SAN DIEGO — Andy Friedenberg is a promoter. Slim, tall, elegant in a gray three-piece suit, smooth and gracious in manner, he strides in to talk about his favorite subject, movies.
When he turns on his Pepsodent smile and unleashes his unbridled enthusiasm for films, it's clear you are in the presence of a master of hype.
"This is a marvelous opportunity to meet the creative geniuses who've put together timeless films and talk about their career," Friedenberg said of his current project, the Directors Guild of America Golden Jubilee film retrospective.
The six-film series will show at 7:30 p.m. on consecutive Mondays, beginning June 23, at the La Jolla Museum of Contemporary Art's Sherwood Auditorium. The $60 series ticket (no single tickets are available) enables viewers to take part in discussions with the films' directors, such creative geniuses as Richard Donner ("Inside Moves," "Goonies," "The Omen"); Michael Apted ("Coal Miner's Daughter," "Gorky Park," "Continental Divide"); Mark Rydell ("On Golden Pond," "The Rose") and Michael Ritchie ("The Candidate," "Downhill Racer," "The Bad News Bears").
Others, known less for their directing, such as screenwriter-actor Buck Henry and dancer Gene Kelly, will participate. Henry will discuss his film directing debut in 1978's "Heaven Can Wait." Kelly is scheduled to talk about "Singing in the Rain," which is perhaps better known for his dancing than Stanley Donan's direction.
San Diego's version of the Golden Jubilee, which will be celebrated in nine other cities to mark the Directors Guild's 50th anniversary, presents "a very strong lineup," Friedenberg said. "These people work with some of the biggest stars in the business. None of them were sitting around waiting for a call."
Nor is Friedenberg the kind to sit while moss grows. He has at least three separate projects in San Diego.
Friedenberg came to San Diego three years ago after working six years as a regional publicist with Hollywood studios such as United Artists and Columbia Pictures. At 23, he was promoted to United Artists' publicity and promotion manager in the Southwest.
That was based in large part on his creativity in promoting films. In the Denver area he launched the teen flick "Corvette Summer" with an attention-grabbing publicity stunt. He filled a swimming pool with orange Jello, threw in 60 Corvette keys, ringed the pool with Corvettes provided by members of a local auto club, and asked contestants to dive for the keys. Fifty-nine of the keys were blanks. One fit a Corvette, and the lucky winner could drive the car all summer.
Within a year, Columbia Pictures hired him away from United, and he ultimately was in charge of promotions for 12 states. But he bailed out after having five bosses in four years.
Friedenberg decided to use his movie industry connections to go into business in San Diego on his on. He set up the Cinema Society in 1984, which offers its membership special screenings of new films before they debut commercially in San Diego, like "Kiss of the Spider Woman," "Agnes of God," "Trip to Bountiful" and "Crossroads."
He proffers another business card and a narrow metallic-looking Cinema Society membership card. He flips an impressive--he calls it "brass plate"--plastic card on the table. It looks like an exclusive credit card, but is the series ticket for the Golden Jubilee retrospective. He is presenting the retrospective through his Visual Arts Foundation Inc.
Expensive paper stock for business cards--he has another for his public relations firm, Andrew Friedenberg Associates--and fancy tickets--"I understand Cinema Society cards are becoming a status symbol in San Diego"--seem to help or at least don't hurt his entrepreneurial efforts. Last year, he sold out the 500 Cinema Society tickets and now says he has a waiting list of 300.
"When I moved here, people would say, 'What are you doing in San Diego?' I said we have a terrific community. People love the arts, but there wasn't much going on with film as an art form in terms of cultural offerings," Friedenberg said.
"But I keep reading the trades--Daily Variety and the Hollywood Reporter--about all these wonderful visual arts programs that travel the country, and here are the cities and you look, and no San Diego.
"What I'm trying to do is help create a film community and film identity for the eighth-largest city in America. We're not a backyard. We're not a suburb. We have our own cultural base and we need these offerings."
Friedenberg has taught film marketing and distribution courses at UC San Diego and San Diego State University.
As the interview winds down, Friedenberg reminds that all films and directors in the Directors Guild series are subject to change. Of course.
Indeed, none of the directors on the original invitation list published by Great American First Savings Bank, which is associated with the project, will appear as part of the retrospective. Those included Lawrence Kasdan, Stanley Kramer, Paul Mazursky, Sydney Pollack, Taylor Hackford, William Friedkin, Billy Wilder and Ron Howard.
But it will be in San Diego, and as Friedenberg says, "I believe we can never have enough quality cultural offerings. I'd rather have someone say there's too much great things going on."