On Thursday, April 16th, Adorama Rental Company proudly sponsored the TribecaTalks Master Class: The Producers, a free session inside the SVA Theater featuring indie producers Carly Hugo (Bachelorette), Alex Orlovsky (Blue Valentine), Matt Paker (Beasts of the Southern Wild), and Olivia Wilde (Meadowland). The panel was moderated by Tatiana Seigel of The Hollywood Reporter.
Below is a clip from the talk as well as a few of the highlights of the discussion where Carly, Alex, Matt, and Olivia give aspiring producers expert advice on what it’s like to work in the industry, specifically in this great city we call home. You can listen to the full one hour discussion here.
What makes a sane person pursue this line of work?
Olivia: You really want to facilitate the good stories. Now that I truly understand how difficult it is. Once you can understand that you can effect change […] then you really want to do that because there are so many stories out there that should be told that just need that last element. Need someone to really fight for them. I found that to be a worthy effort and something I can’t wait to continue to do.
What do these movies cost to make? What did they sell for at a festival? Can you give a sense of the finances [involved]?
Alex: If you like gambling then independent producing is a good line of work for you.
Matt: A lot of the small dramas, like Mother of George, that we did was an African immigrant drama, it was half grants. If you’re making a million dollar or below drama, you’re relying heavily on grants including kickstarter in there.
Is there such a thing as an LA based independent producer? Do you find that, in NY, independent filmmakers and producers get more respect than anywhere else?
Carly: The NY film community is incredibly close. I feel very comfortable sending projects around. We’re all for helping each other up.
Alex: The crews are great here. NY is a great place to make independent film. In terms of just the quality of crew that you can access on a smaller film, I don’t think you can really touch it anywhere else in the country. I’ve tried with really difficult results. Tax credits are great. There is a real sort of family feeling and I think an awareness. It’s an enjoyable family to be a part of.
What would you give as advice to a would-be independent film producer?
Matt: I always tell people to concentrate on story. When you’re making your first film or producing your first film or even directing it, I think people get caught up in [stuff like] the best camera, lighting and everything. [Especially] now with the advances in digital technology. But it’s about getting the coverage and telling the story and not wasting a lot of your time on an entry level movie with lighting and things like that. Being able to get as much story on the screen.
Alex: A question I ask people is: What kind of producer do you want to be and what kind of movies do you want to make. Because I would give different advice to different people. But it is pretty amazing that you don’t have to ask permission anymore. You can take a 5D and go make a movie and no one can tell you not to. It means you may forgo lights, you may cast friends and family, but I think working on other people’s films and working for people who create work that you admire is really important. If you want to make studio movies, move to LA. I give people that advice all the time.
Carly: I think it’s very important to be fearless and go out there and, like Alex said, make something. Don’t just sit around for two years worrying. I think it’s also important if you’re going to spend someone else’s money to understand that the way the marketplace is right now cast is a factor. I’m not saying that there aren’t exceptions to the rule but I also think that when you’re starting out you have to always be thinking of the end goal. Where do you want this? Which distributors do you like? Which distributors do you think that this would be the right fit for? Keeping an eye on the final product is very important and as producers it’s important for us to know that world for the director so that they can relax into story and into the more artistic side of things. But for beginning producers: Just go make stuff!
Olivia: In terms of the casting part of the process, from an actors perspective as well, it’s a good idea to get creative with the way you make offers. And also not immediately surrender when, let’s say, you’re making a film and the male role is not as big as the female role and the financier says “well if we bump up this male role we might get a bigger male actor and then we can make this movie.” I think it’s worth resisting that and sticking to your guns and telling the story you really want to make. And if you can’t get an actor to accept that small role then they’re not right for that role. Don’t change your story to try to beg an actor to be a part of it. If it’s a good story they’re lucky to be a part of it. So as a producer really work hard to build this cast that will get the movie made. Just following through on that and making sure that you allow the actor to really understand what they’re being offered and who the director is.
Alex: I think people forget to be patient when you’re making offers when you’re trying to get a film cast. I think it’s one of the hardest things, especially as a producer, when you have a director who’s so determined to get this film made […] and you compromise on casting or just not really think something through. I think a movie lasts forever and if you make a casting compromise or any other kind of compromise to get it made, you’re going to be watching that film in 10 years and thinking about that compromise. Just wait. Be patient. Your project will get made when the time is right. Don’t make the wrong version of it just so you can say you made a movie.
Carly: It’s important to also not rush your film for a festival [deadline]. You always regret that you didn’t take that extra time.