Richard Uber has been in the entertainment industry for… well, as you’ll see, a mighty long time! He has produced and edited hundreds of hours of content in both Film and TV, met a plethora of fascinating people and was good enough to sit down for a chat with me…
Q: So, your first credit, at least according to IMDB, goes back to 1984 when you worked on some music videos… how did you get into the business?
I studied film at Iowa State in 1967-68 found out I had to wait 2+ years to take another film course. Left school, went to work in a brokerage firm and got myself transferred to NYC where I quit and took the post production equivalent of a PA, a vault technician at a place called Preview Theatre which was where the MPAA screened their films. All for the amazing amount of $65 a week take home pay. They also had 6 floors of film editorial rooms and I got assigned to work with those films that were working there. I got to work on Alice’s Restaurant, The Arrangement by Eliza Kazan, Angel Levine, Boys in the Band, Frank Perry’s Last Summer, and the installation of the first Kem’s in America for Michael Waldeigh’s Woodstock. I wanted to do more, so when worked slowed down I moved back home and went to Columbia College Chicago. Columbus was unique, the people who taught there were actually working in the industry.
I was very lucky, I worked my way through school by working the equipment cages for the still photography labs and the motion picture department. In 1971 Jim Bourgeois started teaching Sound Editing at Columbia College. He was an amazing teacher, and a great mentor. I stopped working at the school and worked for Jim, one month free, then became an assistant editor for pay, then a sound effects editor, then a music editor, and finally a picture editor. I was working on a NBC network series “Wild Kingdom” as the head sound effects editor at age 21.
In 1972 while a Junior at school I got my first National Emmy nomination for outstanding individual achievement in sound editing. Needless to say, that was the end of my college education. In 1973 I left Jim’s company and started my own. We started out doing feature films, local commercials, industrials, and progressed to doing national commercials, museum exhibitions, and special effects. By 1975 we had a staff of 27, an office on Chicago’s Miracle Mile, and a lot of work on the west coast. I had one client need me for 18 weeks in Los Angeles and loved it so much that I stayed there. Eventually selling my share to my partners.
Living in LA, I edited numerous documentaries for NBC, ABC, and PBS. Some of these I was also working as an associate producer. There are 2 things that helped my career immensely, I started working on music videos very early before MTV, and I was probably the 2nd or 3rd film editor to become an online editor, which meant i could master for broadcast my own work, so I didn’t have to explain to another person exactly how to do this effect.
I actually have tons of credits before IMDB Lists them, and they don’t list music video credits that were broadcast, If they did that I would have a couple of hundred more credits. IMDB also ignores people who are in the studio system. Check out my best friend Tim Clawson http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0165472/.
So many movies ignored. There is no central authority for IMDB, it’s crowd sourced.
Q: You then seem to have moved into TV as an Editor, how did you break in and get regular work?
I got work usually from the people who knew me. Or someone saw something I edited and reached out to me to edit something for them.
How I cut commercials got me music videos.
Music videos plus documentaries got me tv shows.
All that plus the special effects I did got me feature work.
Like editing got me post supervision which led to producing work.
Q: You worked on projects for Pat Benatar, Madonna, and the Go-Gos to name a few… did you get to meet them as part of the process? Any good stories?
Yes, I met them all, and we were collaborators in the editing room. I was known as a collaborative editor, easy to get along with, and most importantly willing to try ideas not my own.
There are stories, but they remain in the edit bay…
With Toto on “Stranger in Town” We had to deliver that morning at 9am. At 6am I’m sitting on a hay bale in the middle of the editing room, doing Foley of dogs digging in the ground. They thought if I was that crazy I had to keep working on their videos. LOL
Q: You also did work with Orson Welles as a voiceover artist, how was it working with such a legend?
At the first time I was very nervous, until at the 3rd take I stopped him, told him I needed a smile at the end of the first sentence, and a slide down between 2 words in the 3rd sentence. Once he knew that you knew what the hell you were doing he was a cupcake. There was no way I would have led him off the cliff. I enjoyed my time with him greatly. When I explained how I recorded him, and how I used smpte time code as sprocket holes to auto assemble him onto a 24 track recorder (The first time it was ever done) He thought I was very clever and thus I ended up directing him on many commercials and film projects. He was incredibly smart and regaled me with old stories during dinners at Ma Maison.
Q: Of the films/projects you worked on back then, which is your favourite and why?
I don’t know how to even answer that. When I’m working on them they are at that time my very favorite of all time.
“The Power Pinch” an NBC primetime documentary about sexual harassment in the workplace.
“Ren and Stimpy” for the fun of putting it together.
Pat Benatar for “Stop Using Sex as a weapon” for pushing analog video as far as it could go.
Music Videos for changing the paradigm.
Q: You worked as an Editor and a Producer at Paramount for a number of years, what projects did you work on there?
Actually more time at Fox Studios. I was the senior editor there. I did the first digital cinema there. Like Bryan Singer’s “X-men” Joel Shoemaker’s “Phone Booth” and “Tigerland”
Then NewsCorp (The parent company) asked me to help move the company to digital/HD. I became the producer who was in charge of all the HDTV that was broadcast on the Fox Network which included Episode 1 of Star Wars, and the first Dolby E broadcast. I had to work on every Fox Film and have it in HD ready for air on the networks that bought it. This represented 120+ million to Fix, so it had to be done even though the technology wasn’t even there to make it work. Those who are on the leading edge of technology call it the bleeding edge….
Q: I believe you also worked as an Editor for Disney for a while, how was that? What are they like as an organisation to work for?
