“They say luck is being in the right place at the right time. I was lucky. My father was a home movie filmmaker and he always let me use his super 8 camera and his small editing machine. From home movies to the Circus in one generation. It was a giant step up for a kid like me.”
By Daria Trifu
Roger Paradiso began his film career in the late 70s as a location scout for Stardust Memories directed by Woody Allen. He went onto work in productions such as Annie starring Albert Finney, Lovesick starring Dudley Moore and Elizabeth McGovern, Two of a Kind starring John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John (where he directed the 2nd Unit), Wise Guys directed by Brian De Palma (the only film he ever quit before it finished), The Manhattan Project directed by Marshall Brickman starring John Lithgow (where he was an Executive Producer), Moonstruck directed by Norman Jewison and starring Cher, and many more. For a time, he also worked between Los Angeles and New York, partaking in negotiations with AIG (bonding company) and Miramax on Pulp Fiction directed by Quentin Tarantino and AIG and Tribeca on A Bronx Tale starring Samuel L. Jackson.
Roger was a producer on The Thomas Crown Affair starring Pierce Brosnan and Rene Ruso, and executive producer on City by the Sea directed by Michael Caton-Jones starring Robert De Niro, Francis McDormand and James Franco. The latter was his last Hollywood movie before he started to write, produce and direct his own films and documentaries.
In his own words, Roger Paradiso compares his life in cinema with that of working in the circus that is “a troupe of performers, company executives, technicians and other crew members who travel together for a given period of time with their wagons, tents and equipment in order to assemble entertainment shows in a series of different places.” The similarities are many.
In his autobiography, Roger so vividly recounts precious moments he lived and witnessed on the sets of some of Hollywood’s most successful productions filmed in New York City from late 70s til the late 90s, when he “left” Hollywood to make his own films and documentaries such as the feature Tony N’ Tina’s Wedding starring Mila Kunis, and the documentaries I Want My Name Back, The Lost Village (about his beloved Greenwich Village, New York), and the multi award-winning feature documentary trilogy on the Kennedy Era: Searching for Camelot, The Quest for Camelot and The Queen of Camelot that are in distribution with Global Film Studio and streaming on GlobalCinema.online.
Exclusive Excerpt from Roger Paradiso’s Biography My Life In the “Circus”
STARDUST MEMORY (1979)
Directed by Woody Allen
Starring Charlotte Rampling, Marie-Christine Barrault, Jessica Harper, Woody Allen and Tony Roberts
Writers Guild of America, USA 1981, Nomination for Best Screenplay
My father had recently died, and it was time for me to grow up and earn money. I had a teaching job lined up, but I wasn’t feeling good about leaving Manhattan. I knew that I was getting close to being an independent film director and writer, but I was broke in Manhattan. I didn’t want to quit trying. So, I came up with the only decision I could see that would keep me involved in the “Circus”. I would try to get a job, like some of my friends, on the studio movies because they paid the big bucks.
I had read that Woody Allen was doing a film in Ocean Grove, New Jersey. I knew all about Ocean Grove as I used to hang out in West Long Branch and Asbury Park down the Jersey Shore. And I lived down the “Shore” for many years.
Ocean Grove was settled as a religious campground and you couldn’t drive a car on Sundays or to drink any day. They were strict. Some friends and I had a beer in Asbury and went into Ocean Grove to hang out. A police officer pulled us over and gave us a warning. He smelled liquor on our breath. He told us we better head out of town before we got a ticket or arrested.
So, with that experience in mind, I called the Woody Allen office and spoke to Bob Greenhutt. I told him I was a good photographer and could help him with locations in Ocean Grove as I was also a Jersey Shore guy like him and knew the quirks and sensitivities of the place.
For some reason, he told me to come over to his office on West 57th that hot August day. I met Bob and he couldn’t be nicer. He introduced me, in his small office, to his assistant Michael Peyser and Lois Kramer, the location manager for Stardust Memories. We all hit it off and the next thing I knew I was signing a deal memo for more money in a week than I made in theater for a month. Then, Michael pulled out a hundred-dollar bill and said this was petty cash. Wow, that hundred-dollar bill was more money than the budget for my set at the IRT Theater a few months back. As I walked out of the office and down 57th Street I kept thinking that I was saved from teaching. I was going to work with the great Woody Allen.
They say luck is being in the right place at the right time. I was lucky. And I thank my mother and father for their encouragement. My father was a home movie filmmaker and he always let me use his super 8 camera and his small editing machine. From home movies to the “Circus” in one generation. It was a giant step up for a kid like me.
THE DOGS OF WAR (1979)
Directed by John Irvin
Produced by Norman Jewsion
Starring Christopher Walken, Tom Berenger and JoBeth Williams
So, now that I joined the Circus, I faced the greatest fear courtesy of the greatest show on earth. I was unemployed. And I never thought I would work again. You see, a “freelancer” is only guaranteed a day or a week of work in the Circus. Depending on your performance and skills the days can lead to weeks and the weeks to months but most jobs are seasonal and rarely go on for more than four to six months. Fortunately, Lois Kramer who I just worked with on Stardust Memories called me and wanted me to work right away as her location manager on The Dogs of War. Lois saved me, and I am forever grateful.
This film was produced by the great Norman Jewison. It was Christopher Walken’s first starring role. Jack Cardiff, the legendary English cameraman, would be the DP. It was a great job. Lois was also unit production manager for her first time and did a great job. When my mother bought me a North Face jacket for Christmas, it saved my life because we shot during one of the coldest winters in a long time.
ONLY WHEN I LAUGH (1980)
Directed by Glen Jordan
Written by Neil Simon
Produced by Roger Rothstein and Neil Simon
Starring Marsha Mason, Kristy McNichol, James Coco, Joan Hackett and Kevin Bacon
Academy Awards 1982
Golden Globes 1982
Young Artist Awards 1982
After the cold winter, my other mentor in my early days, Roger Rothstein, called me to do the film version of Neil Simon’s play The Gingerbread Lady. The film was called Only When I Laugh and starred his wife Marsha Mason and Kristy McNichol. It was a classic New York location shoot with all the essential New York locations being shot here. The rest of the work was done on a soundstage in LA.
The shoot was smooth and a lot of fun. Roger and I got along really well. I remember one day he was staring at me. I thought what did I do wrong? He called me over and said, “They did it to you too”. I said, “What do you mean?” He answered, “Roger, they called you Roger too.” And that was it. We both started laughing and never talked about it again.
Directed by John Huston
Produced by Ray Stark
Starring Albert Finney, Bernadette Peters, Carol Burnett, Anne Reinking, Tim Curry, and Aileen Quinn as Annie
Two Academy Award Nominations for Best Art Direction-Set Decoration for Dale Hennesey and Marvin March, and Best Music Score for Ralph Burns
Three Golden Glove Nominations for Best Actress for Carol Burnett and Ailen Quinn, and New Star of the Year for Aileen Quinn
BAFTA Nomination for Best Original Song “Tomorrow” for Charles Strouse and Martin Charnin
Roger Rothstein recommended me to Ray Stark, the legendary agent of Barbara Streisand and others, who was now a famous Hollywood producer. Ray loved Roger Rothstein. And sure enough, I was called to the Hotel Pierre for a meeting between Howard Pine, an executive with Rastar Films, and the great designer Dale Hennesey.
