If you go
What: IFS screening of "The Man from Hong Kong"
When: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday
What: IFS screening of "Dead-End Drive In"
When: 7:30 p.m. Wednesday
Where: Muenzinger Auditorium, 1905 Colorado Ave., Boulder
Etc.: Director Brian Trenchard-Smith will be at both screenings for a Q&A
In the late-1950s, a 13-year-old Brian Trenchard-Smith said he ventured through his British village of 13,000 people to attend a nighttime screening of Alfred Hitchcock's "Vertigo." The classic psychological thriller, starring James Stewart and Kim Novak, left a lasting impression on him.
Decades later, this creator has left quite a mark on the film industry — his IMDB page teeming with an array of writing, producing and directing credits. Praised by Quentin Tarantino for his unusual perspective and body of work, Trenchard-Smith has made his way from Oregon to Colorado to screen two of his most notable films as part of CU's International Film Series. Tuesday, "The Man from Hong Kong" will be on the big screen followed by a Wednesday screening of "Dead End Drive-In." Both films begin at 7:30 p.m. at the University of Colorado's Muenzinger Auditorium.
"I was quite mesmerized by the mood, the photography and the darker themes, not all of which I understood at 13," said Trenchard-Smith, reflecting on the Hitchcock feature that initially sparked his expansive career. "It occurred to me at the end of the screening, I'll soon be 18 and I'll have to leave school and do what adults do to earn a living. People get paid to make these things, so that's what I'll do."
From a daydreaming teen to "The King of Ozploitation," Trenchard-Smith has crafted zany cult classics to documentaries. In his 1986 apocalyptic thriller "Dead End Drive-In," two teenage lovers become prisoners of authority in an abandoned-drive-in-turned-futuristic-camp, of sorts, for social outcasts. Set in the '90s, new wave music blasts, drugs are consumed like candy and spiky-haired rebel punks wreck havoc in this dystopian tale.
"The Man from Hong Kong" offers iconic '70s martial-arts mayhem, fiery explosions and jaw-dropping stunt work. The film was the first Australian-Hong Kong co-production and was created at the height of the kung-fu film craze.
"You have to have a nose for what the audience wants to see, whether that's in the presentation of a subject or the manipulation of subject matter," said Trenchard-Smith. "You have to have a calling card to move up the food chain."
Characters at the core
Influenced by everything from tumbleweed Westerns of his childhood to chilling black-and-white paranormal horrors, Trenchard-Smith has consistently delivered large-scale films on a small-scale budget. His style was embraced by the Australian Film Renaissance of the '70s and '80s, a cinematic revival that provided a platform for "Mad Max"-esque tales of action and intrigue.
"I usually start with a random idea, with a character at its core, then I sketch out a plot," said Trenchard-Smith, who has contributed more than 70 pieces of commentary to the widely-popular web series "Trailers from Hell" — in which filmmakers give bite-sized backstories of some of their all-time favorites.
He has recently authored a cliff-hanging novel, "Alice Through the Multiverse," which follows a young woman who wakes up in a psychiatric hospital believing that she is the daughter of a 16th-century executioner. This book was slated as a film script, but evolved into a literary release after funding couldn't be secured.
"The screenplay languished under option for many years," said Trenchard-Smith. "It kept gnawing at my liver. This is a story I want to tell."
Always fueled by the desire to serve up art that speaks to his own personality — as well as satiate fans who crave everything from classic camp to traditional kung fu — Trenchard-Smith said he chose not to create big-screen blockbusters, but instead to take viewers on idiosyncratic journeys they won't soon shake. Currently, he is writing his memoir recounting his experiences in the film industry.
"Seeing your work appreciated by an audience who gets it is a lot like cooking someone a good meal," said Trenchard-Smith. "It's about the creative process — much more onion here, more blood on screen there."
Trenchard-Smith's range of work is as varied as his own taste in cinema. From directing comedic horror films "Leprechaun 3" and "Leprechaun 4: In Space," to directing "DC 9/11: Time of Crisis," a Showtime docudrama that gives a glimpse inside the Bush administration in the days following the World Trade Center attacks, he is anything but pigeonholed.
He credits his lasting career to the fact that his follow-through never waned. Self- described as"Mr. Reliable,"his reputation for being steadfast and eager to take on new projects traveled quickly within insider circles. His films are often layered with tongue-in-cheek homages to classic sci-fi and horror flicks, playfully sandwiched between action scenes and witty dialogue. Not afraid to blend the satirical with a touch of gore, cinephiles revel in his brand of humorous obscurity.
"Never give up. Never surrender," said Trenchard-Smith, pondering what advice he would give to aspiring filmmakers. "Persistence wins."
At this week's screenings, Trenchard-Smith plans to disperse more knowledge and insight with Q and A rounds.
"As someone who also once worked in a video store, I can attest to the joys of seeing quirky films that were not made by committee and that don't follow cookie-cutter formulas," said Pablo Kjolseth, CU's International Film Series coordinator. "I'm not at all surprised that Tarantino would be a big fan of Brian Trenchard-Smith."
From working as a news editor at television stations to directing a young Nicole Kidman in the '80s adventure-crime story "BMX Bandits," Tenchard-Smith's career has been one marked by both real-life and fictional drama.
"I've seen five of his movies and am genuinely impressed with his ability to surprise me no matter what genre he's working in," said Kjolseth. "Aside from his own body of work, Brian has helped many other directors. from Peter Weir on 'The Last Wave' to Jennifer Kent on 'The Babadook.' I'm sure he's full of entertaining stories about working in the film business."
Kalene McCort: 303-473-1107, email@example.com.