished, I think, was making a new deal with the American Federation of Musicians’ union that brought a multi-tiered “new-use” payment much more financially manageable than anyone had previously thought possible. It has literally opened the doors for hundreds of “limited-edition” titles on the specialty labels, that could not have existed without it. I remember you and I, having lunch with Dick Gabriel (of the AFM) in 1990, and him telling us there would never be that kind of deal in the forseeable future. By late 1993, the Fox music team had the blueprint of that “impossible” deal in place, and it was ultimately finalised in the mid-nineties by Tom Cavanaugh, Fox’s terrific sr vp for music business affairs. It was all done under the radar, without publicity, and I think few people understand how revolutionary it was, and what has subsequently happened because of it. In the ten years since we began this whole thing, we’ve released close to 200 albums on various labels, (the Arista situation evaporated owing to a Fox regime change and a royalty battle involving Whitney Houston), and have some 200 more films fully restored at the studio which could be issued down the line. Most major labels have pulled out of the archival soundtrack business, leaving only the specialty labels to fight over the scraps. You mention something like “Cleopatra,” which was on my own wishlist for many years, finally coming out in 2001. I started work on that project in 1995, and I never thought it would happen. Hundreds of deteriorated reels of mag film, all having to be expensively restored, and a “tie-in event” that would do it justice. It all came together when the Mankiewicz family prevailed upon Fox to treat “Cleopatra” as something other than a pariah, and Fox’s head of documentary production Kevin Burns, made a 2 hour special for television about its tortured history. As a result, Varese Sarabande footed the not inconsiderable bill that allowed fans to finally hear Alex North’s music as it had been originally intended…
BK: You, Nick Redman, whilst at Bay Cities, created something that has been much copied in recent years – the composer promo, or limited edition release, with our wonderful series of Jerry Fielding discs. Tell our readers about that, and also how nobody seems to remember that we were there first. Damn them, damn them all to hell.
NR: It’s funny isn’t it how people love to rewrite history, although I’m actually not proud of our unwitting creation of the “promo” CD, which became a kind of industry for certain bottom-feeders in the business for many years. I’m going to blame our dear departed old friend Tony Thomas, because after all we stole the idea from him! In the 70s Tony released some LPs that bore the legend “Not licensed for public sale.” In other words he collaborated with the composers themselves to issue small private pressings of work few people would care about. He had done LPs of Jerry Fielding’s music and he gave us permission to put them on CD. I went to Jerry Fielding’s widow Camille, and she granted us access to his tape library. In return for paying all the costs, we sold some copies through mail-order distributors, and we gave a lot of copies away, particularly to Camille’s friends and family. Because we had not sought licenses from the copyright owners though, we stamped “not licensed for public sale” on the packaging, and limited the run to 1,500. Little did we know how often we would see that legend on so many future CDs. In the end the studios clamped down when the abuse had reached epidemic levels, and only a few morons are still continuing on that path today.
BK: Give us a list of your favorites amongst your restorations.
NR: Absolutely hands down I think my favorite is “The Sound of Music.” I’m a sucker for the film and I’ve loved the music since I was a child. Also it was a tremendously difficult undertaking because we didn’t know how to fix all the problems and it became the project on which the restoration program’s survival depended. All of the music was housed on badly-deteriorated reels of 35mm film, and we literally hadn’t tackled anything of this complexity before. It was April 1994, and I remember it well because when the music was transferred to 24 track tape it was actually unlistenable. Michael Matessino, who was producing a documentary on the film for FoxVideo, came in to lend his expert ears, (he and I subsequently did a number of John Williams restorations), and we determined the whole lot would have to be transferred again, this time, one stem at a time. This costly endeavor would not have happened without Skip Lusk, then-head of post-production, who authorised the expense knowing we couldn’t afford to pay the bill. All the work was done in the Zanuck Theatre, which at the time was about $7,500 a day. We spent six or seven weeks on “The Sound of Music” and when all was done and dusted, only one piece of material proved unsalvageable. One of the many thrills we had was hearing Julie Andrews “A Bell’s Not A Bell Till You Ring It,” which even Bob Wise told us had not been recorded for the film! I’ll never forget Skip’s generosity in allowing us complete latitude in the restoration because it showed us what could be done, and it blazed the trail for dozens more that otherwise would never have seen the light of day.
