Mr Stubblefield, I
am honoured to be able to interview you on behalf of the Montana
Amazon Tribute Site. You have almost 30 years of experience
in the film industry, and have worked in so many aspects of
filmmaking. Your filmography is mind-boggling, having worked
in the Sound Department, including as Sound Editor in as many
as 40 to 50 films, in films such as The Blind Side, Surrogates,
Payback, The Santa Clause, Speed, Twister, and Dances with
Wolves. You have also worked as Editor on more than 11 films
and as Editor, you've often had a hand in directing a second
unit on many of those films. As for Montana Amazon, it is
the third film that you have worn the Producer's hat. Can
you give us a brief biography of yourself, and how you came
to have such a varied portfolio in the film industry?
I was born in Glendale, CA, but raised in a
number of places, due to family moves occasioned by my father's
work. I lived in New Jersey as a child. I went to three different
high schools, in Menlo Park, CA, then Mexico City, and finally
in La Canada, CA. During high school and the first year of
college (UCSB) I thought I wanted to be an actor. My first
year of college disabused me of that notion. I ended up at
UCLA, where I got my degree in Film Production.
At UCLA, I took a lot of post-production courses,
mostly taught by the beloved genius madman, Ed Brokaw, RIP.
They gave me enough knowledge to pretend to know much more
than I did, and thus was able to work in post-production immediately
after College. I was fired from a job as a projectionist at
a screening room for telling a DP who was constantly complaining
about the focus, "If you had shot it in focus, it would
BE in focus." I tried to use the knowledge about interpersonal
relations gained from this experience to better advantage
as a picture editor. I edited or co-edited about a dozen films
for some of the most notorious producers of the 1980's, including
Roger Corman, Moshe Diamant, Charles Band, and Earl Owensby.
Because these films were made with a minimum
of assets, as picture editor, I received the classic "B-movie"
graduate school training in maximizing every frame I had.
At the same time, I always had in interest in
physical production, and began to find editing a bit confining,
so I decided to try my hand at production. I worked as an
Assistant Director and Production Manager on various features,
TV and industrials, and then went back to Corman to produce
"Rock & Roll High School Forever." Although
the film had very little to do with the it turned out to be
a whimsical and entertaining teen musical comedy.
By this point I was starting a family and decided
I needed more steady, responsible work, so I went into sound
editing and supervising, which I already knew quite a bit
about from my picture editing days. One thing I learned working
on a fair number of reasonably big-deal films was that Goldman
was right, that "nobody knows anything." I didn't
think I was any smarter than most of the people I worked for,
but that they didn't seem to be any smarter than I was. I
continued with sound supervision and editing until my sons
were in high school, then decided to go back to producing,
which was obviously a lot more challenging than sound supervising.
D.G.Brock, the director of
Montana Amazon, said in a recent interview that Montana Amazon
was a passion project of yours and that you were the driving
force behind getting this film made. How did the script land
in your hands and what was it about the story and script that
made you so passionate about getting Montana Amazon from script
It was written by a friend of mine, P.D. Hughen,
who was working on some film I was editing on location in
N. Carolina. P.D. is a kind of savant with character and dialog.
His screenplays have a magical dream-like quality while being
completely of the conscious world. I was passionate about
it because it was unlike anything I had ever read, I was fascinated
by these people for no reason I can explain, because it was
funny, twisted, blinkered, and very wrong. In it's original
form, it was kind of hard for most people to read, so my friend
Elin Guthrie did a great re-write that made it look and feel
like screenplays that originated on earth, but still lost
none of the genius and charm. D.G. did a final and quite brilliant
re-write that made it work better as a film and made it shootable
on the money we had. In the end, though, there were almost
no lines of dialog, no major characters, and few or no plot
points that hadn't originated on P.D.'s home planet.
How long did it take from the moment
you read the script till the time it was greenlit, and what
were the major challenges or obstacles that you faced?
It took 18 or 20 years from the time I first
read it until we made it. I fussed and moaned and developed
it sporadically over the years. It was never "greenlit."
No one would touch it, I just decided to put up or shut up
and either get the money to shoot it, or stop talking about
it. It was pure recklessness and creative desperation, in
service of a great project that would otherwise never have
Montana Amazon is such a unique
film that it does not fit into any one genre. How would you
personally describe the film, and is there any other film
that you can compare it to in terms of genre or tone?
