Patrick Donahue Interview

Patrick Donahue Interview

Kill-Squad

Crimson Celluloid: Starting with a predictable and clichéd question, can you cite which filmmakers have had the greatest influence on you and what was the impetus behind your getting into filmmaking?

Patrick: I got into filmmaking from racing motorcycles in the mid 60s, crashing breaking both collarbones then my nose. I read an article in a motorcycle magazine; the stunt guys were getting paid $800 dollars for sliding out in a corner. I’ve have been doing this for years for nothing and even paying them to let me race. “That’s it I want to be a stuntman.” Yeah, that sounds easy right. No one would talk to me, so I said, “The hell with you, I’ll make my own movies.”

My first movie was a 8mm three minute short. I dressed my brother Mike up like a Hobo; they were Hobo’s back in the day now they’re called Homeless. We went down to the railroad tracks in Santa Clara California. I had him jump on a slow-moving train. He climbed to the top of the train and sat there. About a block away I stared to yell, “Get off the train, got off.” I don’t know if he heard me, but he finely got off and I got some great footage. I edited it, and it turned out to be pretty good for a first time. I said, “This is fun; I like this; I wonder if there is a school around the teaches filmmaking?” De Anza College has great film classes; they were halfway through the second semester, and they wanted to see something I did, I showed the class my short with my brother, they all liked it. The instructor didn’t say a word; he just signed my paper to allow me to attend the rest of the classes. When the classes were finished; I took eight film students to Death Valley in California, and we shot Chained a fifteen-minute short; circa 1800s. (The only western ever produced with NO horses.)

“Two convicts locked together–one black, one white–that hate each other learn a lesson…too late.”

Chained I wrote, produced, edited and co-starred in. It was awarded a Certificate of Merit of Excellence in Film Making. August 1973 at the Marin County Film Festival. A friend of mine saw the film and said I make movies like “Sam Peckinpah” My friend Tony Saenz took me to see the The Wild Bunch so he became one of my favorite directors. Chained got me my first sixty-second commercial for the drive-in theater, Francisco Ramirez Karate studio, who later starred in Kill Squad. We shot it at Tex Auto Wreakers, a junkyard; it was like a mini Bruce Lee movie; it turned out great everyone loved it. I shot it in 16mm and had it blown up to 35mm. The person I bought the screen time from for the drive-in theaters says, “ I get a lot of people asking for someone to produce commercials for them, can I give them your name.” I produced about fifty commercials for TV and theaters and a few industrial training films. That was better than any school, just do it. I never had a class in advertisement; I dropped out of school at seventeen joined the Marine Corp. I was one and still am one of the worst spellers; I was smart enough and lucky enough to have smart people around me. One guy named Rich Yacco, the best! didn’t make a lot of money, some commercials I was off on the budget, and I would finish it with my own money. Luckily, I had a great job as a machinist and I was one of the best in “Silicon Valley.” I was married with two children Kathy and Sean; my family would always come first.

“Okay it’s time to play with the big boys, feature films. Passion Procession a porn car-chase movie. Yes, that what I said. It was a take off after the original Gone in 60 Seconds. My wife “Dee” didn’t like it, but she supported me. I bought thirteen cars for $50 dollars each with spare tires and batteries from the junkyard that let me shoot my first commercial. Larry fuller the owner asks, “who was going to drive the cars for the movie?” I must have had a funny look on my face, he points to a guy standing in the corner, It was Larry Jackson a race car driver out of San Jose Speed Way and he owned a tow truck business equipped with air compressor and a welder, every thing you need for a car chase movie. Larry recruited ten drivers from his race car friends and to help my budget I charged all the drivers $100 dollars to drive in my movie, they had a blast. Shot in 16mm, blown up to 35mm and played in theaters through out the US, it was hard to collect the money from theaters and some not returning the prints, I made very little money. But looking on the bright side, now I’m a stunt co-coordinator and a stuntman, I coordinated the entire car chase stunts and I drove a car backwards off a moving flatbed track and trailer at 40 mph.

A producer in San Francisco saw my film and called me to put a car chase package for him. I put the best drivers from Passion Procession and formed Stunts Not-Cal I now have a stunt team, and I’m talent agent for stunts. The first in Northern California. We performed stunts for low-budget features and safety films; our team consisted of five males and one female.