That was an odd couple as Dale was an artist and casual and Howard was a business guy in a suit. We got right down to it. I was to be the location manager for Annie, the most expensive Hollywood movie since Cleopatra. And I was making 500 bucks a week plus 100 for my car. I was to scout the Northeast with Dale and try to find the Warbuck’s mansion. They had other scouts covering The West Coast and other exotic locations. I thought I’d make things easier for them.
The entire cast and crew of “Annie” at Woodrow Wilson Hall, West Long Branch NJ. Missing from the picture were the great designer Dale Hennesey and Roger Paradiso who were location scouting. Picture courtesy of Columbia Pictures.
I knew where the Warbuck’s mansion was. It was at Monmouth College in West Long Branch, New Jersey. I went to school there for a couple of years before I transferred to Rutgers University. They looked at me like I was crazy. Sure kid, Howard would say, “It’s not going to be that easy. We’re going to check out all the famous Newport Mansions and Sam Simeon. New Jersey?”, they laughed. What can I say at that point. Sure, let’s go scout. They then asked me if I thought the Mansion existed in New York. I said at the turn of the century and into the thirties, but not today, “Show us” they said. So, we drove around the Vanderbilt Mansion and the Frick Estate and never did find it in modern day New York. We “found” it at Monmouth College in New Jersey six months after I mentioned it at our meeting. Woodrow Wilson Hall was built by the Parsons family. It was huge and designed like a miniature Versailles. It was perfect for Daddy Warbuck.
The best thing I did in my professional life was join the Director’s Guild of America during the production of Annie. My fellow AD’s Jerry Zeismer and Chris Soldo and legendary production manager Bill O’Sullivan were a big help in speaking up for me and getting me in the Guild. The Guild is a beacon of hope for all who join the Circus. My salary increased over 100% and I got benefits like health insurance and residuals.
Dale also put my name on a bakery at Columbia Studio’s backlot where Annie shot several scenes. It barely made it in the movie. If you blinked, you missed it.
I OUGHT TO BE IN PICTURES (1981)
Directed by Herbert Ross
Produced by Roger Rothstein
Starring Walter Matthau, Anne-Margaret and Dinah Manoff
Another Neil Simon play turned into a movie. Roger Rothstein was the producer and he called me in again. He had a short New York shoot of about two weeks. We had fun. But the fun days were coming to an end. More and more action movies. Less and less real stories.
On the set of I Ought To Be In Pictures from left to right Jimmy Hovey camera assistant, Davey Walsh DP, Roger Paradiso, Roger Rothstein, Dinah Man off and Director Herb Ross. Courtesy of 20th Century Fox.
The film did okay. Walter Matthau was brilliant, and so was Dinah Manoff. I even asked her to read a script of mine which she liked. But it never went anywhere. Welcome to Hollywood kid.
Directed by Marshall Brickman
Starring Dudley Moore and Elizabeth McGovern
Featuring Alec Guinness, John Huston, Christine Baranski, Gene Saks, Renee Taylor, Alan King, Ron Silver, Wallace Shawn, David Strathairn and Larry Rivers
Lovesick was my first film with two legends of New York. One legend was Marshall Brickman who was a musician, a writer and a director. Marshall is best known as the Academy Award winning screenwriter (with Woody Allen) of Annie Hall and Academy Award Nominated for Manhattan, along with Woody Allen, for best screenplay.
He also directed a movie called Simon starring Alan Arkin. Marshall was a great guy and very easy to work with. We had a good time making this movie. It was the way it was supposed to be.
The second legend of New York and the world was John Huston who had a cameo. We continued our friendship on set. I wish I had known Mr. Huston decades earlier. At this point, he was battling COPD and needed oxygen. On Annie he would ask Dale and I to go out scouting with him, but after a few hours he would tire out.
Lovesick was a classic New York romantic comedy starring Dudley Moore and the young Elizabeth McGovern.
Directed by Bob Clark and others
Produced by Marvin Worth
Starring Sylvester Stallone and Dolly Parton
With Richard Farsworth
Razzie Awards 2005
A movie with Sylvestor Stallone and Dolly Parton can’t miss, right? Dolly was great, she signed a picture for a friend of mine who was paralyzed in a car accident.
Sly, he was interesting. He had his own private security. He told his security man, a nice guy from South Jersey, Tony Munafo, that he was afraid he would need a lot of security for a shoot we had in Times Square. He needed around 24 men. When I told Jim Brubaker, another good guy in production, that they needed 24 men, Jim called his guy at the Studio who agreed.
When Sly came out of his camper with his 24 guys and marched to the set not one New Yorker cared. Not one autograph. Not one onlooker. No one. Needless to say, the security brigade was cut back considerably.
TWO OF A KIND (1983)
Directed by John Herzfeld
Produced by Roger Rothstein
Starring John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John
With Charles Durning, Oliver Reed, Beatrice Straight, Scatman Crothers and Kathy Bates
Roger Rothstein and I had fun on this one, and Roger gave me the chance to direct the Second Unit. I remember we were shooting a horse and carriage scene in Central Park. We had one more shot before the sun came up and when I turned around there was no horse. Seems the horse bolted down Seventh Avenue with the 1st AD and trainer chasing him. Fortunately, they were faster than this old stud and they got him back before the sunrise, so we could get our “Magic Hour” shot. I learned to never do too many movies with animals, special effects and stunts. Of course, these were the movies they were making now in Hollywood.
One thing to remember is that I never made a movie outside of New York. That was my thing. I loved New York and never supported the run away from New York mentality. They used to say that it was too expensive. Now, that they get a tax break, they can’t shoot enough in New York.
In the Circus you rarely meet up again, but there were a few of us who kept in touch.
9 ½ WEEKS (1984)
Directed by Adrian Lyne
Starring Kim Basinger and Mickey Rourke
With Margaret Whitton, David Margulies, Christine Baranski and Karen Young
When I first met Adrian Lyne, I knew I had met a modern Tom Jones, the character from the novel by Henry Fielding. Adrian was a bad boy who loved to play. And Hollywood loved him. He was the beginning of the trend that saw British commercial directors take over the business.
The Hollywood Circus is always into trends and that is their job. But trends don’t always work out. Adrian did work somehow, someway. He had just directed Flashdance which was a huge hit. The film looked like a commercial and a music video which was big in those days. Remember “I want my MTV.”
Well, this film was made for that group who wanted their “MTV”. It was so big that they trusted him with another movie with a slightly larger budget. Another of my mentors, Bob Relyea, was the executive on this one. To say that we didn’t have a lot of laughs along with some heartache would be to lie. It was challenging, but fun.
I liked Adrian and I think he liked me, but how do you deal with a guy that tells his Directors Guild of America’s colleagues that he probably will never work with them again. That’s like an opening line of his. Well, he was true to his word, and it didn’t really bother me that he told us the truth. But, as shooting went on, we all understood why. He was a wild man, a bad boy in the “Tom Jones” tradition.
