Tuesday, August 4, 2009

10 Questions: An Interview with Writer and Freelance Director Paul Kyriazi Part two

This is part two of my interview with Writer/Director Paul Kyriazi, check out part one here.

Hi Paul, Thanks for talking about your film 'Omega Cop'.

1-Can you tell us how it came about?

Well Shane, as you know, I had made a karate action movie 'Death Machines' with karate tournament fighter and film actor/producer, Ron Marchini. It was released in 1975 and did pretty well. I did some big looking action scenes on a low budget in that one, so Ron knew he could trust me to get many and large looking action scenes for his new movie 'Omega Cop' in 1990.

It was 15 years after 'Death Machines', so it goes to show you to stay in the business now matter what other jobs you're doing until another opportunity comes around.

2- One of the stars of the film is the legendary Adam West. What was it like working with him?

Well, even though we were a small budgeted movie filming in Stockton, California, Adam took it very seriously. We hired him for two days. He was written purposely to be the police chief that remains in the bunker and talks with the hero on the radio. If you remember, it was kind of an 'end of the world' 'Road Warrior' movie, and the hero is exposed so a solar flare that makes everyone crazy, so he's not allowed to go back into the bunker, even though he hide from the flare and is okay.

So with this idea we could film all of Adam's seven or so scenes in two days. This was necessary as he, Troy Donahue, and Stuart Whitman were the most expensive items on our budget.

When Adam arrived to film on the police bunker set he was full of energy and wanted to talk to me right away about an opening narration he wrote for the film. It was about the earth's environment and the ozone layer problem, and how the world's people had paid no attention to it until it was too late, and that he was a law enforcement officer trying to keep what was left of the world together. Now remembers, this was back in 1990, so he was a little a head of the time. Of course, we were just making an end of the world action movie, but Adam's opening narration gave a little depth to it that we wouldn't have had if he had not voluntarily written that narration.

Adam has idea for other scenes in the movie, including scenes he wasn't in. Well, it was a great two days working with him. No problems. Just creative fun and laughs during breaks.

3- In 'Weapons of Death' (1982) you worked with Gerald Okamura who's been in everything from 'Big Trouble in Little China' to 'Hot Shots! Part Deux.' He's got a very intimidating look. How was he to direct?

Gerald Okamura, known as 'The Martial Arts Magician' because of the many secret weapons he makes on his own, is a total professional on the set. He comes with his dialogue prepared, his script in a binder marked with each scene, so that sometimes when I needed to look at the script, he was there with it faster than the script girl.

He always had ideas on how to play a scene and was very helpful with martial arts choreography. Recently, I was happy to work with him on one of my audio-books.

4-Can you tell us a little about your writing process?

When witting for independent movies that I had to raise the money for, my mind is always on the budget and what kind of movie we can make for that budget. I'm always thinking about who kind of big action scenes I can make and usually multiple characters, so hopefully everyone in the audience has someone in the movie that they will like.

You'll notice that in 'Omega Cop' there were three different types of beautiful women that the hero meets one by one. This was planned out, so that every time a new woman appears, the audience wakes up to see who it is. And hopefully they will have a favorite woman that they can identify with or be interested in. Thusly, keep them interested in the story to the end.

After that, I watch the pace of the story. Not the speed, but the pace of the interest of the audience. Will they keep interested or keep running out for popcorn as the did in my first feature film.

Next I think about the distributor's point of view. Will he have something to exploit and put on the poster? That's why in 'Omega Cop' we had the end of the world theme, three movie stars (even though in small roles), three woman, and a large explosion scene at the end. All for the poster and previews.

5-What would you say are your favorite films of all time?

You know Shane, for all us movie fans, it's the movies we see as teenagers that become our favorite. Mine are 'Rio Bravo', 'Vertigo', 'The Thing', and 'The Time Machine'.

In the more recent years I liked 'Pulp Fiction', 'Signs', 'Terminator 3', 'Casino Royal', and very recently 'Knowing'.

6-And what filmmakers have inspired you?

Of course, Alfred Hitchcock for suspense, Akira Kurasawa for martial arts action and film technique, Howard Hawks for his great characters, and John Sturges for his multi-character action films such as 'The Magnificent Seven'.

7-Can you tell us about your audio-book Rock Star Rising?

It's a full cast audio-book with film quality effects and music. An 'audio-movie' of sorts. I hired the actors that I loved in my favorite movies such as Rod Taylor 'The Time Machine' to narrate it.

Then I re-united Russ Tamblyn and George Chakiris from 'West Side Story' to play leads, as well as Robert Culp, James Darren, and Kevin McCarthy from 'Invasion of the Body Snatchers'.

The story is about a computer programer, played by Tamblyn, who wants to be a writer. When he takes his girlfriend to Las Vegas, he gets involved with a beautiful rock singer, who tells him about a dead rock star that might be alive. Tamblyn enlists the aid of his girlfriend's gangster brother, played by Chakiris, to find out if the rock star is really alive. In flashback, we see the rise of the rock star, played by singer / actor James Darren, aided by his agent play by Robert Culp. It's a romantic mystery thriller.

8-Your books have been turned into audio books directed by you.. How did that come about? Was it something you had intended to do all along or was it offered to you by the publisher?

It started off as a movie script, but when it was taking time to get financing, I turned it into a novel and then decided to do it as an audio-book. I had done an eight hour self help audio-book entitled 'How to Live the James Bond Lifestyle' and was getting pretty knowledgable in the new computerized recordings done at a high-tec studio. So I decided to turn my two novels into audio-books.

After 'Rock Star Rising' I directed, what could be honestly said to be the largest production in audio-book history, as I got 11 name actors to appear in it, including Frank Sinatra Jr to narrated. It stars Robert Culp, Nancy Kwan, David Hedison, Henry Silva, Alan Young, Gary Lockwood, and a very special favorite of mine, Edd 'Kookie' Byrnes from '77 Sunset Strip'. But you probably know him from 'Grease' where he played Vince Fontaine, the host of the dance contest scene.

Now I'm working with Frank Sinatra Jr on an audio-book called 'I Justice' where he will narrate in the first person and play the lead.

9-I have a strange question...Mari Honjo who played Madame Lee, every time I watch the movie I wonder, Was she wearing a wig or was that her real hair?

You're not the first one to mention Madame Lee's hair, Shane. In fact, in the Los Angeles newspaper, they referred to her as 'the lacquered hair and lisping Mari Honjo'. So now to reveal the mystery, it was a wig. Her hair was actually a short 'page boy' cut, and dyed slightly red. So she was totally different on screen. She was very believable and popular with the viewing audience, calling her 'the bad hit lady'.

10-When writing a screenplay what do you feel is the most important thing the writer should be aware of? Pitfalls to look out for?

Most new writers want to "express their art", but often forget about the audience. The paying audience is just a mere five minutes from running off and buying popcorn, as they did in my first movie. And when it gets to DVD or TV, perhaps a mere one minute before they switch to a different channel.

So I'd advise screenplay writers to remember the audience when writing. I once had lunch with 'Psycho' screenplay writer Joseph Stafano, who told me, "Hitchock was the only director that I worked for that mentioned the audience."

Thanks Paul.

It's always fun talking with you, Shane.

Be sure to check out his site here.

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