“This is where Kill Squad comes in.

Crimson Celluloid: I’ve often credited Kill Squad as being in my top 10 favorite films of all-time, a fact that remains true to this day. It’s so beautifully structured (character A needs to find character B, characters A and B need to find Character C etc), is full of action and is loads of fun, upon finishing the film did you think that you had made a film that would stand the test of time?

Patrick: You just hope for the best. When I had a locked cut of the 35mm work print and sound track, eighty pounds, they almost weren’t going to let me on the plane to fly to Hollywood to screen it for distributors, I was looking for finishing money. However, somehow they let me on, and then I had to go through the same thing to get back home. Anyway, about ten distributors showed; a couple left half way through, some left toward the end, one or two thanked me, one stayed back and ask me “How much money are you looking for?” I said. “Seventy thousand.” He said, “I would take that seventy thousand dollars and make a new movie and throw that piece of shit away.” He walked out the door. I did get a call weeks later from one of the distributors “Summa Vista Pictures” in Hollywood. They put up the money to finish the film and took it over. It was fun going to Hollywood and seeing your film being worked on in sound effects editing rooms, music in another studio, I felt like a kid in a candy store. They did not change one picture frame, it is totality my cut.

Crimson Celluloid: Kill Squad successfully mixed a cast of unknowns, all unique characters one and all, with a seasoned actor in the form of Cameron Mitchell. What memories do you have of working with Mitchell? Did you have any trouble directing the less-experienced actors??

Patrick: Someone gave me Cameron Mitchell’s phone number. I told him “I was going to make this movie Kill Squad and I’ll pay you $3,000 dollars for 5 days work.” He said “turn that around 3 days for $5,000 and you have a deal.” He was the only actor that was paid. He was great to work with, he was helpful to me and the other cast and crew-members. The other cast and crew most have never worked on a film and they gave it there all. They were eager to take direction; sometimes they would come up with suggestions, and like anything else some were better than what I had planned. My son Sean Donahue did his first stunt at 14 years old, the kid on the bicycle that ran into the side of moving car. My first AD quit the film before the stunt, he was afraid Sean would get hurt, and he didn’t want to be responsible for it. I tried to tell him that I would take full responsibility; he wasn’t going for it, I said, “see yeah.” We all wanted what was best for the film.

Crimson Celluloid: Is it true Joseph, as played by Jeff Risk, was dubbed by Russell Johnson (the Professor from Gilligan’s Island) in the film? If so, how and why did this come about?

Patrick: It is true and I know Jeff Risk is not happy with that and I’m just as pissed, Bill Cambra, his voice was dubbed too. I think they are a little pissed at me; I did not OK that and didn’t know anything about it until I saw the film for the first time. The voices must have been friends of Summa Vista Pictures that needed the fucking money.

Crimson Celluloid: I was saddened to learn of the death of your brother Mike. He was stunt coordinator on Kill Squad and did an incredible job. The film belies its budget with some amazing stunts, including building falls, cool fights and a great car jump. What memories do you have of working with Mike on your films?

Patrick: I can go for days bragging about my brother Mike Donahue. He was younger and my best friend, when I needed someone to talk to he would always have the right answers, well sometimes. He’s been in all our movies, doing acting or stunts. In he did the high fall off the parking lot building and roped down the side of the San Jose State building. In Macho Woman a car hit him. He was funny, always coming up with something; he was good at telling jokes. Sometimes I think I’ll just call him, “oh shit he’s up in Heaven messing around with my wife who passed away eight years ago after 41 years of marriage.” I smile…

Crimson Celluloid: Did you ever see Kill Squad in a theatrical setting? I imagine that it elicited quite a response from the denizens of the grindhouse scene. What kind of feedback have you had from fans about the film over the years? It would have been a hit with audiences…I can imagine impromptu kung-fu fights breaking out in the cinema, popcorn flying…EVERYONE in Patrick G Donahue’s world of Kill Squad knows martial arts…I LOVE that!!!!!!!!