WISE GUYS (1985)
Directed by Brian De Palma
Starring Danny DeVito, Joe Piscopo and Harvey Keitel
With Julie Bovasso, Patti LuPone, Frank Vincent and Lou Albano
The only film I ever left before it finished. I did it because of one man, Aaron Russo. He treated people with disrespect: the crew, the Office, me. On his first day in the office, he came barging in with his huge dog. He wore a T-shirt. As he was walking in he said, “What a dump”. That was my greeting.
MGM was great. Lin Parsons and his associate Wally were very supportive, but there was no saving this one. Sometimes, you just have to move on. I did the best job I could do with the money that MGM wanted to spend on it. Their original number was around 10 million. I got it bumped up to 14 million, but they weren’t going to go a penny over it.
So, when MGM greenlit the movie they offered me all sorts of guarantees and they spoke to Aaron, but there was no change really. He would call me in and say he wanted me to stay. I stayed on until a week or so before the shoot started. As for Aaron Russo, he ended up staying in his “dump” office for years. The picture was made for the budget.
Danny and Joe and the entire cast and crew were pros. MGM said they would get me on their next picture in New York. I believed them.
THE MANHATTAN PROJECT (1985)
Directed by Marshall Brickman
Starring John Lithgow and Christopher Collet
With Cynthia Nixon, Jill Eichenberry, Robert Sean Leonard and John Mahoney
Nominations Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror
Winner of the President’s Award to Marshall Brickman
Nomination for Young Artist Award, Exceptional Performance by a Young Actress in Supporting Role for Cynthia Nixon
When Marshall, and Production Designer Phil Rosenberg, heard that I left Wise Guys they called me in to Marshall’s office. They wanted me to work on the picture as an executive producer but the Studio had another choice for that. Well, that was a nice rebound from Wise Guys. To work with nice people and professionals like Marshall and Phil was a dream. In the Circus, it is always good to work with people you know. It makes for a nicer experience and you know each other’s strength and weaknesses.
Gladden Entertainment was David Begelman’s company where I met Michael Nathanson and Ed Morey who would keep in touch.
I was an associate producer on this film and worked closely with Marshall and Phil on the locations, FX sequences and also directed the Second Unit. It was a great experience. I found an office for the movie right across from Lincoln Center. It was the penthouse of the Empire Hotel. We got about 5,000 sq. feet for I believe around 3,000.00 dollars. Phil and I kept it for many years until the hotel was sold and they wanted the space back. Lots of great movies used this office: Moonstruck, Beaches, Scrooged, and The Manhattan Project. A guy named Oliver Stone did his New York casting for Platoon in there!
This was the last time I ever worked with Marshall as he became more of a screenwriter and a writer of Broadway plays. One, Jersey Boys, did quite well. Good things happen to nice people in the Circus once in a while.
Directed by Norman Jewison
Starring Cher and Nicholas Cage
With Olympia Dukakis, Vincent Gardenia, Danny Aiello, Julie Bovasso, Anita Gillette, John Mahoney and Feodor Chaliapin Jr.
Academy Award for Best Actress to Cher
Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress to Olympia Dukakis
Academy Award for Best Writing Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen to John Patrick Shanley
Three other Academy Award nominations for Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor to Vincent Gardenia, and Best Director to Norman Jewison
Golden Globes Winner for Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture to Cher, Best Actress in a Supporting Role to Olympia Dukakis
Three other Golden Globe nominations for Best Picture, Best Screenplay for John Patrick Shanley, and Best Actor for Nicolas Cage
Nominations BAFTA Best Actress Cher, Best Supporting Actress Olympia Dukakis, BAFTA Best Screenplay John Patrick Shanley, BAFTA Best Score Dick Hyman.
Well, MGM called me as they said they would. They asked me to meet Patrick Palmer and Norman Jewison. I brought them over to my office at the Empire Hotel and we talked. I sensed a little tension between these two who I had met on Dogs of War. One day, Norman came in and talked to me about the film. He said that because the Studio only wanted Cher he would have to fit her into the schedule.
That would mean seven weeks of pre-production as she finished another film, and seven weeks to shoot the movie. MGM only wanted to spend around 11 million on the film including Cher’s salary. Norman said he would do anything to make the movie and he needed my help. We shook hands and that bond lasts until this day. We did our jobs and made it happen. That’s when a hand shake meant something.
Patrick and the first assistant director were talking while we were scouting a site that I had brought them to near the Brooklyn Bridge looking back at Manhattan. It was around 7 pm and the lights of downtown and midtown New York were spectacular. Norman loved it. Minutes later he came over with Patrick and the first assistant director. Norman said, “They want me to shoot this after midnight”. I looked at everyone and said that didn’t make sense. We were here for the skyline and the lights start dropping after ten at night when things start shutting down. This location only makes sense if we come here first and shoot by 7 pm. Patrick stormed off and Norman said thanks. The scene with Feodor and the dogs went off in spectacular fashion. The special FX guys shot a full moon and placed it in the shot in post. And it became the poster for the movie.
Norman also put me in the poster for the opera in the movie. I was the conductor for La Boheme.
Some execs at MGM did not understand the script. The movie became a huge hit.
BLACK WIDOW (1987)
Directed by Bob Rafelson
Produced by Harold Schneider
Starring Debra Winger, Theresa Russell, Dennis Hopper, Terry O’Quinn, Diane Ladd and Lois Smith
Harold Schneider said he needed my help for a week on a film he was doing called Black Widow directed by his friend Bob Rafelson. I said sure if I’m free. A few months later he called me and said we are coming into New York. I said I was free and glad to help. It was July and the temperature was in the 90’s for a week. I said what do you have to do. He said, “it’s real simple. I’m shooting a half day in Washington DC tomorrow and then a half day in New York”. He asked me how to do this, moving everyone from filming in DC in the morning and being ready to shoot in New York that evening.
Simple I said, get a private jet and serve lunch on the flight from DC to New York. They landed having broken for lunch on the plane and we shot in New York that same evening. Piece of cake I said to Harold at wrap. Okay anything else Harold, my buddy? Oh yeah, he says, “it’s winter and we’ll need snow for the helicopter shot tomorrow”. Great, snow in July and it’s 90 plus degrees. No problem. Snow in New York when it’s 95 degrees, I thought. “We got snow” I shouted as I turned to my crew who were ready to run away from me and these looney California guys. There will always be a little friction between New York and LA. After all, we started the film business back East in Fort Lee, New Jersey and Astoria Studio’s in Queens.
So, the helicopter comes in and blows some of the snow blankets all over the place including into the East River. For Take 2, we throw the snow onto the blankets to hold them down. The tarmac was so hot that we could only create slush, but it worked. Helicopter comes in. She gets off and gets into the limo and drives off. Piece of cake, right Harold?
The next night, we got to create snow along 5th Avenue and on the awning of an apartment building. That was easier with no broiling sun. The next day they leave New York to go back to LA. Harold gives me a hug and asks if I could finish up the wrap in two days. No problem I say, as the crew nods in unison.
Bob Rafelson and Harold were nice guys and in the Circus that’s a hard thing to find.
