2012 SBIFF Producers’ Panel: Movers & Shakers

2012 SBIFF Producers’ Panel: Movers & Shakers


Now, like Graham’s movie Hugo, that’s a big movie and so I’m not talking about that, but I think you can make a really good movie and it doesn’t have to cost that much. So that’s our sort of attitude when we go into things and we kind of question, and it’s not just me, in this case it was Alexander

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AnonymousGood afternoon, everybody. Roger Durling, Executive Director of Film Festival. Welcome. It’s a fantastic panel, and let me introduce it right away. Graham King, producer, Hugo. Nominated for the Oscar. Mike DeLuca, nominated for best picture, Moneyball.

Bill Pohlad, nominated, best picture, Tree of Life. Jim Burke, nominated for the Oscar for the Descendants. Letty Aronson, nominated for Midnight in Paris. And please welcome our moderator for many years, friend of the festival, Patrick Goldstein, who’s a columnist for the LA Times Big Picture.

– Wow, thank you guys very much for coming out to see, we’ve got, obviously, a fantastic panel. We’re gonna talk a lot about money and art today. And since in the film business there’s really no movie until you have the money to pay for it, I’m gonna start with a few business questions. Letty, you’re right at my side. I read something really interesting recently about Midnight in Paris.

That it almost didn’t get made. – Correct. – And that Woody had written the script, shelved it for a while, and it was because shooting in France was expensive and you actually were waiting for the French government to pass some new, I don’t know what. A tax credit? – A tax credit. – What happened? – Well we were supposed to do this film a few years ago and, in fact, it got to pretty down the road to a point where I had already gone there, hired some people, but when we budgeted the whole thing out the way Woody wanted to do it, it was more than we had to spend.

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And we always have a finite amount of money. We don’t have a studio to go back to if it goes over or instead of 18 it’s gonna be 22 or whatever. So we did shelve it. And then in the intervening years France put in a tax refund for working there. And the difference that that made for us made it possible, two years later, to then be able to do the film.

– And I sense like Woody’s remaining six or seven films have in large part been financed through European– – Correct. – Investors. Tell me, how did that come approximately withinside the feel did they arrive to you or became that greater of an entrepreneurial concept in your part? – Well, you understand, Woody’s movies have continually accomplished higher in Europe than on this u . s .. Traditionally. And this u . s . has continually been a studio system, even though there are unbiased movies. Whereas in Europe there may be by no means a studio system.

It’s continually unbiased movies and that they very a whole lot recognize the filmmaker. There’s a huge thrust in that direction. So that for the reason that we do higher there and they are interested by the filmmaker, it became simpler to move there and try and get cash than on this u . s .. We do not paintings the manner the studios paintings. They would not be snug operating the manner we paintings and visa versa. We do not deliver a script to examine.

Woody does not write till the cash is in place. So, you need to get the cash. – I desire I should do this. – So I need to get the cash primarily based totally on nothing. Not that Woody’s nothing, however it is simply primarily based totally on Woody. – That’s producing. That is. (clapping) – There’s no script and there may be no one connected to it and there may be no some thing and he does not write, as I say, till there may be cash, so that they need to agree, even if there may be a script, they do not get to examine the script.

They do not get any enter at the cast. They do not come to dailies. They do not see a tough cut. You pay your cash and also you do get a movie and it is continually on price range and it has excellent actors and Woody has directed and written it, however it is the handiest manner that he can paintings or will paintings and that does not paintings on this u . s . with the studios. – We have manufacturers right here at the panel who regularly make investments their very own cash into their movies. So I’d like to move get their perspective, as well.

Graham, I recognise you went seeking out a studio associate for Hugo and we knew it became going to be an high priced undertaking, however what took place while you had Marty Scorsese doing a first-rate movie approximately the records of the movie enterprise. What took place while you made the rounds trying to see if you can discover a associate? – I simply failed to do this due to the fact Marty and I had been going to make this film after Departed, once we did Departed collectively at Warner Brothers.

And the script wasn’t pretty proper and Warner’s wasn’t that into the film on the time, so Marty went off and did Shutter Island and I did a few things. And I simply had approximately 5 or six filmmakers come to me all through that point pronouncing we might like to get in on Hugo and do Hugo. But for me I needed to do it with Scorsese. If it wasn’t Scorsese, I do not suppose I might have accomplished it at all. And then I modified my enterprise approach all through that point and I left Warner Brothers and did a address Sony wherein it is now no longer me however my traders positioned up the cash and Sony releases the film.

And Hugo fell into that category, so after Marty had completed Shutter Island I went lower back to him and stated let’s try this film collectively, and that is the way it all began out. It’s a huge undertaking. It’s a big film. We had no concept what we had been getting into. Budget wise, agenda wise, the 3-D, it became all new to everybody. Marty has a group which can be genuinely a number of the pleasant withinside the enterprise, with Bob Richardson and Rob Legato and Dante Ferretti, and while the set fashion dressmaker does not speak to the DP approximately this new digital digicam displaying up and the digital digicam is 4 instances larger than one might believe and the set’s already built, you begin having trouble.

So Marty’s shot simply form of went out the window on the primary day of capturing due to the fact he noticed some of these new toys to play with in 3-D and he likes to do those monitoring digital digicam photographs via the ee-e book keep and it might take, literally, 4 hours to installation a shot due to the fact the perspective he wanted, we needed to take 1/2 of the units down after which rebuild again. So it is the way it began out. But, as a long way as financing goes, while you move right into a film that huge and that bold you are continually gonna face hurdles, however, regardless, while you pop out at the opposite end, to me, anyway, and to my traders, it is now no longer pretty much the dollar.

