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Moderated by Madelyn Hammond from Madelyn Hammond & Associates, the Creative Forces: Women in the Business panel features five talented producers whose films have been nominated for multiple awards—from drama and comedy to animation and independent short film. Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Picture Paris) talks about her short film written by husband/writer Brad Hall. A multi-award winning actress, Louis-Dreyfus describes her journey to the other side of the camera as producer. Dede Gardner (Tree of Life) tells us why Fox Searchlight Pictures chose not to include images of star Brad Pitt while promoting the film. Melissa Cobb (Kung Fu Panda 2) talks to the organic process of producing an animated feature that allows an ongoing evolution of the story during production. Denise Ream (Cars 2) also shares her journey in feature animation though the creative juggernaut that is Pixar Animation. And Leslie Urdang (Beginners) talks about the experiences of working with legendary actor Christopher Plummer, who was presented with the Modern Master Award at this year's festival.
These powerful forces in feature filmmaking offer an inside look at why women are no longer excluded from any role in production they choose. All it takes is desire and a lot of hard work.
Skill Level Appropriate for all
Madelyn Hammond: So Dede, I have to ask you. You had been working with Brad and Plan B for a while. What happens--I assume your tastes was somewhat similar. Do you ever have to go in there and have to persuade him, or vise versa, to do a particular film and do you guys say, "I will do this one, but you've got to do mine"? How does that work, that balance, in terms of getting the vision done? Dede Gardner: I think we do have similar tastes, but it's a very democratic place, and the one-- I wouldn't say rule--but request, is you just have to love it. If you love it, if you feel like you will die if you can't make it or you can't try to make it, then you get to go do it and give it a shot. Don't do stuff for other reasons.
If the other things--if commerce comes or box office comes or awards come, great, but choose it because of the story, and choose it because of the filmmaker. Madelyn Hammond: That is great, whoever was clapping, I agree. Madelyn Hammond: You know what? It-- Audience member: That's my whole philosophy. Madelyn Hammond: It is so true because sometimes--and I want to ask the other panelist--as a producer, sometimes you think, well, the box office is going to be great if we go after this kind of audience, or the merchandizing might be phenomenal. Or maybe we should put this character in. I wish I could have this person, but we should go with this, because he or she is better known, and sometimes you have to make those compromises.
So it's good in your case, Dede. You can just kind of just go for it, and you don't have to really worry about that. Dede Gardner: Yeah, I mean, it's important. That's an enormous privilege, and I think if you do it--if you are given a chance to do it long enough, you will end up having movies that are really successful and some that are just critically successful that maybe don't work at the box office, but you will have enough of a range that you will get to keep doing it. Getting the time to do it is a privilege, and I consider myself very fortunate to have a partner who is such a cinefile and who is so committed to creating a harbor for stories and filmmakers.
Madelyn Hammond: And it's good to have a partner who is a cinefile and I might also say open to female-driven films, if you look at some of the stuff that you guys have made, Madelyn Hammond: with Eat, Pray, Love, and The Mighty Heart and then -- Dede Gardner: Rebecca Miller's movie. Madelyn Hammond: Rebecca, Yeah. It seems like-- I don't think the box office is necessarily the driving force; it was probably because it was good material. Because at the end of the day, am I right on this, Leslie? It's all about the story and really what it is. Leslie R. Urdang: Yeah, I agree with everything Dede said. I think it's about the story, and it's about the filmmaker. And what I have learned, even just in these last like eight films or something, is that I am not good at making movies I don't feel really passionate about, because invariably you hit that place where you need to fix the cut or you have choices to make all the along the way.
And unless you have that guide post, from my point of view, you know why are you making this movie and you feel it's important, for whatever reason, to be making this movie, I lose my way. And those movies don't come out as well as the ones that I love and I care about and I will work for as long as it takes to get it right. So it's practical as well, for me, to try not to second guess, oh, okay I don't love this, but this could do really well in the world. I am always wrong, and so I have to just-- all you have got are your own instincts and passions, finally, when you are working for yourself, and you are your driving force to get something done.
Madelyn Hammond: Yeah. Big difference. Melissa, I've got to ask you, you worked in both live action and animation, so other than the fact that animation takes a whole lot longer, what are some other key differences from a producing standpoint? Melissa Cobb: The longer is one of the big things. You are making it literally one frame at a time, which is fascinating and an amazing artistic challenge and process, which I love. I really love that pace of it. The other thing that I think happens structurally is that we tend to, because we can, we are rewriting the movie the entire time we are making it.