Directed by Richard Donner
Starring Bill Murray and Karen Allen
With John Forsythe, John Glover, Bob Goldthwait, David Johansen, Carol Kane, Robert Mitchum and Alfre Woodard
Nomination Academy Awards for Best Makeup for Thomas R. Burman and Barry Dreiband-Burman
Nomination Academy of Science Fiction, Comic Fantasy and Horror Films for Best Fantasy Film, Best Actor for Bill Murray and Best Special FX
What better movie to work on? Bill Murray in Scrooged with Dick Donner directing. And we were using the Empire Hotel office and shooting in midtown, downtown and in Queens during the Holiday season. What could go wrong?
Well, for some reason, Bill and Dick didn’t get along too well. Come on people. Can’t we get along?
Roger Rothstein was the head of production for Fox, and Ray Hartwick from Annie, and a great guy, was the production manager. Ray said Roger didn’t want to pay Roger (me) more than scale. I called Roger up and said how about a little bit more. He thought about it until I said, “They called you Roger too.”
He laughed. It was one of the last times I would talk to him. He had cancer and was in bad shape. I never saw Roger again. We had a eulogy in New York with Bob Greenhutt and a bunch of Roger’s friends like Lois Kramer, and Stanley Ackerman from the DGA among many others. I told the Roger story again. There was some laughter. But it was very sad. A great person. And now one of my mentors would no longer be around.
Scrooged became a cult classic. Despite the death of Roger Rothstein, we all moved on to the next ring in the Circus.
Directed by Gary Marshall
Starring Bette Midler and Barbara Hershey
With John Heard, Spalding Gray, Lainie Kazan, Mayim Bialik and Marcie Leeds
Winner Young Artist Award for Best Young Actress in Motion Picture Comedy to Mayim Bialik
Nomination Academy Awards for Best Art Direction-Set Decoration for Albert Brenner and Garritt Lewis
Nomination American Comedy Awards for Funniest Actress in a Motion Picture for Bette Midler
Nomination Brit Awards for Best Soundtrack
Nomination Kid’s Choice Awards for Favorite Movie Actress for Bette Midler
Nomination Young Artist Award Best Family Motion Picture
Nomination Young Artist Award Best Young Actress in a Motion Picture Drama Marcie Leeds
A special film with a great song by Bette called Wind Beneath My Wings which won Best Song of the Year at the Grammy Awards. We shot three weeks in New York during the worst heat wave I can remember. A film directed by good guy Gary Marshall and starring Bette Midler and Barbara Hersey. It was a pretty good film.
FUNNY ABOUT LOVE (1989)
Directed by Leonard Nimoy
Starring Gene Wilder and Christine Lahti
With Mary Stuart Masterson, Robert Prosky, Anne Jackson and David Margulies
It was an old-fashioned New York romantic comedy. Romcom they now call it. It was about a couple who couldn’t have a baby and went through vitro fertilization. Bob Relyea, by now at Paramount, told me to take care of Leonard aka Mr. Spock. He was important to Paramount because of the Star Wars movies and TV shows. Leonard was a nice guy. His producers were Jon Avnet and Jordan Kerner who seemed to want to micro manage Leonard, but it all went well.
We had re-shoots in July and Leonard came in with me being his assistant director and production manager on this small reshoot at the South Street seaport. A quiet scene at an outdoor café at the seaport in lower Manhattan… or so we thought. As we started shooting we heard a loud explosion and fire engines and police cars racing up South Street a few hundred feet from our location. The Con Edison transformer blew. We had to shoot since this was the only day the Studio could get the actors. Leonard was depressed at the end of the day and asked me to see what I could do with the sound. The next day, I went to the lab at Sound One in the Brill Building. Jay Rubin and the guys there did an amazing job taking out all the bad stuff. Leonard was amazed when I called him, and he came over to listen. Sound One did a great job cleaning it up. Leonard was happy.
CRAZY PEOPLE (1989)
Directed by Tony Bill
Starring Dudley Moore, Daryl Hannah, Paul Reiser and J.T. Walsh
Dudley Moore again with Tony Bill directing. Dudley had slowed down a bit. He was still a total pro. But after years in the Circus, his boyish humor had left.
Tony Bill, I admired. We talked over the years, but ever connected on a movie. He was a maverick in Hollywood. I liked that. I went to visit him once in Venice, California where he had an office. As I was pulling into the tiny street near his office, I had police and swat running at me screaming “Get the “f” out of here”. I did. It was a gang bust in Venice. Welcome to LA.
Tom Barrad was one of the nicest people I ever met, and he was one of the producers. I never heard much from him again in the Circus. I wonder what happened to him?
Years later, when the work dried up, Dudley Moore moved away from the Circus to Plainfield, New Jersey and stayed with a caretaker while he battled a fatal brain disease called PSP. He was buried in a cemetery in Scotch Plains, New Jersey far away from his home country of England and adopted home in Hollywood.
Directed by Michael Hoffman
Starring Sally Field, Kevin Kline, Elisabeth Shue, Cathy Moriarty, Teri Hatcher, Robert Downey Jr. and Whoopi Goldberg
What a cast and a great idea!
Another New York and LaLa land split. I was in the Paramount building again after losing the Empire Hotel space due to gentrification. The whole Upper West Side was being gentrified. When I first moved to West 81st Street in 1980, I thought I had made a mistake. Across the street was a drug den. Homeless people were camping out in the Museum of Natural History Park and in Central Park. I was told I was on the frontier of civilization and chaos. They moved a police precinct into West 82nd to bring law to the West side frontier. It worked. Rents were soaring along with everything else. It all came at great cost to the working class and the young people coming to Manhattan with dreams of making it in the greatest city in the world. You could still make it, but you could not start out living in Manhattan. It is way too expensive.
One of the producers of Soapdish had been an old New Yorker who produced Shaft, the original film. He asked me how much money he should bring to New York. I was confused by the question. I asked him to explain. He said how much we need to bring to spread around the precinct and the city to shoot. I had heard of bagmen before, but it was connected to the old way of shooting in New York long gone when I got in the business.
Bill O’Sullivan, a terrific guy, was brought in as a production manager to help Howard Pine on Annie. He would tell me stories of those days. The Bagmen Producers were the Kings of New York. They spread the money around and they always wore the best business suits you could buy. In fact, Bill, as part of his morning ritual, would always get a manicure and a shoe shine every day before he came to the office. And a haircut once a week. I am glad Mayor Lindsay broke that up “bagman thing” with the creation of The Mayor’s Office of Film and Television in the mid 1960’s.
On Soapdish, it was raining one day, and we had to get this scene in. The director came over to me and said what do we do. I said play the scene in the rain and asked the prop man for two umbrellas. It worked. A great scene. After Soapdish, my career and life started moving forward in new directions.
Roger with his wife Antoinette and son Anthony
I met my wife Antoinette during this Paramount period with my mentor Bob Relyea. At the end of the Soapdish shoot, we got married at Blessed Sacrament Church on West 71st Street. The reception was on a boat going around Manhattan island on a perfect, early October night.
