Magazine article Filmmaker

Letters to a Young Producer

Magazine article Filmmaker

Letters to a Young Producer

Article excerpt

ELEVEN INDUSTRY VETERANS OFFER ADVICE TO THOSE JUST STARTING OUT... AND REVEAL HOW THEY'VE ADJUSTED THEIR OWN PRODUCING MODELS TO FIT THE TIMES.

BARRY MENDEL (Producer, Whip It, Munich, Rushmore, The Sixth Sense)

ADVICE I have three pieces of advice to a young producer in 2010.

1. Be humble. I often feel strongly about my creative point of view, yet whenever I go back and read my memos from earlier movies, I see how some of my ideas were instrumental and helpful, many irrelevant, and some, if followed (or if they were followed), were disasters. All you have is your point of view, so say it, but keep in mind you could also easily be wrong.

2. Get real. Don't assume your movie is going to be a masterpiece. Assume it will be a decent version of the script. And in that case, how will your investors make money? How many people will want to shell out the bucks to leave their house to go see it after a hard week of work? Is the idea really that good? Is the script? Can the director really execute it? I Can the actors really act it? Will anybody care? Don't succumb to delusions of grandeur. Dream, sure, but with your feet on the ground.

3. Remain inspired. However hard you work to make connections and do what you think you need to do to make your career happen, always work harder at staying connected to what inspired you to want to make movies in the first place. Staying connected to what animates you, what truly turns you on, will lead you to keep learning and growing and also to the people and situations which will form a stronger foundation for a lasting and satisfying career.

HOW I'VE ADJUSTED The biggest adjustment I've had to make to the modern world is to understand the economics. Streaming has forever altered the DVD market. The cost of marketing for theatrical has changed. The international theatrical and television markets have changed. So to give investors a film they feel they can make money with requires me to truly understand their business. That requires a lot of reading and asking questions and discussion. That said, I have never believed that trying to capture the zeitgeist would work for me; I have always responded to things on a more emotional level and then hoped for the best. I began developing Munich long before 9/11, and it became a story more relevant to America by (tragic) accident. I thought Rushmore was way more commercial than it turned out to be. I wasn't sure audiences would connect with Haley Joel Osment in The Sixth Sense. I was confident Funny People and Whip It would be big hits. I am constantly wrong about the market. I accept that and simply try to do projects I think are good for what I feel is a budget my investors can win with and from there, as they and we know from the start, qué será será.

ANNE CAREY (Producer, The American, Adventureland)

ADVICE Choose good partners and partners who complement your skill set I've had so many great partnerships and the most fruitful have been with people who have been able to expand my knowledge and experience and for whom I believe I've been able to do a similar thing. It's great to have someone to bounce ideas off of before you have to say them out loud to the world.

HOW I'VE ADJUSTED Giving up my office and dissolving my corporation. The stress of being a landlord and worrying about paying rent on more real estate then my company could sustain and coming to terms with the idea that I needed to be able to be more fluid and flexible has been a big part of this year for me. Being out of the office and on location and editing in a distant location made me realize that the physical space is not the most important thing. Now I won't have as many general meetings with people who come in from the West Coast around the holidays!

TIM WILLIAMS (Head of Production, Greenestreet Films; Producer, House at the End of the Street)

ADVICE Don't pass up an opportunity to do something different and work with people who are thinking in nontraditional manners. …

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