AN INTERVIEW WITH BRIAN JAMIESON (PART 2 OF 3)


Brian Jamieson is alongside Nick Redman the co-founder of the boutique Blu-ray label Twilight Time, which produces limited-edition runs of new to the format studio pictures, both popular and not well-known. Prior to Twilight Time, Jamieson was a highly successful studio executive with Warner Bros. in his native country of New Zealand, and in England and Los Angeles, forging successful creative relationships with the likes of William Friedkin, Fred Zinnemann and especially Stanley Kubrick. Following his first year with Warners in 1977 and the sucess of his campaigns for THE DEEP and CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND, he was named International Publicist of the Year. As a preservationist, Jamieson was involved in the restored releases of films such as GIANT (1956),  THE WILD BUNCH (1969) and THE BIG RED ONE (1980), and he produced many in-depth documentaries and featurettes for Warners' home video releases of their classic films. He produced the documentary CANNES ALL ACCESS in 2007, and directed a documentary on Nancy Kwan, the star of THE WORLD OF SUZIE WONG, entitled TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN: KA SHEN'S JOURNEY (2009). In the second part of a three-part interview, I spoke to Jamieson about the nature of film advertising, his memories of the campaigns for THE DEEP and CLOSE ENCOUNTERS, his experiences making documentaries on THE WILD BUNCH and the career of Charlie Chaplin, and how he got involved with restoring Sam Fuller's THE BIG RED ONE (1980).

Part one of the interview. 

Receiving International
Publicist of the Year Award with Columbia Pictures' Marty
Blau/ Patrick Stephenson, Las Vegas June,
1977.
Do you feel it's important that the advertising of a film should accurately convey the nature of the film? 
You get one shot, and every film is a gamble regardless of the pedigree involved. Story is an integral part of any film's success and if you get all the emotive ingredients in place, there's no reason why the film shouldn't work. I think a brilliant example of marketing is THE LAST EMPEROR (1987). The way Jeremy Thomas and his team positioned that film was wonderful. It was a very classy film and a very classy campaign. You owe it to the filmmaker to have the advertising reflect the film because of the hard work they have put into their movie and the risks they have taken. That said, you always need to be able to present a good argument to market a film a particular way. Other things come into play like the wife of a director liking a certain shor and wanting it to be part of the campaign, and you have to be able to explain why you think it won't work.

With Chuck Norris, circa 1977-8.
I remember sitting in a meeting at Warners, waiting for the big chiefs, Bob Daly and Terry Semel, to arrive. There was a guy who was the head of the creative department, who was the architect of the advertising campaigns. He presented his ideas for the campaign of a particular movie. I was in charge of advertising for Latin America. Everybody stroked his ego and placated him. I made the huge mistake of saying to him ''I don't think that is going to work in Latin America, and let me tell you why. '' I thought I presented a very convincing argument, but this guy basically said ''What the fuck would you know?'' I think it's always best to speak your mind, because at the end of the day, everybody is just trying to get it right. I was persona non grata with him for a couple of months. Ha! 

Do you think a degree of restraint and not showing too much of the film in trailers and advertising is the best idea? 
I hate the trailers today because they are giving you the whole movie, and not in the context of the storyline. It's all wham bam thank you mam. Fast cutting, loud sound, lots of explosions. They want to thrill your senses. You come away thinking ''Shit, what was all that about?'' When it comes to movies, you're not selling anything tangible. You're selling dreams and illusions and stories. And the appeal factor is so diverse with different demographics and groups. My idea is that you have to take whatever strengths the film has and you have to tease the audience. You don't give it away like they do now. Trailers should set up an expectation and get the audience excited to see the movie. I hate it when the experience of watching a movie is anti-climactic because everything has been ruined by the trailers. You want to leave at least some surprises for the audience.

With Clint Eastwood, promoting FIREFOX.
Trailers are an art form. An example of a great trailer would be Hitchcock's trailer for PSYCHO (1960). The whole thing was a prelude to the shower sequence. It was edited so subtly that it shocked you to the point where you didn't know what you had just seen, but you knew you wanted to see the film. I think a lot of the content of the trailers is dictated by the insecurity of the studio, which has spent $200 million on the movie and has a hell of a lot riding on it.