Directed by Roger Paradiso
Screenplay by Roger Paradiso
Starring Ronald Guttman, Katherine Wallach
Winner Best Comedy Short Cinequest Film Festival
Winner Jury Award New York Expo
Honorable mention Worldfest Houston
“An angry, clever, well informed satire of the movie business. Roger Paradiso gives the cinema business a hilarious roasting in this wonderful short.”Cinquest FF
Roger Paradiso (far left) directing Looping
In this period, I made an award winning short film about a director who was hired to shoot a mafia action movie and really wanted to do another movie. That “other” movie was an “art film” about a deadly fire in a sweatshop in Manhattan. Looping was a satire of our business. It did very well in the festivals winning several awards. But the Studios don’t like satires about themselves. So, it got a modest distribution from a small indie distributor who is now out of business. The best thing about it was that a special person discovered it and she brought it to A&E shorts where it played for a number of years
A BRONX TALE (1992)
Directed by Robert De Niro
Starring Robert De Niro, Chazz Palminteri, Joe Pesci, Taral Hicks and Lillo Brancato
I was in LA trying to get some projects done in the Studio system. In hindsight, it was a big mistake. My friend Harold Schneider, the producer, said he would help me. We took a few meetings, but it was clear the Studios didn’t want to do business with us. We did not fit the mold.
You see, in the “Mogul” days, they would get directors and producers from the Studio system. So, you could be a writer or assistant director and if you played the game they would give you a shot on a Studio short. Some famous directors and producers came up this way. It was the only way, basically. Other than Broadway directors being given a shot. Of course, the other way was to raise the money yourself and get a film made and that can still be done today, but it can be a tough deal and you still had to go through the studios to distribute the film. Would they treat your film the same as theirs? Probably not.
So, Harold and I tried, but we belonged in another time like the sixties when Harold’s brother got Easy Rider going with unknown actors. Ironically, his father, who was President of Columbia Pictures, greenlit Easy Rider, the movie. But those days were over.
That time, if you shot a hot music video or sexy commercial, you were the guy they wanted. Better yet, if you shot a short and it was bloody and had action, you could be the guy. Neither Harold or I fit that mold.
I had my own project, Looping, where the lead actor talked himself out of making the film.
I had another project with my friend Steve Schottenfeld called The Marriage of Figaro and Moscowitz. Steve had just worked with Patrick Bergin, a terrific actor from London, who was just in a film with Julia Roberts called Sleeping With the Enemy. He loved my script. So, we had our lead. Sergei Moscowitz was a recent Russian defector to the USA. Remember, this was around the fall of the Soviet Union and many Russians were emigrating to Brighton Beach in Brooklyn. I created Sergei as a Russian performance artist who railed about the ills of the world. He was a rock ‘n roller too. His family disapproves of his occupation, especially his father who was a member of the Russian mob. Then Sergei meets Victoria Figaro, whose family is in the other mob. Victoria wants to break free of that mold, and she thinks Sergei is the perfect catch.
Anyway, it was a great role and we got a well-known New York actress to agree to perform with Patrick. We had set up a meeting with Miramax where Patrick was finishing up a movie. An hour before we were to meet on a project they were interested in, they cancelled the meeting. Patrick called up his agent and found out that the two British darling producers for Miramax and other indies had swooped in and stolen our actress for another Miramax movie. Then, the movie Patrick was in opened poorly and his stock fell in Hollywood. Show me the money Hollywood. We pitched the script around and never could put it together. What a shame. Patrick was such a great guy and very talented. He eventually went back to live in London and did theater and television and many movies. One of those projects that could have been wasn’t. Welcome to the Circus.
Around then, my wife, Antoinette, and I moved into our apartment on Elm Street in Beverly Hills, the flats, not the Beverly Hills where the mansions are. We did not have that kind of money and when we found out that Antoinette was pregnant there was an urgency for me to work. The thought was creeping into my head. Will I ever work again? I needed a job. Enter Bob Relyea (mentor and a saint) and Ed Morey (nice guy and executive with David Begelman’s company which made The Manhattan Project).
Ed was now working for AIG, one of the biggest Insurance Companies in the world. AIG was in the movie business as a completion bond company. Completion bonds are needed for indie films so that the borrowers, banks and small companies, can insure their film. It’s an interesting game which I won’t bore you with here. Put it this way, unless you put up the money yourself, you needed a completion bond to get funding and distribution.
Ed told me they were looking for an executive to help them with indie films especially those they wanted to shoot in New York. I was considered someone who would be an expert on both subjects. Well, I needed a job, so I said yes. The first project they gave me was called A Bronx Tale already shooting in New York. Seems the first bond rep wanted to leave the show which was going over budget. I took the gig.
I got on a plane to New York and met John Kilick, a very nice person who was line producing this film. I had known John a bit and he was happy to see me become the new bad guy. John filled me in on the film’s issues. I also met the first bond rep, a very nice guy who looked like a prisoner of war about to be released. So now I was in the hot seat because the financiers were freaking out and the production company was freaking out. And, of course, the bond company was freaking out.
I was acquainted with this feeling as almost every show has its own “freaking out” moments. After a few weeks of observing, I talked to everyone on the show except “Bob” (De Niro) who knew what I was going to say and didn’t want to hear it. Okay. Did he know what I was going to say? Me? Not really. But what can I do?
I was always a friend of the directors and producers on all my films. And I always got along with the studios and financiers. Well what can you do in this situation? Since most of the crew were people I knew, and having been in these situations before, I came up with a plan. When I presented it to the production team, they didn’t like it. In fact, Bob finally talked to me and told me he didn’t like it. I told him he would thank me for this plan in the future. He gave me a look and walked away. When I presented it to Ed and the AIG folks they didn’t like it either. I told them it must be a good plan since nobody likes it. They didn’t think that was so funny. I told everyone to sleep on it over the weekend.
What was the plan? Since Christmas, the Holidays, were just a few weeks away, I thought we should take a month off. Yes, a month. Because there was no way we were going to finish by Christmas or New Year’s. If we screwed up Christmas break by working through it and not finishing the film, the crew would revolt. You don’t mess with Christmas break in New York. The deal would be that, over that break, Bob would edit and with his team design a schedule to finish all filming in ten working days. In return, the financiers got a realistic schedule and costs and the filmmakers got a reprieve from the pressure and a realistic plan to finish the film. It worked. When we came back from the Holidays, a big meeting was set up at the Tribeca offices owned by Bob. All parties were there, and a deal was signed. Bob looked great and rested and thanked me. We became friends. The bond company thanked me. We became friends. The film was finished and had great reviews. Everyone was happy. A rare story in Hollywood.
For my reward, I flew back to LA with the family and Ed called me into the office. He handed me a script and said “see if you can make sense of this. We can’t.” It was called Pulp Fiction.
