Donald P. Borchers is an American film producer. Borchers was a production associate at Avco Embassy Pictures in the early 1980s. An independent production deal with New World Pictures resulted in CHILDREN OF THE CORN (1984) and other films. Borchers founded Planet Productions Corp., and went on to produce TWO MOON JUNCTION (1988), LEPRECHAUN 2 (1994), and others. He produced three films for Steven Spielberg's Amblin Playhouse television series and serves as an Adjunct Professor at the University of Southern California School of Cinema/Television.
Borchers has always been a producer who has seen the importance of strong musical scores for his projects. He has mostly worked with composer Jonathan Elias, but this interview also looks on his collaborations with composers like Rick Wakeman, Andy Summers, Craig Safan and Joel McNeely.
Thanks to Mr. Borchers for this interview about "MUSIC FROM THE FILMS OF DONALD P. BORCHERS".
Interview conducted by JON AANENSEN (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Please visit Mr. Borchers' Youtube site:
Q: Let's start with Rick Wakeman's score to 1984's CRIMES OF PASSION. What are your memories from this collaboration?
A: Ken Russell was a unique artist. I learned much from him. He was listening to Dvorak’s New World Symphony during the production process and knew that he wanted a score based on that classical music. Considering it was the 80’s, we jumped to the conclusion that a musician with strong composing and synthesizer skills would match both Ken's art and New World Pictures' budget. Obviously, one person on a keyboard will cost less than a composer and orchestra. Once we decided to go this way, we naturally made a list of “get-able" names. As was the case with many other key department heads, Ken called upon Rick Wakeman because of their personal ongoing relationship. Wakeman did all of this work at home in England. I recall one day I was meant to pay a visit to a session and my dear friend, Jonathan Elias, arranged to be in England on business that day. He rented a car and drove me out to Rick’s home studio for the day. I still have never driven a passenger-side steering wheel car.
Q: The same year you worked with Jonathan Elias for the first time, on CHILDREN OF THE CORN. Tell us about how you met, how you clicked, and how you worked together on this project.
A: I had finished CHILDREN OF THE CORN before I met Ken Russell. Before Ken would agree to be hired by me he viewed both CotC and ANGEL. My producing partner Terry Kirby was responsible for staffing most of the positions on the film. Along with the director, Fritz Kiersch, Terry owned and operated a commercial production company. I had worked for Terry, freelance, as an assistant director for a series of LUCKY/GEMCO commercials. When we were editing CotC, I was developing two deals for the music. One was with Michael Arciaga who placed licensed music on ANGEL. The idea here was that he would find a Soundtrack’s worth of original songs. This idea appealed to me because of the success I had working with Seymour Stein at SIRE Records on the FEAR NO EVIL Soundtrack, featuring The Talking Heads, Patti Smith, The Ramones, Sex Pistols and The Rezillos. The second idea I was developing was with Pino Donaggio’s people. When I was working on THE HOWLING I observed the producer Michael Fennell successfully negotiate a deal with Pino Donaggio that traded music publishing rights for the score as a barter, not cash, deal. But our editor, Harry Keramidis, campaigned persuasively for a more traditional, OMEN-like score. Terry Kirby networked through the commercial world for a talented, newcomer who could pull favors and deliver big. Enter Jonathan Elias. Terry Kirby set it all up. Being Jonathan’s first film, he did not know to encode a Synch Pulse on the masters he sent us to mix with. That created some excitement the last days before delivery. After that experience with Jonathan, I thanked him for moving mountains and delivering a big score with little financial resources, and shook his hand and said let’s make this a ten-picture pact. We did 10 pictures together.
Q: TUFF TURF saw Elias work in a more pop/rock/electronic-based landscape, and he also wrote/produced several songs for the film. Nevertheless, no selections from the score made it to the soundtrack album. How would you consider your collaboration with Jonathan on this film?
A: Successful. I used to make mix tapes (see HIGH FIDELITY). On this and other projects, I would send one of my mix tapes to Jonathan for the vibes. The project originated one night when I was just hanging out at Club Lingerie on Sunset and Jack Mack & the Heart Attack was playing their R&B souls out. When they played SHE’S TUFF, the whole movie came to me. It took three writers to get the script together, but we did. I knew I wanted to put Jack Mack and Jim Carroll in the production. I was most excited when they both agreed. My casting director, the fabulous Linda Francis, knew about Dale Gonyea’s lounge act. Because I had this idea of doing 10 films with Jonathan, we started talking as soon as I got the money. Jonathan had a relationship with Patti Scialfa. Jonathan asked for me to reach out to both Lene Lovich and Marianne Faithful. Lene was easy, Marianne had two obstacles. The first was her management at Island Records. Chris Blackwell was arguing for a piece of the gross home video. At the time, this issue had not yet become standardized. I recall the day I met Marianne, at Barney’s Beanery. She was staying across the street at the Tropicana. I did not know she was there detoxing on her own, until she ate a hamburger and threw up on me. She said she wanted this deal and made Chris Blackwell capitulate. Southside’s Johnny’s management had the same issue. They wouldn’t capitulate. This is why on the original home video release, you hear Jonathan Elias singing instead of Southside Johnny. My relationship with Jonathan Elias cemented on this project when we hired Eddie Money and Jonathan was in New York, and I was in L.A., and Jonathan called me and said he couldn’t get the performance out of Eddie Money that our film needed and asked me if I would settle out with him and let Jonathan replace him. I supported Jonathan’s decision and he appreciated that.