Another thing that frustrates me about a lot of modern films is the way dialogue is mixed. You sit in the movie theater and especially in blockbusters, and the trailers they make for them, you can't hear what the actors are saying with all the extraneous sound in the mix. You go back and look at films all the way up to the 80s and the dialogue is crisp and clear. 

Promoting THE DEEP with Robert Shaw.
What are your strongest memories of the iconic campaigns for THE DEEP and CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND? 
I was working in the New Zealand office back then but they brought us up to a sales convention in Los Angeles. We really got the royal treatment in terms of getting face time with the filmmakers and stars. We went all out on those campaigns. On THE DEEP, I remember I got to meet Nick Nolte, and I went to Australia and did a lot of press with Robert Shaw. What really helped us on that movie was the wet T-shirt Jacqueline Bisset wore in the film. On CLOSE ENCOUNTERS we got to have lunch with Steven Spielberg and Richard Dreyfuss. I also remember in New Zealand there was a guy who wrote a best-seller about encountering UFOs. He had been an army pilot but had been retired for saying he had encountered a UFO while flying a DC-3. Quite a few pilots had seen strange lights in the sky and then were quickly retired for talking about it. We got him involved on the bandwagon as an expert and he came to the press conference we did. A lot of people in the country believed in what he was talking about and it really gave us momentum in positioning the film. 

Is CLOSE ENCOUNTERS one of your favorite posters? 
To be honest, I can't say it is. It didn't really excite me to see the movie. We did a B style poster where we used a smaller picture of the spacecraft and had a lot of quotes on it about alien encounters to try and make the movie credible and valid to an audience. We used it for the newspaper advertising, for example. I thought that was more effective. Actually, sci-fi is not my favorite genre. That said, I gave it my all when I worked on campaigns for those kinds of films. 

Where did your passion for making documentaries come from? 
I've always enjoyed watching them, but it all started really when I saw George Stevens Jr's documentary on his father, which was called GEORGE STEVENS: A FILMMAKER'S JOURNEY (1984). I loved it. You could clearly see the love that the two had for each other. It was a terrific pleasure working with George Jr on the restoration of GIANT (1956). We keep in touch to this day. He told me a lot about his relationship with his father.

The first documentary I got involved in was with Nick Redman, which was THE WILD BUNCH: AN ALBUM IN MONTAGE (1996). I was involved in the restoration of the film, and I was given $5, 000 to make a documentary for the laserdisc. I said to Bill Rush in the archives at Warner, ''There's got to be some behind the scenes stuff on THE WILD BUNCH in the archives that we haven't seen before. '' He put a search out and he called me one Friday very excited: ''Oh shit, I've found this 16mm film, and it looks like it's the setting up of principal sequences from the film. '' The footage was about an hour long. He transferred it to video tape for me, and I took a look at it over the weekend. It was in black and white, and there was no sound. Bill had no idea who shot it or anything, but it was so fascinating that I watched it over and over. It turned out it was the 'setting up' of the battle at Bloody Porch, and the blowing of the bridge, and you could see Peckinaph in action. I thought ''I've got to find a way to do something with this. Maybe a 5 or 6 minute short film. ''

I first met Nick Redman on this project. He had called me about helping to restore the soundtrack to THE WILD BUNCH. When the film originally came out in 1969, a soundtrack album was put out but it only had about half of the music from the film. I brokered a deal with Nick and Warner Bros. Records for a new soundtrack album. We underwrote the costs and Warners retained the master rights. I told Nick about the footage we had found and he said that he and Paul Seydor would love to put a film together with the footage. I told him to go for it. Paul was editing TIN CUP (1996) at the time and he and Nick would call myself and my coleague in the venture, Michael Finnegan, over to the editing suite to show me how they were progressing with the Peckinpah footage. What they were doing was so fantastic that I wanted to expand it to thirty minutes. Paul said he would need an additional $20, 000 to do that. Ron Shelton, the director of TIN CUP, kindly said he would let them use the his editing suite for the film at no charge. Without them knowing where I was going to get the $20K from, I told them to go ahead and what they made was fantastic. It won them an Academy Award nomination. Barry Reardon, the head of Domestic Distribution at Warners, underwrote the creation of about ten 35mm prints that we played alongside THE WILD BUNCH restoration at certain venues and festivals. The next project Nick and I collaborated on was the documentary A TURNING OF THE EARTH – JOHN FORD, JOHN WAYNE AND THE SEARCHERS (1998). In those days I could make a budget and bury it off without too many people knowing. 