PULP FICTION (1993)
Directed by Quentin Tarantino
Starring John Travolta, Harvey Keitel and Uma Thurmond
I met Quentin Tarantino and Lawrence Bender (the creative team) and Richard Gladstein from Miramax who were interested in distributing the movie. They desperately wanted to get this film made. I said I would help them secure the completion bond. I met with Ed and his team and pitched the film. I said I like it. They said “let’s close the deal with AIG”. To do that, we needed to meet with the Board of the bond company. These were men in suits who were serious about their money. So of course, Quentin shows up in torn jeans and a T-shirt looking like some stoner from Venice. But things were going okay until one of the Board asked about violence in the script. I said that it was no more violent than Godfather and many others. Another Board Member asked Quentin about the scene in the script that called for a deadly murder. We called it the disemboweling scene. How would he stage it? Within a second, Quentin was up on his feet and meticulously laying out the bloody scene. He stopped, waiting for applause, and there was silence. I thanked everyone and told Quentin and Bender thanks for coming and I walked them out. Quentin was convinced that he won them over. I said I would call them later and let them know if they were backing the movie.
I walked back into the room and one of the Board Members stood up and said, “There is no way we are doing that movie”. They walked out, leaving me and Ed Morey. I asked Ed if there was any chance if we were to clean up that scene. He said no. I was out of a job.
Pulp Fiction went on to make millions at the box office. Quentin became a popular Hollywood director.
Directed by Julien Temple
Starring Mickey Rourke, Ted Levine, Tupac Shakur, Adrien Brody, Donnie Wahlberg, Suzanne Shepherd and Jerry Grayson
I liked Mickey and I think he felt comfortable with me around the set. It was ten years since 9 ½ Weeks. He was a young star then, ready to join the world of acting Greats. I wanted him to make it. He wrote a great script with Bruce Rubenstein.
But, like many things in the fast-moving Circus, it never took off. Something was missing. There was a young Canadian actress who was supposed to play Mickey’s ( aka Bullet Stein’s) love interest. Mickey told me he didn’t like the scenes with her. He was going to cut the scenes. I said “Mickey, besides your mother she’s the only women in the cast of junkies and hookers that people cared about”. Sadly, those scenes never made the movie.
I got along well with Tupac. I was sort of assigned to watch over him. He was no problem. But, like too many young guys who were moving up too fast, he was a bit overwhelmed. Sort of like Mickey was ten years earlier. The Circus demands too much from young people and some of them don’t make it.
Bullet never made it to the theaters and was sold to DVD and cable. It was a tax deal made by Australian investors. They took the money which barely covered their investment and ran. This was the money part of the business I didn’t like. If it was a feature release, Tupac would have written some songs which could have saved the movie. Sadly, shortly after the release, Tupac was shot and killed.
Directed by John Singleton
Produced by Paul Hall
Starring Samuel L. Jackson
Bob Relyea called me and said he would like me to meet John Singleton and his producer, Paul. I was in my Greenwich Street office in Tribeca. We met and got along. John was determined to make Shaft with a young unknown star and keep the spirit of the first one in place but with a 1990’s feeling. Sounded good to me. John, Paul and I had a great time in New York. I told Bob this looked like a great movie for MGM.
We made plans to announce the film in the trades because we were holding auditions at the Apollo to look for the new Shaft. Thousands attended the audition, just like the original film. John wanted to discover his “Richard Roundtree”, the original Shaft actor. I flew to LA to begin the process of convincing the Studio to make the movie with Bob’s expert guidance. Bob was a great filmmaker and he never lost that part of him. He made many films including Bullet with his then partner Steve McQueen. Now, he was navigating us through the new corporate court of filmmaking in the ruthless 1990’s.
The budget was around 33 million. I told John that MGM had no appetite to raise the budget past this figure. Unfortunately, John got caught up in the “money” thing. Whether he really believed that the Studio should respect him more and give him something North of 33 million, or he really needed the money, I will never know. John drew a line in the sand. Despite me telling him that the Studio would leave him alone and let him cast and shoot the film as he wanted, John ignored my advice to take the money and he ran away from MGM. I thought back to Norman on Moonstruck. If he had done the same thing, I doubt Moonstruck would have ever gotten made into a film. You step out of the ring in the Circus and the circus passes you by.
John and Paul and I broke down the prep office. John said his agent would set thing up somewhere else. Months later, I got a call from Scott Rudin saying he was taking over the project and doing it under Columbia.
John and Paul were still together, and Mr. Rudin assured me that I would be on as an executive producer. He then asked if I could make the budget 50 million and suggested a few areas where he wanted to enhance the budget. I sent him a 50-million-dollar budget with great reluctance. The question in my mind was “Do I trust Scott Rudin?”. He could not have been nicer or more convincing that he would call me when he knew the start date. I immediately called Paul and he confirmed everything that Scott said.
A month or so later, I got a call that they were starting production without me. What a surprise that someone would lie in the Circus biz! Paul and I would talk about the troubled production which seemed to be going disastrously for John. He and John wished that I was on with them. The calls stopped when Paul was fired. Now, John was not making the movie he wanted to make without any of his support team. What a shame. The movie came out with Samuel Jackson as Shaft and did not do well.
AT FIRST SIGHT (1997)
Directed by Irwin Winkler
Starring Val Kilmer, Mira Sorvino, Kelly McGillis, Nathan Lane
I was back with Bob Relyea at MGM. A pleasure to work with all these talents on an Oliver Sachs script about a real story. We shot in Tribeca, Piermont, New York and Bear Mountain, New York.
A tragic love story about a man losing his sight and falling in love with a lady trying to cope with his situation. When the relationship breaks up, he goes back to live at home with his sister and he eventually loses his sight again.
Sometimes in the Circus, they say when you are having a good time on a movie watch out. It may not translate to the box office. For some reason, that came true.
As soon as I read the script I knew where we should shoot the ski lodge. Bear Mountain had a Tudor lodge and it was rustic and looked like a resort in a ski village. It was about 90 minutes from New York City. There were the foothills of the Ramapo Mountains. It worked.
We even built an outdoor artificial ice pond so, despite the mild winter, we could shoot the hockey scenes where Val Kilmer (Virgil Damson) plays pond hockey and takes Mira Amy Benic for a romantic skate. It had all the ingredients, including the chemistry, and that was magic.
Paradiso (first right) on the set of At First Sight
Instead of using special effects, cinematographer John Seale performed a brilliant theatrical real time effect in the film. Virgil is sitting on his porch and the lighting goes from late afternoon to dark and back to sunrise. Fantastic.
One thing I am proud of is that we shot at New York Eye and Ear Hospital and used footage from a real operation performed by Dr. Jack Dodick. The film, as directed by Irwin, was very realistic, and in the end, a sad movie. I admired Irwin and the cast for staying true to this style. I thought the film worked. Except at the box office, and that is all there is in Hollywood these days. How much did you make on opening weekend?
THE THOMAS CROWN AFFAIR (1998)
Directed by John McTiernan
Starring Rene Russo and Pierce Brosnan
Special Appearance by Faye Dunaway and Ben Gazzara
Norman Jewison asked “why are you doing a remake of the original” to a Studio executive. I don’t know if he ever got an answer.
Bob Relyea set up a lunch with John McTiernan who was supposed to be a tough, maverick director in the mold of John Ford. His credits were amazing. It was thought he might try to intimidate me. Ok, but it won’t work. I asked myself if I were directing this film what would I want to know? Can I shoot an art heist in the Metropolitan Museum?