My other best friend Rob Wieland brought me over. As an organization we called it mousewitch in a concentration camp way of speaking. We also redid the Mouseketeers song, with M. I.C. K.E.Y. oh you SOB…. it was a job and not a fun one at that. It is what made me decide to go out on my own again.
Q: You now work with Visceral Films, how did that come about?
Scott sent out a message for help and being in Cincinnati I answered it. The rest is history.
Q: Who are the rest of the Visceral team?
Scott Wohlstein, CEO, writer, a serial entrepreneur like me. He loves making movies, He comes from much more restrained budgets than I do.
Devin Dietrich is a writer, and is in charge of Television projects.
We all come from different backgrounds which creates an amazing synergy
Q: Visceral Films ran a competition looking for a Horror script which a few of the SimplyScript’s writer’s entered, what prompted such a fairly usual approach?
We didn’t have any scripts that would work with the Land of Illusion and we wanted to see what other writers could come up with. And we wanted to be aware of other writers.
Q: The scripts had to be set at the Land of Illusion Halloween theme park with the intention of filming there, how did that partnership/collaboration come about?
It’s simple. I line produced a film there, knew the owner and the other key people and talked to my partners and we decided to do a co-production with Land of Illusion.
Q: How were the scripts evaluated, I imagine its a little different to how you’ve considered scripts in the past?
Totally different, All the scripts were read by multiple people. The top 15 or so were read by everyone involved in the decision making. They were broken down and rated in different categories, including how easily it could be produced. The metrics for each category were created and the cream rose to the top. It was readily apparent which 3 were the top 3.
Q: Do you intend to use the competition approach again?
Yes, we found you. I would love to find new writers, we are a writer-centric company, but these projects need to be in production first. Our first responsibility is to our writers.
Q: As a producer how do you then go about financing such projects?
The 64 million dollar question, or 5 million dollar question, or 2 million dollar question.
We use Executive Producers who have worldwide contacts that pitch our films to investors who gave worked with them before.
In some cases we have an investor who will invest the last 50% as long as other investors have previously invested in films.
The other way is the Netflix way, we produce a film for 3.5 and we sell all rights for 10. This only works with select people who have proven track records.
Q: Do you have an update on the optioned scripts?
Yes, the Brexit and Trump have had negative influences on our raising of capital. Investors are cautious at the moment. We expect a better reception to our projects in the 2nd quarter of 2017.
Q: What else have you got planned Visceral Films.
There are a variety of projects on the horizon. Corporately because of Tax Credits we might be moving across the river to KY.
Q: What are your thoughts for aspiring screenwriters in terms of the best way to break in, or get their scripts seen by producers?
Keep entering contests, keep collaborating with other writers. I have a friend who got started in an entry level position at a literary agency. It is a catch 22 to get an agent. Be wary of some agents that want money up front. That is what the 10% of everything you do is for. And keep writing. Make sure you have the craft of screenwriting down perfect. A non standard formatted script usually is sent to the circular file cabinet. And don’t ever send unsolicited scripts to a company that doesn’t accept them. You can get banned there and quickly around town.
Q: There are a ton of people out there who offer screenwriters coverage services, position themselves as guru’s etc, what your view on such services?
If you are really bad they might help. They exist to make money for themselves, not the writers.
Q: What’s the best and worse film making advice you’ve been given?
The best, Hire the best people you can afford for their position. Step back and let them do their job. Run interference from the powers that be, so they can do their jobs. And treat them like valued human beings.
The worst, It’s a tie
Digital will never be as good as analog.
and my favorite in 1987
“You should think about another career, you aren’t very good at this”. (just gotten 3 MTV nominations, and was going to Vancouver Canada to work on 3 series)
Now for a few ‘getting to know Richard questions
Q: What’s your favourite film? And favourite script, if they’re different?
Q: Favourite author and book?
Film book: François Truffaut Hitchcock,a wonderful book about Hitchcock.
Joseph Mascelli: The 5 C’s of cinematography. (writers should read this)
I’m hard pressed to determine which is my favorite book. My father was a book publisher, I was surrounded by 1000’s of books all my life.
Probably Doris Kerns Goodwin, Her boohs on Eleanor and FDR, and on Lincoln are amazing.
Q: Beer or Wine (or something else)? And which variety?
Wine, Reds, Pinot Noir Sonoma, in Oregon Oak. ( 10 of us were partners in a Winery in Central California)
Q: Favourite food?
Thai Chicken and Beef Satay, Larb and other delights.
Q: Any other interests and passions?
Still Photography, Cooking
Q: Where do you live in? And what are your thoughts about moving to LA for a screenwriting career?
In California I live 70 miles NW up the coast in San Buena Ventura. In Cincinnati I live in Over the Rhine (OTR) section just north of downtown in an 1860’s house my brother and I fully restored.
Moving to LA. have enough money saved to survive a year. It us very expensive to live there. Try getting entry level jobs at production companies, or Literary agencies. Keep at it, You will be rejected many many times.
Q: Any final thoughts for the aspiring screenwriters of ou there?
Keep at it. You have selected a very hard career. The rewards are worth it if you succeed. Keep at it every day, and learn from each other. You have made wonderful scripts, the main problem is getting them made. Have a body of work you can show. Good luck to all of you.
About the interviewer: Anthony is an award winning screenwriter from the UK with 2 Features optioned and over 30 Short scripts optioned, or purchased, including 8 filmed. Outside of his screenwriting career, he’s a published short story writer and movie reviewer. Links to his films and details of his scripts can be found at www.anthonycawood.co.uk.