We've called it "Raising Arizona"
runs over "Little Miss Sunshine." Someone at a film
festival thought it was The Three Stooges meets Samuel Beckett.
I'm afraid other people are much better than I am at comparisons.
What was it in D.G Brock that you
saw when you chose her, not only to rework the screenplay,
but to direct it as well?
I didn't know anyone else who could do it. I
didn't know anyone else I could trust with such difficult
material on such an inadequate budget. I still don't. Her
combination of dramatic intuition and mastery of film making
logistics and priorities is unrivaled. There are plenty of
very talented directors out there, but I'd like to see another
one since the Cohen Brothers who could do what she did with
Haley Joel Osment and Olympia Dukakis
not only act in Montana Amazon, but they were credited as
Executive Producers as well. How did you get them on board
I hired the formidable casting director, Ronnie
Yeskel. She sent it to Olympia's manager, along with an offer,
who for some reason didn't think he needed to protect Olympia
from it, so he passed it to her. She loved the script and
immediately agreed to do it after meeting with D.G. I suspect
that's what gave Eugene Osment, Haley's manager, a reason
to consider it when we called him with an offer a few days
later. He liked it, Haley liked it, and that was that. As
great as I believe the script was, the key word here is "offer."
It's safe to say that Haley and
Olympia have never played characters quite like Womple and
Grandma Ira respectively in their varied careers. What was
it in them that you saw that made you feel like they would
pull it off with as much aplomb as they did?
They were both just D.G. and my intuition. Everyone
knows what a formidable presence Olympia is, plus we'd never
seen or heard of anything she couldn't do. Haley also preceded
himself, but mostly as a child actor, so that was a bit more
of a jump, but not if you've ever taken a good look at his
acting. He's a bit understated, even for film, so I think
sometimes people just see his sweetness, vulnerability and
charm, rather than the concentration, commitment and chops
he brings to the table. Alison Brie was purely D.G.'s genius
intuition. Deb said, "She's Ella," and boy was she
How long did principal photography
take on Montana Amazon and what were the challenges that you
faced as Producer once filming started?
We were scheduled for 30 days including travel,
but ended up doing it in 27 or 28, and adding a more extensive
second unit a few months later. We had literally about half
of the money we should have had to do what we were trying
to do. It was held together by the work of many talented and
dedicated souls, especially by DP James Mathers, Line Producer
Melitta Fitzer, Prod. Designer Jeanette Bately, and most of
all, of course, D.G.
Director D.G. Brock said that the
final cut of the film "would not have been a success
without the extreme patience and editing talents of Peter
Devaney Flanagan, Ethan Holzman, and Bruce Stubblefield, who
is a former editor and has a very good eye for cutting."
As this was a project that has been close to your heart for
so many years, you must have had this visual of what Montana
Amazon would look like long before the filming even started.
Has the final cut of Montana Amazon turned out the way that
you have always visualized it to be?
Not really, but I always envisioned it as something
that we would have a lot more money to spend on. As it is,
I think it looks fantastic and I couldn't be happier. When
you slash the budget, you always end up losing brilliant things
that the audience won't miss, even though they would have
greatly enhanced the experience.
By the way, D.G. left out Steve Rickert, our
first editor, who did a very good job and killed himself,
but was just not on the same page as D.G. But he should be
What are the challenges ahead
now for the film? Is it difficult to get an independent film
like Montana Amazon to the big screen as it has to compete
for screen time with studio films, which have the budget,
hype and clout that small independent films may not have?
It's harder than it has ever been. The internet
is a giant ball of information that no one much absorbs. Social
Media is helping us, but everything costs. Developing content,
pushing the content out, attracting attention, not to mention
paid ads and publicists, all are expensive. The effective
yield (to the producer of a non-studio film) of money spent
on any and all of these media is not particularly appealing.
Yet without it, no one knows about your film.
IMDB lists 1 April 2011 as a release
date for Montana Amazon. Is this confirmed?
All release info is still in flux. We'll be
selling the film internationally at Berlin in February 2011.
Our domestic release will depend upon what we get done in
the next couple months.