Roger Paradiso (first from right) on the set of The Thomas Crown Affair
So, I sat down for lunch between John and his assistant who was a former Navy seal. John asked the question. I could see his assistant stiffen. All eyes were on me. I said No. They were snobs and we would never be allowed to shoot in their museum. They want to pretend there are no heists or forgeries. I went back to my food as there was silence and then John let out a big laugh. He said something like: “I like that. You don’t bullshit around”. We then went on to have an enjoyable lunch. We did end up shooting at the Met. We didn’t need their permission thanks to a plan that my good friend and future partner Mike Tadross and I dreamed up.
On this film, Mike and I started our partnership on Yonkers Stage where we built over twenty sets for the film including the Impressionist Wing of the Met and Thomas Crown’s New York townhouse interior. I still think the stage is the most successful stage outside of New York City in the history of New York State. We would still be going strong, but the mayor kicked us out to get a Fedex plant in there. That’s sort of the direction the country is going in, isn’t it? Kicking out the mom and pop shops for businesses that could pay higher rents. Yonkers’s Stage was a mom and pop operation and it worked for over 17 years.
Roger and Pierce Brosnan on the set of The Thomas Crown Affair
This was an enjoyable film. We did have our adventures in Martinique which was a challenge due to their numerous dock and airport strikes holding up our gear or forcing us to deliver our equipment in other ways.
And, kudos to John and Pierce for casting an age appropriate actress, Rene Russo, for the Faye Dunaway role. Rene and Pierce were fun and terrific and the public knew it was an attempt to make it real. The film did great business and continues to be seen. It also makes people curious to see the original by Norman Jewison starring Faye Dunaway and Steve McQueen.
We shot mostly in New York and came in around 50 million which was a low price for such a fun movie.
Loved the Bill Conti music and the great song by Nina Simone.
CITY BY THE SEA (2000)
Directed by Michael Caton-Jones
Starring Robert De Niro, Francis McDormand and James Franco
This was my last Hollywood movie. The Studios started farming out films to production companies like TV had been doing for years.
Michael Caton-Jones went through a miserable period of compromise and dropping his rate as we all did to make the movie. Matt Baer, one of the producers and a great guy, went through hell trying to get this film made. Why did we all do this? For the paycheck sure, but also because we believed in the story. Because there was something there in the script that could have been great if not for the creative execs of Franchise Pictures insisting on adding an action sequence.
James Franco and Robert De Niro in City By the Sea
During one of our conference calls with Franchise execs I asked one of them why they changed a true story that was riveting by adding in some inaccurate police shooting and police chase that never existed in the late Mike MacAlary’s story. I was told not to worry because they would change it to “based on a true story”. I said that’s not the point. The story is good enough to stand on its own. To which I got the reply “We aren’t making a 35-million-dollar art movie”. My response was simply “What’s wrong with making an art movie?”. There was silence on both sides of the call.
In the early 2000, it was time for Roger to begin telling his own stories on film. His first production, which he wrote, directed and produced, was the motion picture:
TONY N’ TINA’S WEDDING (2004)
Directed by Roger Paradiso
Starring Mila Kunis, Joey McIntyre and Adrien Grenier
In the mid 80’s, I met an actress who said she was rehearsing for a show about a wedding. She asked me to come along to rehearsals. What I saw were young actors putting a show together without a script.
They were improvising their way to what would turn out to be one of the great Off-Broadway success stories, Tony N’ Tina’s Wedding. I had early discussions with Nancy Cassaro who was the person who got the actors together and who, in my understanding, had the concept of what she wanted it to ultimately become in a performance piece. She asked me if I could make a movie of the process and of mounting the show in production. Back then, making independent films was expensive and complicated. You had all the costs of film stock and the process. The costs were high and the risks even higher.
Joey McIntyre, Mila Kunis with Director Roger Paradiso at the Church of the Holy Ghost. DP Giselle Chamma (far right)
In hindsight, it has haunted me, well not quite haunted, but I wondered if I should have done it that way. Maybe a documentary would have been good. Or maybe I should have gotten five cameramen and shot the performance. Well I didn’t and, as the years went by, I kept in touch with Nancy and when I was living in LA where she had moved to also, we decided to meet up with her husband Chris and a friend Mark and write a screenplay. We did that and I tried to sell it. Now we are into the late and ruthless 1990’s world of film. It was a tough sell. I still thought it would be a great indie film.
Joey McIntyre, Director Roger Paradiso, Matthew Saldivar, Jon Bernthal and Sebastian Stan rehearse outside the Animal Kingdom GoGo Bar
Finally, a few years later, a Wall Street investor and his group came around and they put up the original one and a half million dollars that it would cost to get it into the can. It was a battle of epic proportions. Regrettably, changes in the script were asked for and I did the best I could do. At this point, there was little interaction between Nancy and myself. I do regret it. However, there is a point and time when all producers and directors have to focus on getting it done because it is so hard to get the money to make such a risky investment. If you think about the number of film scripts and the number of films made every year in this world, you then realize that a small percentage of these dreams will never get seen. Then, if you think about the small percentage of those that will actually make money, you might become frozen with fear, loathing and anxiety.
I had all three, but I was determined to make this film. And I did.
I WANT MY NAME BACK (2012)
Directed by Roger Paradiso
With Wonder Mike, Master Gee and the Original Sugar Hill Gang
30 Best Music Documentaries on Netflix (From the Beatles to Big Star, Philip Glass to Ice Cube, here’s 30 great docs you can watch right now)
WATCH: I Want My Name Back
When I first met Wonder Mike and Master Gee I thought I would listen to the usual story of a band breaking up. You know, the stuff you see on TV like the sex and drugs ruining the rock ’n roll or something like that. As I started listening to their story, I heard something a little different. I heard they would write songs and have other people put their names on them, sometimes giving them credit for writing their own songs and sometimes not. I heard that they sold millions of records, had three platinum albums and they were broke. And of course, they were in court fighting over all this larceny. This was a sad story, but unfortunately many other groups and performers could tell the same one. But then I heard them say they also had their names taken away. That got my attention. How did that happen. By an illegal trademark, which basically stated that, they never existed. Wow. Now there’s a story.
At the time I met them in 2008 they were on an almost thirty-year journey in the music business. I asked them what they wanted. They said they wanted to get their names back. They wanted to set the record straight.
I chose 2009 as the year to set my story. That was the 30th Anniversary of the biggest selling single in Hip Hop History – Rapper’s Delight. The song was recorded in August 1979 and released in September. It was the song that is generally credited with putting Hip Hop on the world map and showing the Music Industry that a new musical style was evolving and there was money to be made.
Since they wrote their raps and performed that song, Wonder Mike and Master Gee were hoping that they could capitalize on the thirtieth anniversary year to not only make some money, but to celebrate and to get recognition long overdue for their accomplishment. I tried to get the cooperation and the point of view of the Robinson Family, owners of Sugarhill Records which is the label that released that momentous song, but they chose not to respond to any requests made by any of the producers and myself.
It would be kind to say that 2009 did not turn out the way anybody thought it would. But a documentary is at its best when you are there to capture the magnificence in the mundane or capture as ABC’s Wide World of Sports called it “The agony of defeat and the thrill of victory”. I think that’s what we captured but maybe not in that order.
