Director Steve Rash: The Straight2DVD Intervew – Part One
Steve Rash has directed several straight-to-DVD sequels, including American Pie Presents Band Camp, Bring It On: All or Nothing, Bring It On: In It to Win It, and Road Trip: Beer Pong, in addtion to a number of theatrical releases, including Can’t Buy Me Love, Under the Rainbow, and The Buddy Holly Story. In part one of our exclusive interview, Rash recounts his origin story, which culminates in his first film being nominated for three Academy Awards…
Straight2DVD: Tell us how you got into filmmaking.
Rash: My uncle started filming with a 16mm movie camera after World War II. By the fifties, he was shooting early Kodak color reversal film. Some of my earliest memories were his home movies of my parents as newlyweds and myself as a baby. My father carried on the tradition and bought an 8mm camera, but his camerawork was so bad, my older siblings decided that I was the family photographer, even though I was barely 8 years old.
Movies became a hobby, starring my brothers and sister. At age 10, I theorized that I could run a roll of film through the camera with the lens cap on, then reload it and shoot it again for real, but the action would come out backward. I wasted the first roll (a month’s allowance) because I didn’t realize that the image would also be upside-down when projected. But the Rash Kids made some impressive (to us) adventure films, “jumping over” the garage, “flying” around the neighborhood, and other amazing stunts with elementary special visual effects.
I was press photographer for my high school newspaper and DJ for the local radio station; then majored in Radio/TV/Film at the University of Texas. Summers I played Trombone in the Crazy Band at Six Flags Over Texas, which gave me after-hours access to the park. To entertain my drunken co-workers at the nightly parties-‘til-dawn, I shot 8mm “action movies” of the rides, only my Jungle Boat Adventure contained near-nudity as well as bloody “tourist fatalities” at the hands of the animatronic Natives and Hippos. At one party near the end of summer, a party guest asked me if I would sell him the home movie he had just seen. I was a 19 year-old smartass and said, “Sure, for a hundred bucks!” (It cost me about ten dollars to make.) He peeled off a hundred; “Come to my office tomorrow, and I’ll give you another hundred.” I did, and he did (after I signed a release.) I should have been suspicious when his office turned out to be in Park Promotions, but it wasn’t until the next summer that I saw in the gift shop, on a rack of 8mm Six Flags Movie Memories, my jungle boat film! It had been edited for family values, with thousands of prints sold. My name wasn’t on it.
During senior year, because I had been shooting film since childhood, I easily won the competition for a job as part-time cameraman at a local TV station. I continued after college as TV cameraman for news, commercials, and live shows (including a Rock ‘n Roll music program much like American Bandstand.) I was fortunate to be hired by ABC Sports to shoot NCAA Football on weekends, as well as NFL games and the Mexico City Olympics.
Meanwhile, my day job advanced to Director and Producer of local programming (including more Rock ‘n Roll.) One of those shows (which contained music videos) caught the eye of a Philadelphia producer who had a prophetic vision: a 24-hour Rock ‘n Roll television channel. He hired me to direct, and we shot over 300 hours of music videos in Atlanta for a marathon pop music program, The Now Explosion and its Heavy Metal cousin, The Music Connection. The initial concept failed after a 26 week run, but eventually succeeded several years later as MTV. For me, it was a perfect training ground for filming live music, as well as visual effects (electography) and dance. I continued producing and directing syndicated TV programs, mostly music, as well as documentaries and commercials.
In 1972, inspired by Don McLean’s hit song, “American Pie,” I decided to make a movie about Buddy Holly. It took five years to raise the money, but eventually I arrived in Hollywood, not looking for a job, but with enough money ($2M) to make a movie. That film was nominated for three Academy Awards and won the Oscar for Best Music. After my first feature film found instant success, I thought, “The movie business is easy, I can do this.” Little did I know how hard it really is! But none of this was planned. Never once, until the Buddy Holly idea, did I ever think I would be a feature film director. To a Texas kid, Hollywood was not even my dream; I just wanted to shoot. So I did.