As a child, Randal Kleiser wanted to be one of three things: a puppeteer, a magician or an animator, but after watching Cecil B. DeMille’s The Ten Commandments,” he decided to become all of the above.Kleiser, director of the 1978 classic “Grease” and the TV show “Starsky and Hutch,” is the filmmaker-in-residence at Dodge College this year. Bob Bassett, dean of Dodge College, approached Kleiser at a Director’s Guild of America meeting and asked him to come to Chapman because of his long list of credentials and experience. Kleiser accepted, welcoming the chance to influence future filmmakers in the way that his former professors and mentors helped him.”I have seen a lot of individuality and new ideas at Chapman, and that is what stands out,” Kleiser said. “You need to direct something or write something in a way no other person but you could.”Kleiser spends Tuesdays at the film school meeting and eating dinner with film students. The dinners happen with every filmmaker-in-residence. A group of eight students meets with the filmmaker to discuss topics that range from recent movies to the ethics of movie making.With a lifetime of experience, Kleiser loves to share his knowledge of the industry because of a familiar experience he had as a student.While studying at USC, Kleiser asked Robert Wise, director of “The Sound of Music,” to look at one of his films after a lecture. Wise not only said yes but also invited Kleiser to Universal Studios to watch Kleiser’s film in a screening room and discuss the film.”That was a very big changing point for me in terms of realizing someone like him, who was so successful, was taking the time to help a student,” Kleiser said.Kleiser got his career off the ground with his master’s thesis film about his grandmother entitled “Peege.” In 2007, it was added to the Library of Congress’s National Film Registry.”Peege” starred well-known actors of the time and helped Kleiser get his start directing such shows as “The Rookies,” released in 1972, and his first TV movie, “Boy in the Plastic Bubble,” released in 1976, featuring John Travolta in his first leading role. Kleiser’s other films include “Honey, I Blew Up The Kid” and “The Blue Lagoon,” with Brooke Shields.From directing to acting to writing, Kleiser has dabbled in all aspects of filmmaking.While in school, he filmed an entire semester of a class taught by one of his inspirations, Nina Foch, who played Moses’ mother in “The Ten Commandments,” released in 1956.George Lucas, his college roommate, gave Kleiser the money to fund the project.”That class allowed me to learn so much, and, ever since then, I have been trying to find a way to make a recording of the class for other people so they could share in the learning,” Kleiser said.Decades later, Kleiser edited the film with interns, some from Chapman, and condensed the material into four hours on two DVDs. The DVD is now on sale.One of Kleiser’s new interns, Derek Yegan, junior communications major, is in charge of marketing the Nina Foch DVD.”He treats us equal and just helps us tweak the work we are doing,” Yegan said.The faculty members at Dodge are as eager to work with Kleiser as the students are.”His curiosity is admirable,” said Andrew Lane, directing professor. “He is very interested in understanding all of the new technology and subject matter rather than being satisfied with what he already knows.”Kleiser said there is even more competition to stand out in the crowd, especially because films are made cheaper now.”It does tend to dilute the works, but if it is a good movie, people talk about it, and, because of the Internet, you can spread the word about something that is good much faster than you ever could,” Kleiser said. “So the cream will rise to the top.”Kleiser hates one thing about the film industry ” when a project falls through because a producer misguides the director and promises funds that cannot be provided. But his love for filmmaking outweighs the negative, he said.”I love sitting with an audience and seeing them react to the movie and feeling that they have picked up everything I am trying to communicate,” Kleiser said. “Because really, making a movie is like taking a dream you have and putting that dream in someone else’s head.
Randal Kleiser, filmmaker-in-residence, shares his passion and knowledge of the industry with students.