In my mind, this was always a buddy movie. A 30-year struggle of Wonder Mike and Master Gee to get their names back. To get their legacy told, at least by them while they were still alive and not to rely on some biographer talking to third parties. Wonder Mike and Master Gee speak in their own words and use their best recollections to tell us what really happened as they made history and spent the rest of their lives overcoming personal demons and corruptions in the music industry. In the end as notice came that the court date was to be May 10, 2010 there was a sense of justice soon to be served. There was excitement and tension on that tenth day of May. This buddy movie ends the way all buddy movies end in real life. And I’ll leave it at that.
One day as we were filming in Englewood, New Jersey right outside the empty lot that used to be Sugar Hill Records, I turned around and looked at my youthful crew which numbered two cameramen and one sound-man and I took in a deep breath. This is what filmmaking used to be in the beginning. Fort Lee was the birthplace of American Cinema. Some say world cinema.
And Fort Lee was just a short walk away from where we were shooting. I felt connected to the process that day and I wondered how in the hell filmmaking had gotten so complicated. And I thought how fitting it was for me who started out as a journalist and indie filmmaker to be coming back to this style of filmmaking.
That same day we shot an incredible scene. In the middle of ranting about how Sugar Hill Records, right behind him, had ripped him off, Wonder Mike stopped. And then he delivered an eloquent memory of Joe Robinson and how he felt when he went to visit him on his deathbed at a local hospital. Amazing how terrific this style of film-making is when you can capture these moments.
I also remember taking Wonder Mike, Henndog and Tony the former roadie, to a park right near the George Washington Bridge with a great, closeup of the Bridge in the background. This bridge connected North Jersey to the Bronx. In my own way of speaking through film, I was saying that we were all connected. The arguments that hip hop and rap started in the Bronx and not in New Jersey suddenly seemed moot. From that point on the bridge, maybe a mile from Sugar Hill Records, we were maybe another mile or so from the Bronx. We are all connected now, I thought. Yes, it probably started in the Bronx and quickly migrated to North Jersey and other points.
Rap was like rock ’n roll when it first started. It just took off. I think the early rappers were like the early rockers. It was pure. The thing I admired most about the early rappers was that without music lessons and fancy instruments, they created a new musical genre that swept around the world with a song recorded in Englewood, New Jersey that is Rapper’s Delight.
It was truly a music created by a totally democratic and organic process by mostly poor people who had no access to the privileges of those in the society who had more financially and were more connected to power. They didn’t need all that. They just needed talent and their “hood”.
I Want My Name Back is available to watch on GlobalCinema.online
THE LOST VILLAGE (2022)
Directed by Rober Paradiso
Featuring Judith Malina, George Capsis, Mark Crispin Miller, Ziad Dallal, Sharon Woolums, Anthony Gronowicz, Michael Hudson and Robert Perl
WATCH: The Lost Village
There was a demonstration against New York University on September 1, 2015. I remember it was pretty hot that day.
I had heard about homeless and hungry students at NYU. With those high tuition fees, how could most students afford to live and play in the Village unless they had a trust fund? No wonder the college student suicide rate has increased by 200 percent since the 1950s! With all the pressure to earn that degree and go into debt, should we be shocked that 1.5 percent of college students commit suicide?
The most shocking revelation came from a college student who talked about being a prostitute to fund her education at NYU. Her name was “Mandy” and she wore a mask.
Mandy’s father had died shortly before she entered NYU. Her mother had lost her job, so Mandy approached the administration who told her to take out more loans even though she was already thousands of dollars in debt. She was one year away from graduating, so she turned to a group called Seeking Agreements which was basically an escort service that connected young women (and men) with “sugar daddies” (or “sugar mommies”) who, for “companionship,” would pay students anywhere from three to five thousand dollars a month. Mandy used this event as a press conference to inform the public about the growing epidemic of prostitution at NYU.
Director Roger Paradiso and Jazz Great and composer David Amram
I found myself wondering how we got to this point and what kind of society we are becoming.
“The Lost Village is the best film ever made about the loss of Bohemia in Greenwich Village. Keeps the story alive so that it can be changed – for a happier ending.” – John Bredin, West Views News
The Lost Village is available to watch on GlobalCinema.online
SEARCHING FOR CAMELOT (2022) – WATCH
THE QUEST FOR CAMELOT (2022) – WATCH
THE QUEEN OF CAMELOT (2022) – WATCH
Written, Directed and Produced by: Roger Paradiso
With: Jacqueline ‘Jackie’ Kennedy (archive footage), John F. Kennedy (archive footage), Robert ‘Bobby’ Kennedy (archive footage), Sarah Bradford, Richard Reeves, David Amram
Awarded Best Historical Subject at the Global Nonviolent Film Festival
It was 1963 and it all seemed so innocent. But then with the announcement by Sister Rosena it all changed. Those horrible words that the President was shot. We were dismissed from school and the walk home was a walk away from the past. And life became harder.
This is a personal story to me. It was a coming of age full of hope and tragedy. This tragic story of Jack, Jacqueline and Robert Kennedy could have been written by Shakespeare or Sophocles. It is a timeless story of power and fate.
I have friends who say everything important today came out of the sixties. That may be a stretch, but it was a very influential decade. And I admit there is a yearning to return to what seemed, compared to today, an innocent way of life before the assassination of John F. Kennedy.
I think that is why “Camelot” resonates with so many. Jackie nailed it.
My visit to Arlington was quite awesome. I thought it was fitting that all three of them are buried in Arlington National Cemetery. And that Jackie managed to get an eternal flame to shine light on their lives forever.
Sarah Bradford and Roger on the set of Camelot
I had many mentors to help along the journey. It was the days of cultural revolution and three murders that shocked the world. In one sense, these murders of JFK, MLK and RFK are still the greatest unsolved murders in history.
I don’t know if Jack and Jackie fully expected the winds of change to blow at hurricane force as they campaigned for the presidency. It was a much smaller country where candidates met the people across the country and talked to the people. They didn’t need TV reality show rallies or prime time town halls. They met them in their backyards. What a contrast from today. It was a simpler age as we show in the film. I believe people who view this film will discover some things they never knew about the days Jackie called Camelot.
Is it a coincidence that two Boston bred Catholics with a liberal philosophy were murdered as they attempted to change the way we governed and the way we lived? In either case, I hope we can agree it was an American tragedy of epic proportions. It is as contemporary as Shakespeare and as timeless as the Greeks. And I hope we can still dream about Camelot.
In making this magnificent documentary series, Paradiso worked closely with the JFK Presidential Library and Museum and read many biographies about Jackie, John and Robert Kennedy. “I am just a filmmaker and I tried to tell this incredible story as best as I could”, says Roger.
All three documentaries, Searching for Camelot, The Quest for Camelot, and The Queen of Camelot are available to watch, in exclusivity, on GlobalCinema.online
Roger Paradiso during the production of City By the Sea in 2000 starring Robert De Niro, Francis McDormand and James Franco
Roger continues to produce films in his beloved New York City… and the circus goes on. D!