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Filmmaker Sam Firstenberg is mostly recognized as one of the important in-house directors during the outrageously successful heyday of the legendary Cannon Group. The journey of this interview collection starts even before he made his way to direct box office hits just like REVENGE OF THE NINJA, NINJA III: THE DOMINATION, BREAKIN‘ II: ELECTRIC BOOGALOO, AMERICAN NINJA, and several others. The conversations Siedelmann recorded with Sam are very thorough, and they shed light on his origins and influences, including childhood memories, private biographical chapters, his years as a film student in Los Angeles, the atmosphere he grew up in Israel, and his early work as an assistant director and technician for people like Menahem Golan, Charles Band, Ephraim Kishon, Boaz Davidson, and many more. The interviews are not totally chronological, but focus on every career-step, just as well as on every single movie Sam ever directed until his retirement in 2002. Sam’s memories about all the projects he was involved in are packed with adventurous stories about ninjas and breakdancers, about directing action entertainment in exotic countries, and about working with numerous stars, among them Michael Dudikoff, Eric Roberts, Jon-Rhys Davies, Hulk Hogan, Grace Jones, Nick Cassavetes, Zachi Noy, Richard Roundtree, Sean Young, Steve James, Sho Kosugi, Shabba-Doo, and so many more.
Thirty years of filmmaking: This means that STORIES FROM THE TRENCHES isn’t about Firstenberg only, but it’s also a book about the early film industry in Israel, the Hollywood star system and the no longer existing mid-budget movies. It’s about the home video boom, about the uprising and the decline of Cannon, but it also discusses the rules and traditions of the industry. Other topics are the practical way a film was put together in that era, the technical changes through the years, the different market situation compared to nowadays – and last but not least it’s a inside story about the early years of Nu Image (THE EXPENDABLES, CONAN, the UNDISPUTED Franchise) and how Avi Lerner’s company continued the spirit of Cannon, but under different circumstances and times.
Next to the very detailed picture you’ll get about Sam as a film director and also as a person, STORIES FROM THE TRENCHES incorporates the voices of more than 30 additional interviewees who tell their stories from a different point of view. Amongst them producers and scriptwriters, cinematographers, editors, marketing experts, stunt guys, actors – simply all kinds of cast and crew people, as well as personal friends to Sam. In many ways, STORIES FROM THE TRENCHES is going to be the ultimate trip down memory lane, opening up tons of never heard anecdotes that illustrate the philosophy of a director who never wanted to be an auteur filmmaker like Michelangelo Antonioni, but a very passionate film lover who went out to have a great time in shooting huge entertainment for audiences all over the world.
The light, funny and high-octaned style of Firstenberg’s work is captured beautifully in the Cover Artwork by German poster designer Ralf Krause, who – like so many of us – grew up watching the Cannon theatrically. And even if you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, in this case you really get an idea about the explosive content. All interviews used in the book were done by myself with as many key people I was able to track down, so there isn’t any re-released old stuff included. Everything is fresh, in-depth and put together carefully, always driven by the respect for all the people that took the time to make this book as colorful as it already is. Because of this diversity, STORIES FROM THE TRENCHES enlightens the completely different characters that were involved in the making of the films. Besides many successful career-stories I didn’t spare the sad parts, the unfulfilled dreams, and the projects that were not meant to be.
On top the book will feature a personal introduction by Sam Firstenberg, plus a foreword by Alon Newman, who is not only a life-long friend of Sam, but also belongs to a younger generation of Israeli filmmakers that’s influenced by the achievements Firstenberg reached in Hollywood. No matter if you are looking for the gossip or the practical side of filmmaking, if you are interested in the way low budget producers operated in Hollywood at the time, or if you simply have a nostalgic love for the 80s, ninjas, martial arts, or breakdance – this book delivers. It’s for all the passionate movie fans out there. You won’t regret your support.
Note from Marco Seidelmann:
Since I have worked for more than one and a half years on this project – and in general for more than 10 years in film journalism – hundreds of hours of work are already put into it. And that shows: Around 70 percent of the content is already on paper which means I’ll not need unexpectedly long for further research or tracking down contact information. Same with the pictures: Thanks to Sam and some of the interview partners I have more than 500 high-resolution pictures that will make their way into the layout, giving the book a very intimate and entertaining value.
So I am very confident to promise that the book will be available in its final print version within six months after this crowdfunding campaign ends successfully. Besides the last transcriptions that need to be done it gives me enough time for the finetuning on the content itself. The money will be used almost right away to get the book manufactured, after the final editing and the proof read from a native speaker is done. Since the book has grown very big it takes a lot of accurate work for the layout and the design, as well as for distribution and shipping costs, proper advertising, and sending out the review copies for international press.
STORIES FROM THE TRENCHES won’t be my first or my last step into publishing – several other projects are in development and/or planned, and throughout the last couple of years I established a wide network of contacts that allowed me to interview hundreds of people from the industry, and especially from the commercial American independent film business, which is a subject very close to my heart and the main topic for my researches.
Therefore I prefer the role of an interviewer instead of a critic or academic researcher, because the characters of the movie industry best write themselves. I started Éditions Moustache one year ago as a very small, but completely independent publishing house, and we have already released another book about this particular era of film history: THE UNTOLD, IN-DEPTH, OUTRAGEOUSLY TRUE STORY ABOUT SHAPIRO GLICKENHAUS ENTERTAINMENT is internationally available through book stores, libraries, and Amazon.
I can assure that I went through a lot of work but now I know how to handle the publishing in a professional way, and it’s guaranteed that the book will be released by the autumn of 2017 if the financing turns out to be successful. So none of you would participate just in an idea, but in a very ambitious, fruitful and ongoing process.