Q: VAMP from 1986 is a propulsive electronic score by Elias. On this film, you are even credited with co-writing a song performed by Grace Jones. How did that come about? Are you pleased with how the music from VAMP materialized?
A: My assistant at the time was Johnette Napolitano. She was working for me during the day and recorded her first album, CONCRETE BLONDE, at night, which she later sold to IRS Records. I was supportive of her art and decided to put A SONG FOR KIM in the film. Johnette was close to Steve Wynn, so that’s how we got The Dream Syndicate. And Johnette’s music was being published at BUG Music, so that’s where we licensed the synch rights to Bad Case of Lovin’ You. I continued my relationship with Jack Mack’s manager, Chase Williams, so I reached out to him. And one of my best friends was a drummer in the Devon LaCrosse band and I loved their song, Meaning of Love. I got the elevator music from Ole Georg at Capital Production Music. To cast Grace Jones in the movie, I offered the same sum of money she was in arrears to the IRS and I sent her a dozen roses and a copy of Anne RIce’s INTERVIEW WITH A VAMPIRE. When we did TUFF TURF, Jonathan recorded “natural” percussive sounds, like kicking a can. For VAMP, Jonathan wanted to try other percussive sounds, and that worked out well. Third movie with Jonathan Elias. A hat trick of success.
Q: 1988's TWO MOON JUNCTION is a beautiful ambient score by Elias, where he worked with first-class musicians like Michael Brecker on sax, Michael Whalen on keyboards and Mark Egan on fretless bass. Please share any stories you may have about this project. Was it natural for you to join the guys in the studio for a score like this? You are credited as "album film executive”.
A: Soundtrack Album deals are not a given. Securing that deal usually accords some type of credit. Because of our ongoing relationship, Jonathan came onboard during pre-production. The director, Zalman King, presented me with some “mood” music he wanted to play for the actors for the scene when Perry buries the dog and deals with Burl Ives. Instead of using Zalman’s choices, Jonathan wrote a selection of tracks and Zalman chose one and we used that. Our editor, Marc Grossman, is quite talented and has great taste in music. He selected temp pieces by the likes of Yello and Peter Gabriel, which provided the “vibe” for Jonathan to follow. Jonathan’s original score was inspirational. I remember the first time I heard his piece for the scene where the protagonist returns to the circus and her lover is throwing a frisbee to his dog. Amazingly emotional. And the fight scene with Hervé Villechaize was electric. A great score. The sax line on the score was genius.
Q: Another of my favorite Elias scores is FAR FROM HOME from 1989. Tell us about how Jonathan worked with a team of synthesists in the studio, and how he managed to give the music an almost John Barry-feel in the orchestral arrangements.
A: This was all Jonathan. I recall telling him how much I liked the guitar work coming from the band The Church. And he factored that desire of mine into his approach.
Q: The same year you directed your first film, called GRAVE SECRETS. What made you change from producer to director for the first time? Tell us about Jonathan's quite dark score for this one.
A: I was trying to replicate the success that Paul Bartel had by financing and owning his own movie. So, like Paul, I wanted to produce, direct and own my own film. In real estate they say the three most important things are location, location, location. Elliot Slutzky taught me that in the movie business the three most important things are timing, timing, timing. Grave Secrets hit a collapsing independent home video market too late. This was a most typical production approach. I cut the scenes and described the feelings I wanted and Jonathan delivered. It was an outstanding relationship.
Q: Tell us about working with former Police-member Andy Summers on MOTORAMA in 1991.
A: My relationship was with Lee Ving. I had just directed him in GRAVE SECRETS and I reached out to him for most of the licensed music. The director, Barry Shils, networked out to Andy. I don’t have any particular recollection of meeting Andy. I do remember being a pain in the ass for one selection of music, which the director wanted to go another way with. It’s the montage of Gus collecting cards. Finally, I worked with the editor and had him cut the scene to The Beatles song, A Day in the Life. We sent that back to Andy, and then he knew what I wanted and produced a piece in that direction.
