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On the Cheap: My Life in Low Budget Filmmaking Paperback – 2013
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During four decades, Greydon Clark worked in front of and behind the camera, bringing some of the most memorable movies to life. From the sexy pep squad of Satan's Cheerleaders to the dirty dancing of The Forbidden Dance, Clark excelled at exploitation and helmed twenty diverse films such as Without Warning, Joysticks, Wacko, and Black Shampoo. "On the Cheap" is a valuable tool for anyone interested in films or becoming a filmmaker. Greydon tells the story of his days on the fringes of Hollywood, struggling to make films in one of the most cut-throat businesses around. Reading his autobiography is like sitting down with a face-to-face discussion of the low budget film industry. His movies boast Oscar winners - Martin Landau, George Kennedy, Jack Palance and stars who were at the beginning of their careers - Andrew Dice Clay, David Caruso, Julia Duffy, Laura Harring, etc. Greydon breaks down each of his films into easily understood categories - screenplay, financing, preproduction, production, postproduction and distributions allowing the reader a true behind the scenes look at low budget filmmaking.
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There is one thing missing. Clark never explains why all the movies he actually ended up making are complete garbage. Just like Roger Corman did in his autobiography, Clark conveniently leaves out any negative criticism of any movies he made. Naturally he mentions every time someone told him what a fantastic director he was, in one case comparing him to Orson Wells. Even projectionists who liked his movies are mentioned.
I've seen most of his movies and their production values are below the worst television of the 70's. They are poorly shot, poorly acted, and poorly written. His action movies are action scenes with ridiculous fights and plots that make little sense. His so-called comedies are painful dialog and cartoonish action that no adult would find funny. Their only purpose was to make enough money for Clark to make another movie. Since bad movies tend to not make a lot of money, that led to yet another bad movie especially as Clark wasted money on throw-away appearances by actors far past their prime. Money is mentioned far more than film production. For example Clark describes his early use of the Steadicam not in how it produced smooth camera motion but instead how it saved money on set ups. He also explains that most of the scenes in his movies are first takes to save money yet he never explains that's why most of the scenes in his movies feature bad acting or that multiple takes are why good films feature good acting.
Clark never accepted that he didn't have the ability to make good films and that's why he never returned to his original dream of making revolutionary films like The Graduate. He does explain how his early attempts at good films failed and then he had no choice but to pander to distributors who wanted garbage, but as Clark's income increased, you would expect that a good filmmaker would want to go back to trying to make a good film once in a while. Clark never did that. He continued to make violent movies with weak plots well into the 90's. "On the Cheap" doesn't have a good ending because Clark never became a good filmmaker.
I recommend On the Cheap: My Life in Low Budget Filmmaking.
The book is a fun read that captures the trials of doing what you enjoy doing, even when your not setting the world on fire.
Of getting the most bang for your buck.
I have a lot more respect for actors who put the film ahead of ego.
I like that this book avoids the usual peer bashing that goes into most Hollywood bios.
It's refreshing and a class act.