BK: Okay, there you are, Nick Redman, at the top of your game. But rather than rest on your laurels (no mean feat), you suddenly produce (with Paul Seydor) a marvelous documentary on Sam Peckinpah and The Wild Bunch. Tell us how that came to be, and about your lifelong love of Mr. Peckinpah.
NR: I’ve been a Consultant to Fox Music for ten years, but my deal is non-exclusive, which allows me to work for other labels or studios if I choose. Warners was restoring “The Wild Bunch” for theatrical reissue and I was asked to handle the music and produce a new album. Since “The Wild Bunch” was my all-time favorite film, and Sam Peckinpah my favorite film director, you can imagine I was at Warners before they hung up the phone. While we were working on the music, a startling discovery was made. 70 minutes of (silent) black and white footage of Peckinpah on location was found in the vault. I knew this was holy grail time, and suggested they let me fool with it and see what we could do. On the way home I called my good friend, (first-class editor and Peckinpah expert) Paul Seydor, and said: “You’ll never guess what just fell into our laps.” In 1980, Paul’s book, “Peckinpah: The Western Films” was published, and it remains to this day the finest evaluation of Peckinpah’s work ever written. I had always treasured it, and when I moved to California I sought Paul out and we became good friends. Now we had a chance to make a film about Peckinpah, and it was so much fun spending much of 1996 doing just that.
BK: Not only do you produce this marvelous documentary, you are nominated for an Academy Award for it. Now, we all want the dirt. Tell us all about getting nominated, and attending the Oscars. Hold nothing back.
NR: We could not have believed during production that the Oscars is where we’d end up. It was not in the cards at all, but a funny thing happened, and I suppose this is the way it works. After we’d made the film and it started playing festivals and a select few theatres for Academy qualification, it started taking on a life of its own. A lot of Academy people saw it and were really getting behind it. We got stunning reviews in the LA New Times by Michael Sragow and in Variety by Todd McCarthy. The voting committees featured directors like Wes Craven and Curtis Hanson who were staunch Peckinpah fans. And the general groundswell was the sentiment “This is for Sam.” As the nomination day drew nearer, we began to fret horribly, and the unbearable nomination-eve was so stressful. It was incredible to be woken at 5.30 in the morning with the news we’d made it. If I’m ever lucky enough to be nominated again though, there’s at least one thing I’d do differently….I’d try to bloody well enjoy it! The six week period before the actual ceremony is a nightmare of “lobbying” – and the stress level goes off the meter. You start believing you are actually going to be given one of these wiry little golden guys, and deep down I knew we were going to “lose,” even though it’s wrong to characterise it as winning or losing. The highlight is the Oscar lunch for all the nominees at the Beverly Hilton about three weeks before the ceremony. Arthur Hiller made a moving speech about what an honor the nomination was, and now you were in some “private club” that so few people get to join…he said the lunch was a day to accept all the goodwill, because the night itself was going to be a hothouse of illwill and negativity….the jealousies and rivalries would rise off the Oscar floor like so much mustard gas….That lunch was so memorable, and Arthur Hiller was so right…the night itself was a jagged, stripy monster waiting in the dark…With the blood pounding in my head, Tommy Lee Jones ran down the list of documentary nominees, mispronouncing Paul’s last name in the process. I was never so glad I have a simple name….and then Will Smith announced the winner, Jessica Yu. A gorgeous Asian woman, Jessica had made a film about a poet who’d spent forty years in an iron lung…you couldn’t watch the movie without thinking “Oh my God.” Even friends of mine like writer/director Richard Tuggle had told me he was voting for her! When she got on the stage, she glowed like a jewel from the east and won the Academy’s hearts by saying the dress she was wearing had cost more than her film. I immediately developed a splitting headache and the rest of the night is a blur. After the show was over we went to the Governor’s Ball, and Jessica was at an adjacent table clutching the statuette to her breast. I caught the eye of Jim Carrey who smirked knowingly, as if to say “I know what you want to do to her, pal!,” or maybe it was all in my own fevered imagination. I’ve always felt bound to Jessica in some strange way by that night, and I’ve enjoyed running into her again at various times over the years.
BK: You’ve since produced quite a few DVD documentaries, including our very own Nudie Musical documentary. Tell us about some of them and how you approach your work on them.
