An Interview with Marco Seidelmann
I don’t believe fans of the action movie genre get their just due in the pop culture universe. We may not be as over the top and theatrical as the horror movie fans, we don’t have a name that defines us like the Trekkies, but we are a no less passionate than any of the other genre fans out there.
One man who has taken his action movie fandom to the next level is writer/publisher, Marco Seidelmann. Marco has already published one book focusing on Shapiro Glickenhaus Entertainment and he currently has a Kickstarter campaign for his next project “Stories From The Trenches”, a book that will focus on the career of legendary director Sam Firstenberg.
I had the chance to talk to Marco about his books, some of his favorite movies and future projects in this exclusive interview…
CTB: What inspired you to write “The Untold, In-Depth, Outrageously True Story of Shapiro Glickenhaus Entertainment?
MS: It was fascinating for me that so many films produced by Shapiro Glickenhaus Entertainment are still well-known to fans worldwide. Maniac Cop, The Exterminator, Basket Case 2 & 3, Frankenhooker – all of them are cult-favorites which have been released again and again on video, Laserdisc, DVD, or BD. Although people remember these films, the company behind them remained more or less unknown. I wanted to change that by tracking down not only Jim Glickenhaus and Leonard Shapiro, but also several others who served the company. This was only possible by making the book project an inside job, that’s why I co-edited the book with Stephen A. Roberts and Nadia Bruce-Rawlings: both of them were empl oyees of the company for many years.
CTB: Do you have a favorite SGE movie?
MS: If I had to pick a favorite movie it would be Shakedown by Jim Glickenhaus. I consider it as one of the best cop films of its time. It’s gritty, dark, has great acting and an amazing character development. Also one of the best shoot-outs I have seen until today. SGE had the great fortune of having a reasonable financing in combination with hiring some of the best genre directors. I mean, how can you not love Frank Henenlotter or William Lustig? These guys really knew what they were doing, and that shows in every aspect of the films. I can honestly say that I appreciate every single movie produced by SGE; not so much the numerous films they picked up for distribution. I’m quoting James Glickenhaus: “There’s fish to eat, and fish to sell.“ That’s an old Wall Street saying, but it also describes the philosophy of a production AND distribution company in Hollywood very well.
CTB: While we are talking favorite movies, do you have a favorite Sam Firstenberg film?
MS: I love Ninja III for being the most ridiculous and insane Firstenberg film, but also Cyborg Cop 1 & 2 are guilty pleasures of mine. I think it’s a shame that Riverbend starring Steve James in the lead role – is more or less forgotten nowadays. I agree with Sam that Avenging Force should be counted as the best film he ever directed, and of course the chemistry between Michael Dudikoff and Steve James in American Ninja 1 & 2 is priceless and magical.
CTB: I brought up Sam for obvious reasons, your latest endeavor is “Stories From The Trenches: The Official Sam Firstenberg Book”. Why don’t you tell everyone a little bit about the Kickstarter campaign you’ve started to make this dream project a reality?
MS: Since there are already hundreds of work hours put into the project I thought about trying to get the book financed through pre-selling it – so in a way I am continuing the strategy of the Cannon Group itself. They did a trailer or a promo-reel, showed it to financiers, and when they pre-sold the movie successfully they went to production. I think there are a lot of Cannon fans out there who will enjoy the upcoming book, because it includes so many voices of people who worked for years for the beloved production company. The SGE book got some very nice reviews, but since I didn’t have the money for a proper advertising and marketing, it got a little buried. It’s very hard to be recognized out there, and for a book that’s released internationally you just need a proper marketing. If the campaign will turn out successful I can use much more pages and pictures, and make the book even more rich, entertaining and informative.
CTB: You’ve put a lot of time and effort into the project already. How many hours spent and interviews did you conduct? And would you categorize all this hard work as a labor of love?
MS: I conducted more than 60 hours of interviews for the Sam Firstenberg book, including Sam himself, but also various actors (Michael Dudikoff, Lucinda Dickey, Bryan Genesse, Michael “Boogaloo Shrimp” Chambers, Judie Aronson, etc), stunt and fight coordinators (Steve Lambert, Tadashi Yamashita, BJ Davis, etc), and numerous crew people (editors, cinematographers, producers, assistent directors, etc) – Yes, it’s a labor of love, and I think it shows my ambition to deliver a career-spanning and conclusional book dedicated to the body of work of a filmmaker that influenced a whole generation.
CTB: The artwork for the book is fantastic. The cover art is beautifully done and really captures everything I love about Cannon Films. What can you tell us about the designer Ralf Krause?
MS: I feel the same way about the cover artwork – I discovered the work of Ralf Krause through the many Alternative Movie Posters he did for some of my favorite films, which of course are also the films Ralf went to see theatrically when he was a young moviegoer. The beautiful artwork he dedicated to the Cannon cult classic Cobra made me fall in love with his work and encouraged me to reach out to him for the upcoming Sam Firstenberg book. I knew he would be the best person possible to capture the work of Sam in one single image. And he delivered! Plus: I will hire artwork designer Ralf Krause again for the back page of the book jacket, so there will be even more eye candy.
CTB: Video stores of yesteryear have been replaced with streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime. Do you think we will get to a point where we have some independent companies like Shapiro Glickenhaus Entertainment, Empire Pictures and Cannon Films churning out low budget but highly entertaining action movies? Or are those days never coming back?
MS: Well, I’m not so much driven by nostalgia. In my opinion there are still some very good independent companies putting out great genre films. Actually, I’m a big fan of Avi Lerners company Nu Image / Millennium. Of course the times have changed, but remember that numerous key people from the Cannon Group later went to Nu Image. So there‘s a lot of Cannon spirit captured and continued by Nu Image. This is no surprise, because Avi Lerner was involved in some Cannon productions as a young producer in South Africa – for example American Ninja 2 – before he went on founding his very own company. Sam Firstenberg was one of the first directors hired by Avi Lerner for Nu Image, and he directed as many films for them as he did for Cannon; among them Cyborg Cop, Operation: Delta Force, and Spiders: Breeding Ground. Boaz Davidson switched from being a director to a producers career, and now he’s the Head of Production in Nu Image. Cannon never really disappeared, it just transformed into other companies, and some of them are still well and alive.
CTB: Do you have any other project ideas in mind for the future? Or are you focusing all your efforts on “Stories from the Trenches”?
MS: I have several projects in mind for the future, and besides “Stories from the Trenches“ I am also working on an extended book about martial arts auteur Isaac Florentine, and another one on Gabriel Bartalos (the make-up wizard creating the F/X for filmmakers such as Frank Henenlotter and Matthew Barney). Naturally, as a writer and publisher you have to work on more than one project at the time, but yes – at the moment I am putting all my efforts on “Stories from the Trenches.“ Since most of my work is tracking down people and doing interviews, sometimes it takes a long run to find them and fix a date for a conversation.
CTB: Thank you Marco, best of luck on all your future projects. I strongly encourage fans of Cannon Films and Sam Firstenberg to pre-order “Stories from the Trenches” and spread the word about this crowdfunding camapign.