I suppose that Scorsese made a masterpiece and it is a film I suppose– (clapping) So I suppose it is approximately longevity. And that sales move can come lower back now and it could come lower back in two decades time. – You began out withinside the enterprise in worldwide income at Fox and, obviously, you understand the worldwide marketplace genuinely well. I’m curious. So you’ll promote off a number of the overseas territories? How does that paintings in phrases of your strategic concept of ways a whole lot of the film you need to– – Right.

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International is all down to relationships and I had guys in the UK, France, Italy, that wanted a buy in to Hugo at an early state, at the screenplay stage. So I did set up some territories, those territories. And the rest then goes to Paramount for distribution. And it’s always a tough decision to make. Whether you pre-sell a film to a certain market, or you wait and let the studio release it. Sometimes you roll the dice and sometimes you don’t. On this one, because we saw where it was going, budget wise, that’s when I decided we better lay off some risk.

– Bill, a Terrence Malick film definitely doesn’t fit the big studio economic model. Did you always know that you would end up handling the financing? – Well, I mean, I suppose so. We didn’t do it by ourselves, of course. We did got out and sell foreign territories and things like that and had some good partners on it, but generally, yeah, River Road was doing it. And, again, I kind of heard this story from Terry, working with him back 10 or 12 years ago, so it wasn’t like some snap decision.

I had a lot of time to think about it. He talked about it about 10 years ago, and it was still evolving in his mind, so by the time it came back around and he was ready to do it, I was more prepared. I knew how Terry worked. I knew how his scripts worked and I knew what his vision was, a little bit. – Well, I was gonna ask you about that because I know you told one interviewer that when Terry first pitched you the idea you though it was crazy. And I’m kind of curious, how does it go from this is crazy to I’ll produce the movie? – Well, crazy in a nice way.

I didn’t mean crazy like… (laughing) No, it was unusual. Hopefully most of you have seen the movie and you can imagine what the pitch was or what his description was. It was out there. At that time it was half creation and half this small town in Texas and the family growing up. It was an unusual, let me get this right. What happened there? – So Jim. The Descendants.

It has Fox Searchlight behind it. Your filmmaker, Alexander Payne, had a relationship there, had made his last movie there. Your economic challenge, I would think, is you’re making a roughly 20 million dollar movie and you’re shooting it all on location in Hawaii. I’ve spent a lot of time in Hawaii. I know that gas costs more there, food costs more there, pretty much everything except papayas cost more there.

So how do you stay on budget? What are the kind of things you did, the ways you found to stretch your budget as far as it could go in a place that’s notoriously expensive? – Well, we worked with a lot of local people for two reasons. One, the actors, we wanted to keep the authenticity of the place alive and present in the film. So we hired many, many local people in the parts. And the crew, which was a great crew, and many of them lived there, so it saved us money.

You’re right. Everything costs more. And so to make our movie, what we wanted to do was shoot for the most amount of days for 20 million dollars. And then everybody, including George, they all sacrificed a little bit of their compensation for the love of the film. – So how many days did you have? – 52. – 52. And lets, I’d love to hear some comparisons.

That, I think, might be interesting. So, by your standards, 20 million dollars, 52 is a lot of days. – It’s a whole lot of days, yeah. – Letty? – No, we always shoot for seven weeks because that’s all the money we have and it’s usually 17, this was 18 million. – Mike? – It’s about 52 days and I’m not saying a number. – Bill? – Actually, I honestly don’t remember the number of days, but Terry was, on all things, right on budget.

In fact, I think we finished like a day early or something like that. – And Graham? How’s your memory? – Brad Pitt said to me the other day… (laughing) I think we could have shot all these movies and still be shooting our movie. Ours was a long shoot, a long and tedious shoot. But, I’ve been saying it’s the hardest movie I’ve ever produced, but also I think the best one. – Letty, I was going to ask you, because the challenge here when you don’t have a lot of money, how do you make it go as far as possible and get what you want? – Well first of all, after Woody writes the script and wants to go ahead with it, we budget it.

If it budgets out much too much, we don’t do it and he writes something else. If it budgets out a little bit too much, we hope there’ll be savings. But our situation is that anything over what I’ve raised from the investors, if it’s important for Woody to have it in the film, he pays for himself. So that if we’ve got 18 million dollars and he needs three days of re-shoots that we can’t afford anymore or rain or something special, for him the project is more important than anything else, so he, then, will pay for it.

– Woody Allen’s better at Moneyball than we were. Like, in terms of that doctrine, he really is an example of it. – And how does that apply, has anyone had a similar experience? Jim? Did you always know you were gonna come in close to budget? – Yeah, we didn’t have, I’d say as filmmakers we’re kind of conservationists. We have a general feeling that film costs too much to start with.

Now, like Graham’s movie Hugo, that’s a big movie and so I’m not talking about that, but I think you can make a really good movie and it doesn’t have to cost that much. So that’s our sort of attitude when we go into things and we kind of question, and it’s not just me, in this case it was Alexander. As the filmmaker he would always say do we need all this? We shot a scene off of Waikiki in a boat. We had to have two barges all for a little canoe where people throw ashes off the side, and he stopped everybody and said who doesn’t need to be here and what else can you be doing to help the movie? And we got a lot more accomplished that day.

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