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A career-spanning interview book about the beloved Hollywood director Sam Firstenberg. A trip loaded with unique badass film history!
A career-spanning interview book about the beloved Hollywood director Sam Firstenberg. A trip loaded with unique badass film history!
87 backers pledged €10,843 to help bring this project to life.

About this project

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They say, never meet your childhood heroes. After becoming friends with Sam I can clearly disagree – in some cases it’s a real pleasure!

Click here for the extended version of Sam's crowdfunding video!

Sam Firstenberg
Sam Firstenberg

 

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 I 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. Sams 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, JonRhys Davis, 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, 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 Lerners 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. Among 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 a conclusional and 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.

In Cannes with Menahem Golan
In Cannes with Menahem Golan

 

Make-Up effects in "Revenge of the Ninja" (1983, Cannon Group)
Make-Up effects in "Revenge of the Ninja" (1983, Cannon Group)

 

The light, funny and high-octaned style of Firstenbergs 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.

Michael Madsen & Sam Firstenberg (Behind The Scenes of "The Alternate")
Michael Madsen & Sam Firstenberg (Behind The Scenes of "The Alternate")

 

Sam Firstenberg, Robert Vaughn & Hulk Hogan (shooting "McCinsey's Island")
Sam Firstenberg, Robert Vaughn & Hulk Hogan (shooting "McCinsey's Island")

 

On set of "Spiders II: Breeding Ground" (2001, Nu Image)
On set of "Spiders II: Breeding Ground" (2001, Nu Image)

 

Sam Firstenberg as an Assistant Director on set of "Jesus" (1979)
Sam Firstenberg as an Assistant Director on set of "Jesus" (1979)

 

Adolfo "Shabba-Doo" Quinones, Muhammad Ali, Sam Firstenberg, Michael "Shrimp" Chambers (during the shooting of "Breakin' II: Electric Boogaloo")
Adolfo "Shabba-Doo" Quinones, Muhammad Ali, Sam Firstenberg, Michael "Shrimp" Chambers (during the shooting of "Breakin' II: Electric Boogaloo")

 

 

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. I am putting my heart and my soul into this. Thanks in advance for any kind of help!

Original Storyboard, "American Ninja" (Cannon, 1985)
Original Storyboard, "American Ninja" (Cannon, 1985)

 

Cannon Group Company Ephemera
Cannon Group Company Ephemera

 

Steve James, Michael Dudikoff & Sam Firstenberg (Behind The Scenes of "Avenging Force")
Steve James, Michael Dudikoff & Sam Firstenberg (Behind The Scenes of "Avenging Force")

 

Steve James, Michael Dudikoff, Larry Poindexter (Behind The Scenes of "American Ninja 2: The Confrontation")
Steve James, Michael Dudikoff, Larry Poindexter (Behind The Scenes of "American Ninja 2: The Confrontation")

 

 

     

Ice-T, Eric Roberts, Sam Firstenberg (shooting "The Alternate" - 2000, Nu Image)
Ice-T, Eric Roberts, Sam Firstenberg (shooting "The Alternate" - 2000, Nu Image)

 

Behind The Scenes of "The Interplanetary Surplus Male and Amazon Women of Outer Space" (2003)
Behind The Scenes of "The Interplanetary Surplus Male and Amazon Women of Outer Space" (2003)

 


  

Sam Firstenberg and book author Marco Siedelmann (July 2016, Düsseldorf)
Sam Firstenberg and book author Marco Siedelmann (July 2016, Düsseldorf)

 

Cover Artwork of my first book about the era of the Home Video Boom
Cover Artwork of my first book about the era of the Home Video Boom

INFORMATION ABOUT STORIES FROM THE TRENCHES:
600 pages (estimated)
b/w - Paperback
Pricing: 29,99 Euro (estimated) 
Trim Size: 8.5" x 11" (21.59 x 27.94 cm)

 
Cover Artwork by Ralf Krause (Falcon White) - also available as a Print Poster & Wallpaper
Cover Artwork by Ralf Krause (Falcon White) - also available as a Print Poster & Wallpaper

 

 

Risks and challenges

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 neither be my first nor 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.

All in all 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.

I would appreciate it very much if this campaign could help me to handle this very special publication in a way Sam Firstenberg deserves it.

QUOTES ABOUT MY FIRST BOOK:

"Through a slew of interviews with the key players associated with the company, Siedelmann’s book manages to expose the ins and outs of the working mechanism and financial means that enabled this type of film company to flourish and those types of films to be made, at that particular time. It is not an academic book but rather a fun read since it is full of anecdotes and little stories related to the better known movies the company was associated with and the stars in them. This book is a must read for all film buffs interested in understanding that chapter of Hollywood’s history." - Sam Firstenberg

„Just one word: WOW!“ – Nando Rohner (moviecops.ch, Deadline Magazin, etc.)

"An excellent collection of interviews about the beloved production/distribution house of the 1980s and 90s. With fascinating commentary from executives, editors, producers, writers, marketers, actors, and directors [...] - Illustrated with concept art, news clippings, behind-the-scene photos, posters, paperwork, and memos. Invaluable to fans and scholars of genre movies of this era." - Paul Talbot

"Great Interviews!"
Maitland McDonogh

"This is real Hollywood history so wild and unpredictable that if you pitched it as a movie, no one would believe it. Hugely entertaining and informative." - James Bruner (Screenwriter, "Missing In Action", "Invasion USA", etc)

"Along the way we get tons of great photos and illustrations showing off everything from Shapiro playing basketball in high school to concept art for Moon Trap, AFM laminates, poster art for classics like Frankenhooker, Piranha II, C.H.U.D., Point Break, Maniac, Red Scorpion, Firehouse, Basket Case 2 and 3, Maniac Cop, Emmanuelle 5, Comrades In Arms, Search And Destroy, Lethal Pursuit, TC 2000, The Lost Idol, Covert Action, Shock Troop, The Exterminator and YES, Rinse Dream's Dr. Caligari. There are also behind the scenes photos from various SGE movies and office gatherings, script pages, contract pages, copyright registrations, trade magazine ads for old VHS releases (nostalgia blast!!!!). There's also an index section that notes where all of the pictures and images used throughout the book originated from. All in all, this is just what the title promises a very detailed, in-depth look at what SGE did, how they did it and just as importantly why they did it. There are a lot of different people interviewed here and as such, a lot of different points of view but if nothing else, this always feels honest, warts and all. SGE may not get the credit that other, bigger 80s production and distribution houses did, but their story is just as, if not more, interesting than anyone that they were competing with at the time. Highly recommended." - Ian Jane (Rock! Pop! Shock!)

"Terrific & Epic! The 80s live!“ – Tom Stockman (We are Movie Geeks)

"Well, if you grew up in a video store in the ’80s and ’90s like I did, then you are at least aware of some of the movies they put out. Releasing titles like The Exterminator, Black Roses, Moontrap, Maniac Cop, and a trio of terror from cult director Frank Henenlotter, not to mention its fair share of martial arts/action flicks like No Retreat, No Surrender, Shapiro Glickenhaus Entertainment gave audiences some fine family entertainment. Okay..maybe not for the whole family." - Jon Kitley

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    plus: Receive the print version & the digital version of the book before its official release, a digital wallpaper of the original cover artwork, AND get a mention as a Premium Producer of the book on our website!

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- (45 days)