NR: You know, our “First Nudie” documentary is the only one I’ve done directly for DVD. The other ones I’ve done (mostly for Warners), have been commissioned in other ways, and my “Turning of the Earth: John Ford, John Wayne and The Searchers,” annoyingly hasn’t even made it to DVD yet! I like working with people I like, and I’m probably far too selective about projects to be able to carve a full-time career out of it. My friend Brian Jamieson at Warners, has similar tastes to me, and if he has a project, chances are I’ll do it no matter what, but otherwise I’ll stay picky. Our “First Nudie” doc was a lot of fun because we basically did whatever we wanted and it was all in-jokes and self-referential humor. The kind of thing you and I have always enjoyed doing. We’ve tried to approach things our own way, and not go with the herd. Maybe that’s why we don’t work too often!
BK: And now, Nick Redman, you are about to embark on something totally new – you will be producing our documentary feature on those wonderful unsung and unknown songwriters, Meltz and Ernest. How did you first become aware of them, and what about them made you want to be part of this marvelous project?
NR: I first heard of Meltz and Ernest when you told me you’d found a stash of their old songs in some attic somewhere. I thought them fascinating, and you said you could get the rights from their estate to make a film…and here we are. Doing a project about Broadway is a so-far unfulfilled dream for me, I’ve been yearning to cover the subject in some form or another, and feel this is a super chance for us to rectify a major wrong in Broadway’s illustrious history….Meltz and Ernest will live again…(so to speak.)
BK: Okay, Nick Redman, it is time to talk of the Internet. Anyone who has heard our commentary track on the Nudie Musical documentary knows how we both feel about the Internet. I know you feel particularly strong about a certain film music newsgroup and another film music chatboard. Tell us how you feel, Nick Redman, and hold nothing back. Tell us of some of your Internet feuds, the funny ones.
NR: God, I loathe the internet. It’s scary to think of so many disenfranchised lunatics with nothing to do all day except post bilious rantings. It’s truly nauseating, but of course highly addictive. As you know, I rarely post about anything, but unfortunately I’m hooked on reading this crap. Venturing onto rec.music.movies or the film score monthly message board serves no purpose except in making one ill, but I go there anyway. It’s odd discovering you are hated by 200 people you never heard of. There was one chap, originalthinkr, who started a one-man hate campaign so vicious, I went to the trouble of unmasking his identity, finding his telephone number and calling him on it! Basically I said you know, what’s it all about? Why write this junk all the time? I don’t remember murdering your family…give me a break here. The internet is a forum for characters who can’t write decent letters, don’t have the courage to face you in person, can’t even speak to you on a telephone, have no reason in most cases for their poison. It’s quite sad…sinister even. I don’t recall any funny feuds, I wish I did. One is either being attacked for all the mistakes and botched jobs, or on the receiving end of my other favorite, the “rewriting history scenario,” whereby somebody piggybacks on your accomplishments, and then recasts it as their own. It’s really quite extraordinary.
BK: Well, Nick Redman, you have been an absolute delight and I’m sure our dear readers have enjoyed this Unseemly Interview very much. But before we go, tell us about your love of musical theater – I know you have virtually all the albums I’ve produced and that you really like musicals, and that you’ve restored quite a few of the Fox film musicals.
NR: As I said earlier, musicals were always in my blood, but I think a combination of my wife, (who has a degree in musical theater), and yourself, really crystallised my interest. At Bay Cities you taught me a lot about the subject, and introduced me to composers and shows with which I wasn’t familiar. “Most Happy Fella” sticks in my mind as something I never would have known about. I do have virtually your entire output, and they receive regular airplay – one of their recurrent pleasures is there’s always something new to discover in them – you’ve made a hell of a contribution to the milieu. I took my new-found knowledge to Fox and apart from the Rodgers and Hammerstein shows, we’ve also done “There’s No Business Like Show Business,” “Star,” “Stormy Weather,” “Rose of Washington Square,” “Alexander’s Ragtime Band,” various song and musical compilations, including the Marilyn Monroe films and other vocalists of the early Fox era. I would love to resuscitate more musicals at Fox, but the cost is prohibitive and so few labels are willing to pay for it. Unfortunately, it’s the nature of the beast that it all gets done piecemeal, and I’m only one person. I’m not there full time, and my future availability may yet be more limited. It’s just a case of pushing through whatever can be done at the time.
BK: Thank you, Nick Redman, for taking part in our interview, and we toast you with our favorite beverage of Diet Coke and offer you cheese slices and ham chunks to boot. Do you have any last words for our Dear Readers?
NR: Damn them. Damn them all to Hell.