So in live action, the creative process tends to be, you finish this script, then you shoot the movie, and then you edit the movie and maybe there are some reshoots in there somewhere. With animation, it's a really huge collaborative process with a lot of creative voices, dozens and dozens of creative voices every day chiming in on the story and the structure of the movie that you are making, including the actors and the storyboard artists and the animators and the studio, and lots of people have lots of opinions. And so, because it is such a fluid process and such a collaborative process, it takes, I think to what you guys are saying, you have to really know what movie you want to make, because it's very easy to get lost in that process.
Much easier to get lost than it is I think in live action. Madelyn Hammond: Yeah. And about the voice and the talent, you have been very lucky in this and gotten some amazing-- is there any particular person in your opinion who was like one of the best gets, and is there one that got away, that you still can't get over? Melissa Cobb: No, I don't. We have been very lucky to have great actors, and they all bring something very unique and very specific. They all have slightly different ways of working, We record with them, and it's a very open, very free process. They come in in their pajamas or hungover or whatever. You can use your imagination, but-- and it's cool. We record for a couple of hours. It's very free. They can play with the dialog. They can have a nervous breakdown and nobody cares. It's all--it's really, I think, hopefully for the actors fun, but really fun for us too, because we discover so much about the characters and what's unique and interesting and lovable and vulnerable about them, through the collaborative process with the actors.
Julia Louis-Drefus: I love doing animation just for that various reason, the pajamas, the hungover part. It's great! Madelyn Hammond: That's got to be a big selling point. Do you ever have anyone that's said, "I need hair and makeup" and you are like, "You don't. You really don't. I know you think you do, but you really don't." Melissa Cobb: That's why they said yes in the first place. Julia Louis-Drefus: No hair and makeup is a big selling point. Madelyn Hammond: Hey, so Denise, same thing. You feel that it's just that that process with your talent is just so unique, and it makes it so easy for them, because it does take place over sometimes a number of years? Denise Ream: Yeah, what was really interesting--well, for me, repeatedly, I am always amazed. We have scratched voices in for so long. And we essentially make the movie eight times. We screened on Cars 2 every twelve weeks, so you have these people that repeatedly play the parts. And then I was always amazed, finally going to the recording session with the actors and just their shear talent and charisma just comes through in a remarkable way. And I just--it never ceased to amaze me what they really do bring to these films.
Madelyn Hammond: Do you ever get involved in the marketing, Denise. Do you ever look--do they come to you in a regular way and say, "What do you think about this? We have got a option on a poster or an option for trailer or special scissor reel? Madelyn Hammond: They do? Denise Ream: Yes. We spend a lot of time with that. Madelyn Hammond: Do you like that? Denise Ream: It was a--I am pretty new to that part of it, to be honest, and it's -- luckily I was working with John Lasseter, who is amazing, has a lot of opinions, so I felt really fortunate to be able to collaborate and be partnered with him to sort of see that firsthand.
I think it's really hard personally, and what maybe the studio wants is very different from what the filmmakers want, so that's a big challenge I would say. Madelyn Hammond: The studio different than the filmmakers, and in the case of Cars 2 is different than your promotional partners, because you also have to serve them in some way maybe too? Denise Ream: We are--that's a whole separate discussion about promotional partners. We had the challenge--we had over almost forty car companies that we had to basically involve with the making of the film, and we do it for authentic reasons.
We wanted to get iconic cars, and we do not do product placement at the studio. So it was--that was actually one of my biggest challenges, in terms of walking that line between getting what the director wanted and what the film needed versus trying to entice the car companies to give us permission. So we kind of steer clear of that as much as we can, honestly. Madelyn Hammond: Yeah. I bet. Dede, what about you? Did you get--I thought the campaign on The Tree of Life was phenomenal. Were you involved at all or were--? Dede Gardner: Yes, yes, although I think in that case that people at Fox Searchlight are nothing short of brilliant. And I think we have seen that year after year after year after year.
They are just. And they are brave, they were not--they had no interest in putting on a poster with Brad's head on it. Thank God! And they try and they don't trick you. They try and actually convey what the movie is, and the artwork and--I just think what they did for that movie was amazing. But they were very bold. They just went for it. Madelyn Hammond: And it was risky, I mean, and you could tell that there was, with the little baby's foot, and then it kind of evolved into something else with all the pictures, so people were like, "What is this," and I think they purposely did that to try not to sell it as the Brad Pitt film.
Dede Gardner: Yeah, yeah. Very much. Madelyn Hammond: Which would have been confusing. Which is good.