Q: On 1992's THE HEART OF JUSTICE, Jonathan's music sounded a bit more traditional and symphonic than what it did in the 80s. Was this a choice made by him or did the filmmakers want it that way?
A: Jonathan is a talented commercial composer. He is accustomed to clients asking for a wide range. Here it was the director, Bruno Barreto, that decided this.
Q: 1993's JAILBAIT features what I would call my favorite score by Elias, a flowing, melodic and emotional score, this time composed together with Alex Lasarenko and Fritz Doddy, and with brilliant contributions from vocalist Vicki Sue Robinson (RIP) and sax player Andy Snitzer. How did you work with the musicians on this project? The score is sadly unreleased, is there any chance of seeing an album of this music?
A: This production was a nightmare. The director was replaced the first week and both distributors kept trying to back out of the deal. On the domestic side Skouras was going bankrupt and Paramount Home Video asked for major script changes the week before photography. Lions Gate asked for major script changes during photography. I had to personally supervise the editing of this film because assembling the script wasn’t working. Re-writing was needed, but finances only allowed existing footage. Finances were so tight, I was simply happy Jonathan could deliver anything for the budget. But, wow, the score really pulled this whole effort together.
Q: Then, in 1994 you worked with Jonathan for the last time before 2009, on LEPRECHAUN 2, usually considered not among his best scores. According to imdb, even Dito Montiel wrote some additional cues on this score, by the way. Did Jonathan decide that he wanted to leave the film music scene at this stage? Did you try to persuade him to continue? Would you have continued to work with him if he had stayed in the business?
A: Dito worked for Jonathan for years. I was a fan of his band GUTTERBOY. Jonathan and I have never discussed his choices to score or produce or what have you with his music. His REQUIEM album remains one of my favorites. We had a lot of supervision from Trimark on this production. The studio assigned writers and the director and an editor. Jonathan and I treated Trimark like a client and tried to give them what they asked for.
Q: Up through the 90s, you worked with several different composers on different projects. Are there any of these you would call particularly noteworthy collaborations?
A: Craig Safan saved ANGEL. and there would have been no sequels without him. Sandy Howard and I had this deal with Michael Arciaga where we could license songs for the whole score and then release a soundtrack album. Well, we sneak previewed the film in NYC. Andy Warhol was actually in the audience. He liked the poster. The film didn’t play. Andy came up to me after and said the music was not supporting the drama. And I had an idea for another ending. The studio let me shoot a new ending and re-score. After that it tested through the roof. Brandon Tartikoff offered us 3 times our production budget to buy out a first-run for NBC. We turned it down and went out theatrically. It did well and spawned sequels.
On SAMANTHA, Joel McNeely really delivered. And his wife played violin and worked with Martha Plimpton. Dermot Mulroney actually brought his own cello to the audition, which was no small reason we wanted him for the film.
Q: Then, in 2001, you directed a film again, PERFECT FIT, scored by Elias associate Jimmy Haun. What kind of score did he write?
A: I made a mix tape while I was preparing the shoot. We cut most of the scenes to my mix tape. Jimmy Haun was amazing in the way his original compositions matched the vibes of my temp music. I took a flyer on the choreography and went ahead with a song from SPACE without a closed deal. Their management gave positive indications, but could never get approval from the artists. Dito Montiel used his relationships while we were in post-production to get this very important deal closed. KCRW really liked this album and several tracks went into rotation on air that year.
Q: 8 years ago you directed a movie again, the remake of CHILDREN OF THE CORN. You hooked up with Elias again (and Nathaniel Morgan) after 15 years, and this may be the only time in history that the same composer has scored the original and the remake. Would you say that the way you worked together had changed after all those years?
Q: Your imdb-credits stopped after 2009. Do you consider yourself out of the business or do you still look for new projects?
A: I have been developing my vision for re-booting CHILDREN OF THE CORN in a future where children rule the world and adults are a hunted, endangered species. To that end I lost an offer from CHILLER to do this as a 6-hour, 3 part event for last Halloween. Because the underlying rights holder for TV is FOX, and at the beginning of 2016, they underwent a big shakeup and that deal was a casualty. Subsequently, I finished the first two hour script on spec and it just got representation with Preferred Artists. A couple months ago, I successfully acquired the the theatrical (vs. TV) SPINOFF rights for my undertaking.
CHILDREN OF THE CORN 1984 www.youtube.com/watch?v=mMDWjDue2lo
VAMP 1986 www.youtube.com/watch?v=97LHZqf9sJs
TWO MOON JUNCTION 1988 www.youtube.com/watch?v=SIqyu7qWlHU
LEPRECHAUN 2 1994 www.youtube.com/watch?v=okW_xS-Lox0
CHILDREN OF THE CORN 2009 www.youtube.com/watch?v=OeiAmrEdSLU