Patrick: Summa Vista Pictures had 70 prints made, and they booked 50 theaters at a time. They premiered it at Century 23 in San Jose California. I rented three limos and had cast and crew wait behind Century 21 about half a block away, the limos went in a circle and picked everyone up and dropped us off in front of Century 23 with the big movie lights, red carpet that was gold posted roped off. Men dressed in tuxedos; the women looked gorgeous in their gowns as they were handed a long-stemmed rose. Not an empty seat in the house. Party time at a Greek restaurant my partners Ladd Rucker and my brother Mike, we invited the whole theater and I think about 700 hundred people showed up, we supplied chicken, wine and beer. It was assume!

Crimson Celluloid: Are you still in contact with any of the people who appeared in the film?

Patrick: The only one I stay in contact with a little bit is Jean Galude through Face Book. He lives in the LA area, as does Jiff Risk. Several people moved to LA after Kill Squad.

Crimson Celluloid: The Shroud of Turin. Stonehenge. The assassination of JFK. All great mysteries. But to me the greatest mystery of all is WHY DOES JOSEPH HAVE TEETH PAINTED ON HIS LIPS at the end of the film???????

Patrick: The make up guy Andy suggested it that it would make Jeff look sicker, freaky and a few frames out of sync. I don’t know if it worked, but you try things, I did OK that.

Crimson Celluloid: Introspection time. If I were to approach people who have worked with you on your films, what do you think they would say are your best and worst traits as a director?

Patrick: There were rumors going around that we used people, do not work on the Donahue’s movies, I never did find out who started it. We try to shoot our movies in 18 days, that’s six-day weeks. Most cast and crew take vacation time to be in our movies, they know we will finish it, and they will have something to show and be proud of; we create opportunities. I used to do deferred payments, if the movie made money, they would get paid. The SCUM BAGS AT SUMMA never paid me a penny even though the movie made millions. Still today some call me wanting money; they do not believe me that I was never paid. Back to the question the Best traits, I make movies; you might not get an Academy Award or make any money, but you will get some cool screen time. The worst trait, sometimes when you have 30 or 40 people standing around waiting for you to call the next shot or set up, and you get indecisive.

Crimson Celluloid: You had a great cameo in Kill Squad as the goon who blows his own toes off. You’ve pretty much done it all over the years…actor, director, producer, writer. Which parts of the filmmaking process do you enjoy the most and least?

Patrick: I loved it all. Most of the people in my commercial days had collage degrees and they worked for me for very little money or for free, I was producing TV commercials and to see your work on TV was assume. I ask my good friend Rich Yacco, “How come you guys with all this college aren’t doing this yourselves?” He said, “ Because we are educated of what we can do and not do, you don’t know any better you just do it.” What I do know is I act for other filmmakers and I work for free, I’m retired since 2000, from my fourth Machine shop after 15 years, three failed but the fourth was a dream come true. I’m the luckiest guy in the world; I’ve had two careers side by side, machine shop and filmmaking. What I least like and I’ve done it a lot in the beginning is grip work, that’s when I said, “That’s it, I want to be the director,” and that’s what I did.

Crimson Celluloid: If I had to hazard a guess I’d say that the least enjoyable part would come with dealing with distributors (cough “Troma” cough). I was hesitant to purchase They Call Me Macho Woman first (despite the KILLER trailer) since it had Troma stink all over it…What was Troma like to deal with?

Patrick: I shot the movie under the title, Edge of Fear “They pushed her too far. Now…It’s her turn.” Yeah Troma fucked it up, those fuxxxxg cocxsxxxxxs, motherxxxxxrs. I wish I really could say what I think of Troma and Summa but I’m afraid one of those cunx fucxx might file a lawsuit against me, they fucx hard working filmmakers. I took and ad in Daily Variety, a Hollywood newspaper. My ad read “Filmmakers and Producers if you have a film with Troma, call me?“ I put my phone number in the ad. About 20 people called, I wanted people to help me file a “Class Action Law Suit” it scared them all, so I just said, Fuck it, fuck them all. Move on.

Crimson Celluloid: They Call Me Macho Woman was actually very entertaining…lead actress Debra Sweaney was certainly nice to look at and lead villain Mongo as played by Brian Oldfield (looking like Peter Boyle on steroids) chewed the scenery with great aplomb. What memories do you carry of making this film?