Can you talk about the documentary CHARLIE: THE LIFE AND ART OF CHARLES CHAPLIN (2003)? 
I got involved with the thirty-year Time critic, Richard Schickel. I was able to negotiate between Warner Bros. and MK2, and get a budget of $1.3 million, to make a documentary on Chaplin, with Richard directing. I think it's the finest work he has ever done. The first thing we did was to fly to Paris and meet with the Chaplin family. We wanted to have a free hand in how Richard told the story. Chaplin's auto-biographical feature LIMELIGHT (1952) served as an integral part of the story structure, and became a key factor in the storyline, but we also wanted to go into the other important aspects of his life, like his penchant for young girls, that in some way impacted his artistry, but in an intelligent way. Luckily the family agreed to let us do things our way - as long as we treated the subject matter with respect.

We managed to get the film into Cannes. I remember Richard and I carrying wet prints to show at the Palais, with a huge audience and the whole Chaplin family there. I was a bit nervous, but at the end there was a standing ovation, and Geraldine Chaplin got out of the audience and hugged Richard on stage. That was the blessing we were looking for.

We took the film to a lot of festivals, and Geraldine came along. We were in Edinburgh and after a late screening we had dinner at about 1am in the hotel. There was Geraldine, her husband, Richard and I. At one point, Geraldine leaned over, touched Richard's arm and said ''Richard, I've seen the film three times now, and as a result I'm learning to love my father all over again. '' What a poignant moment. I told Richard later ''You'll never get a better review than that. '' The film took us to Vivey up in Switzerland, where we did a huge international press conference at Chaplin's home. I got to spend time with the whole Chaplin family, including Michael Chaplin, who I thought was a terrific guy, and of course Geraldine, who is a lovely lady I have gotten to know quite well. 

How did you get involved with restoring Sam Fuller's THE BIG RED ONE? 
Richard and I had quite a bit of resistance from the studio about doing it because it was never considered a Warner film, as it was originally made by Lorimar, which Warner had acquired. There was a Dutch journalist who kept writing to me, driving me nuts, saying ''Now that you guys have THE BIG RED ONE, you owe it to Sam Fuller to restore the film. It was his signature war movie. '' We met with Sam's widow, Christa, who gave us Sam's original script. We got 127 boxes of trims and cuts from where they were stored in Kansas City, and we had a guy sorting all the footage out and then timecoding it. After that we could go through everything and then reconstruct the film based off of Sam's script of his original 3 hour 5 minute original director's cut. We got to within 7 minutes of that cut. Fortunately the original composer, Dana Kaproff, was still around and we were able to get him to compose music for the bridges where footage was lost. We had a fantastic screening in Cannes, where it was nominated for the Palme d'Or, and we had some great screenings at other festivals. Martin Scorsese presented us with the 'Restoration of the Year' Award in New York, and then we also receieved the top restoration award at the L.A. Film Critics Awards. As a result of the project, we made lifelong friends with Pamela Marvin, Lee Marvin's widow, Christa Fuller, and people like Mark Hamill, Bobby Carradine and Bobby De Cicco. We have yearly reunions where we go to Pamela's ranch in Tucson. 

Why has the restored cut not appeared on Bluray? 
Christa Fuller called me many times about it but there was little I could do as I no longer worked at Warners. Both Richard and I tried as best we could to get Warners to remaster the Reconstruction in HD, but they weren't interested. It's a crazy situation. Nick Redman and I would love to release it through Twilight Time, but Warners practically never licence titles through third parties. We did release Oliver Stone's HEAVEN & EARTH (1993), but that was at the request of Oliver, and Oliver and I had to work hard to get Warners to say yes. When we licence titles from other studios it is usually a 5 page contract. The one we had for HEAVEN & EARTH from Warners was 78 pages! We were lucky because Warners mispositioned the film originally and lost money on it, so they were very reluctant to put it out on Bluray. It was great we were able to help Oliver out. It's a film I have always liked. I think it's one of his best. 

Photos are the property of Brian Jamieson and cannot be reproduced without his permission.

Interview by Paul Rowlands. Copyright © Paul Rowlands, 2017. All rights reserved.