1. Reconstructing older films whether known or lost takes a fine eye. Which addition to the original Taking Tiger Mountain makes you the most proud?
Thank you, Troy, for your interest in Taking Tiger Mountain Revisited (TTMRfor shot). I am indeed very pleased with the results of my team’s efforts over the last year to improve the the film that was originally released in 1983. The changes were extensive enough to merit augmentation of the title. Virtually every shot and every second of sound was changed in one way or another.
Ten minutes were cut and five minutes were added, including a new ending (which occurs after the end credit roll), which, hopefully, significantly alters the message that people receive from the film. I’d characterize the 1983 version as having a pessimistic message and nihilistic attitude, where I believe the new version, if you watch the whole thing and don’t turn it off during the credits, delivers a hopeful, esoteric Christian resolution.
2. Given the nature of how the film’s dialogue was recorded, was there any instance of original audio being lost?
It’s hard to address the issue of audio without underlining the fact that, for the most part, no audio was recorded on set, except for the first ten minutes—which I shot in Austin in 1979 (as opposed to bulk of the film which was shot by Kent Smith and Bill Paxton in Los Angeles, London and Wales in 1974— and the last five minutes of the film, which includes three minutes of 16mm sync sound footage shot by Kent Smith and Eli Hollander in 1975 in Wales, and then a minute of video shot by me with an iPhone7 in early 2018 in Fort Worth. Tiger Mountain gets around, through time and space!
The rest of the sound was built from scratch by me and my post production associates in Austin circa 1979-80, much like classic Italian films of the past, such as by Fellini, Pasolini, Leone, etc.
3. I didn’t expect the film to have as many graphic moments as it did. Did you feel a need not to cut away from the scenes of underground sexuality?
All I did was use the footage that Kent and Bill shot in LA, London, and Wales in 1974 without censoring it. When the film was initially released in 1983, its explicit sexuality was quite bold, especially for an American film and may have adversely effected its acceptance by film festivals and certainly it contributed to why it was never shown on cable television,, which was in its infancy.
These days, anything goes, it seems. Have you seen Gaspar Noe’s Love. Check that out and then get back to me about graphic sexuality. It makes us look like prudes.
4. I’ve had a few readers ask this question since my Taking Tiger Mountain review
went live. Is there any way for them to see the original film or is that just totally lost? Like for real lost. Not going to be found ever again style of lost.
Taking Tiger Mountain was never really lost. The three 35mmm prints manufactured in 1983 were in my closet and Bill Paxton’s garage all along. A low resolution, 1:66, VHS copy of the film generated in 1983 for entering into film festivals found it’s way onto the web twenty years ago, which helped keep awareness of the film alive. In 2016 I got an offer from Etiquette Pictures, a subsidiary of Vinegar Syndrome, for domestic digital distribution of Taking Tiger Mountain, the original version. They paid for a 4K transfer which will come out in July 2019.
I used the small cash advance as seed money to create the new version, Taking Tiger Mountain Revisited,which will be included on their deluxe DVD release as an extra. Meanwhile, I’m touring the festival circuit with Revisited.
At the same time, very soon, I’ll be offering Revisited for streaming at www.tigermountainthemovie.com Your readers can try that way, and if it doesn’t work they can contact me directly at [email protected] and I’ll send them a link to stream the film for a reasonable fee, say $12.99. Or track it through facebook.com/Taking-Tiger-Mountain-Revisited
5. Should we expect any more lost Paxton films to show up?
I don’t know if there are other feature-length films starring Bill which have not been released. There are a few very shorts that he directed which his estate might decide to release at some point. He and I made a few super-8 shorts together 45 years ago which I might eventually get around to putting out. There is also a half- finished documentary we shot about him and his father circa 1999, which I may revisit.
Also, there are a half dozen scripts which Bill and I developed, some in turn around at major studios, and others Bill developed with other people which may someday get produced, such as a great adaptation by Brent Hanley’s of Joe Lansdale’s classic novel The Bottoms, and an adaption of Xander Maksik’s novel A Marker to Measure Drift, which Maksik adapted for the screen under Bill’s supervision; and John McLaughlin’s graphic novel Seven Holes for Air. It would be wonderful if any or all of those got made eventually to add to Bill’s legacy as a producer and reputation as auteur.
6. Did you have any qualms while working on the film? Objections or desires to tweak the narrative?
In 1979? I just wanted to make the best film I could with the material and resources I had. I was never completely happy with the 1983 version. If you’re talking about the nudity and sex? Never. I think it’s beautiful, don’t you? It should be used in sex education classes to show kids what making love really looks like, as opposed to the porn they watch on their smart phones,
That said, I’ve prepared a slightly less explicit version for entering festivals in countries that have prohibitions against explicit sex or American cities where presumed community standards might cause programmers to demur. It’s actually not that much different, really, as there are only, if you add it all up, about a minute of film altogether which should prevent it from getting an R-rating, I think.
But then, you know the MPAA, they’re harder on Indies than on studio pictures. It’s difficult to imagine any distributor ever bothering to pay to have it rated by them. They’re irrelevant, as far as I’m concerned. Did you see Kirby Dick’s documentary, This Film Is Not Yet Rated. It tells you all you need to know about the MPAA rating system. It’s a crock. Unless things have changed, which I doubt. But I’m happy to be proved wrong.
7. What are you working on next?
I’ve produced a documentary feature called Picasso’s Christ, directed by my frequent collaborator Gabriel Horn, which is being submitted to festivals, now. I’m co-directing a documentary feature about the punk rock scene in Austin, Texas circa 1978- 1980.
I’m in preproduction on a Bollywood -style musical set 100 years in the future in the socialist city-state of Houston, an adaptation of A Midsummer’s Nights Dream. A script I co-wrote called Hate Crimes is supposed to start shooting soon with Keith David starring. And I’ve got another six spec scripts I’m shopping and/or going to make eventually, G*d willing and the creek don’t rise. I’ll keep you posted.