Patrick: I shot all my movies in and around Los Gatos, Campbell, and San Jose California. Debra Sweaney is a beautiful young lady; I do run into her once in awhile-in Los Gatos. I ran her through the ringer, she is game for every thing I had her do. I had the movie cast except for Mongo. Mike Pierce my DP right at the last minute suggested Brian Oldfield, I audition him at a coffee shot in Los Gatos, I ask him, “Give me a dirty look like you want to kill me, but don’t touch me, and would you shave you head?” They both worked out great…

Crimson Celluloid: Now the hunt is on for your other films… Parole Violators and Ground Rules (Frank Stallone and Richard Lynch..I have to see this!!!!!!!!)…Your films are much-loved with low-budget fans and you ALWAYS deliver the goods. What is the chance of seeing the back-catalog of your films released on DVD with a commentary track by you?

Patrick: I do have most of my movies on DVD, no commentary though.

Crimson Celluloid: Being that you have carved out a career in all aspect of filmmaking, what advice would you give a novice filmmaker about to direct his/her first film?

Patrick: Be brave and take control, study your scenes the night before so when you show up on your set you know your camera set-ups, have a great DP and a hard-core assistant director. The assistant director is the Gunny Sergeant on the set, they push you and everyone else to do their jobs, most of the time they are the most disliked person on the set, that’s because they are doing their job…they push.

Crimson Celluloid: Do you have an official website or information as to where people can purchase your films, memorabilia and autographs?

Patrick: http://www.bottomlinestudios.com and http://patrickdonahuestar.com

Crimson Celluloid: What keeps you busy these days? I hope you’ll make another film someday soon, to paraphrase the famous line from Kill Squad… FILM FANS NEED YOU!!!!!!!!”

Patrick: You will see from my Bottom Line website my son Sean, and I produced five more feature films loaded with stunts. There isn’t anything better than working along side with your wife, daughter and son. We had one of the hottest machine shops in Silicon Valley with 50 employees. My daughter Kathy and my wife Dee ran the machine shop while my son Sean and I went to Hollywood four days a week to our offices at “Warner Bros. Studio” in Burbank California. We tried to rent offices at Warner Bros as producers, you have to have deal with them to rent the offices; I called an hour later to rent offices as editors, no one ask whose movies are we editing; we had our own passes and a parking space; we felt like big shits; it was a blast. People did ask whom we were and what are we doing. The person that rented to us got laid off, and the new guy doubled the rent. Sean found a really cool building in North Hollywood, so we moved. The previous renters were in the sound studio business; it had a folly stage and several editing rooms. It was great. We went to Hollywood to raise money to produce movies, to keep alive we turned into a post-production studio and edited eleven feature films, cut a bunch of trailers. Our machine shop was running into trouble; our biggest customer is sending all their parts overseas. I came home and Sean soon followed. We have no regrets; it all worked out; it was total fun.

I have a beautiful blond girlfriend Diane; 16 years younger than me, I have a great life…she has big boobs.

Crimson Celluloid: Thank you for your time and eternal thanks for Kill Squad. I have seen this film so many times over the years and it never fails to entertain me. Any final words for your fans reading this?

Patrick: If you want to make movies, go to school and study business, business, business. If you are a great businessperson you can do anything successfully, even make movies that make you money for your hard work!

A little poem I wrote a long, long time ago, I would like to share it with you all.

A man can dream,

A dream a man can do,

If he dreams hard enough,

It can come true.

I forgot the rest; I’ll get back to you.

1 Comment

  1. Thank you so much for making kill squad when i was young i used to watch it every day before and after school i was fascinated by it ,as soon has my family eared the theme tune they would say no not again lol. I still have to copy’s of the film on VHS i did a spare when i was young in case something happened to the original i know you can’t get it on DVD for some reason.Anyway i just finished time watching it after all this time and i must say i still love it it holds so many memories for me,and i just finished reading your interview it is really interesting especially the part about it being your son who was14 who did his first stunt on the film.Well thanks for making the memories all the best to you and your family bye

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