Join SBIFF for an in-depth discussion in this video The producer/director relationship, part of 2011 SBIFF Producers' Panel: Movers and Shakers.
Patrick Goldstein: I wanted to ask one more question about, for all of you, the relationship between the producer and the director, because some of the filmmakers that created these films are very strong willed, some of them notoriously difficult. Others may have been-- So I'm wondering, is it a partnership, is there collegial sense, is there a little bit of a therapy sense to it? I mean, how would you, how do you find the right balance to work with the filmmaker? Because the producer isn't always-- doesn't always get to say yes.
The question is, how do you say no in the right way that doesn't create a firestorm and keeps the film going? Jamie Patricof: Can I nominate Todd to answer that question? Todd Lieberman: Yeah, I am happy to. Todd: I mean, look, when we brought David O. Russel on board, the only person that ended up to work with him in our entire group was Mark Wahlberg. And quite frankly, he wasn't the flavor of the month at that time. And he had a reputation for being prickly. Now, at the same time, as a producer you want to gain the trust of the director and you want to create some sort of partnership so that there is a symbiotic relationship, and each film is completely different.
I remember I was listening to your partner, Scott Rudin, talking about his experience with Fincher and the Coen Brothers, and saying, every movie is different. I realize on those two movies that he didn't necessarily have to be set everyday; those guys know how to make a movie. And my role in that movie was completely different than it might have been in some other movies. You know, with David, we spent a lot of time developing the script with him and establishing relationship with him in pre-production. And what it turned out was that the collaboration was actually beautiful, because he is willing to try anything.
And he is willing to go down so many different paths and tangents that some people might find that overwhelming. What we found, it was kind of invigorating. And when we're on set with David O. Russel and you can throw an idea, he'll try it. And he'll try that, and he just kind of going off the cuff. So every movie is different. With that particular movie, we found an amazing symbiotic relationship. He listened to us, we listened to him, and it became kind of a beautiful collaboration and a real friendship.
Patrick: Mike. Mike De Luca: Well, David makes it easy for a producer. Mike: And I've known him since Seven at New Line in '95. He is self contained. He also has a producing partner, Cean Chaffin. With David, I felt like my role was to literally give him space. Stay out of his way, don't intrude on the process, respect it, and then just keep any studio bullshit off his desk, but there was none because Amy also feels that way about David Fincher. So, once we kind of drew the box that the movie had to fit into, he was left alone.
And he is one of those directors where if you're lucky enough to be in business or be partnered with the visionary filmmaker, it's really a director's medium and the best thing I felt I could do was just support him and stay out of his way. Patrick: Mhm. Jamie, my impression, just from seeing the movie, is you're in really close quarters with the filmmaker. What was that like? Jamie: Yeah, I mean, I've had that experience with most of the films I've worked on, where my number one job--and I think it's all of our number one jobs--is to allow the director to focus on directing the film and not deal with anything else.
I mean, that's really, I think, our main goal as a producer. At the same time, especially if you've lived with the material as long as I did on Blue Valentine--you asked if you kind of connect to the characters. I can't say I really connect to Ryan Goslin or connect to Michelle Williams directly, but indirectly, I feel like I have two kids and I sort of-- That's amazing thing about this movie is that when I started this movie, I had just gotten married. That's when I was planning to make it, and by the time I made it, I had two kids.
And so I had a feeling and I had an understanding of the material, so when we're on set and there are work conversations that we would have that were creative conversations, but ultimately, my job is just to be there and to support the director. But I love that creative collaboration. And fortunately, that's been the process I've had so far. Todd: Sometimes you're asking challenging questions, and you want to support as best you can, but you also want to throw out challenges to directors to make sure that their vision is completely and utterly in line.
And we had, I wouldn't called them arguments--we had kind of very lively discussions about the level of humor that was going to be portrayed in The Fighter. And I was, quite frankly, doubtful that that tone was possible, because it's dark subject matter. And David was very, very specific about how he wanted to bring levity into this otherwise dark environment. And we had a lot of discussions about how you're able to laugh at a situation where someone's smoking crack and jumping out windows.
And we went to the first test screening and the audience is uproariously laughing, and I turned to him, and I said, "You're absolutely right, and I'm really glad that you did that and that was your vision. Because had I been in control of it and not allowed you to do your vision, we wouldn't have had that." Patrick: Darla, what's, again, how is it different in the Pixar world? Darla K. Anderson: I think it's exactly the same, exactly the same. I mean, that the producer is protector of the director's vision, and so you are all the things you mentioned: you are the therapist; you're the challenger; you're the protector. Sometimes you just get out of the way.
And sometimes the director has such a burden, they're carrying around the world on their shoulders, that you ask challenging questions just to also remind them what their vision is, or just to kind of get the conversation going again. But really, 100% of the time, we've all worked with visionary directors that are just brilliant and driven and have singular focus, and so our job is to just get that vision on the screen at all costs.
You sleep well at night knowing that you have done everything in your power to get that vision and everything you can up on the screen. Patrick: You know, Todd, you've already helped me in my marriage, because-- Todd: Thanks -- I do that a lot you know. Patrick: I always tell my wife she is being stubborn and now I realize, I have to say to her, honey, you're being specific. So that's good. Todd: Or just don't say anything. Jamie: Or just say you're sorry. Todd: I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I didn't mean it.
Patrick: One other thing. In The King's Speech, Geoffrey Rush is an executive producer on the film, and in The Fighter, Mark Wahlberg is a producer on the film. What do the actors do to earn or deserve that credit? Jamie: Can I add the Michelle and Ryan are executive producers on Blue Valentine? Patrick: Oh Okay. Todd: No. Jamie: Damn you, Todd. I am just trying to be specific.
Todd: I'm available for therapy afterwards. I mean, in Mark's case, it's been written about, it's well-documented: he is very, very passionate. He knew Micky Ward growing up. He knew the family. He is from Dorchester. He is from the area. He was instrumental in obviously getting David O. Russell on board, and corralling just kind of a lot of the logistics of the HBO, you know, the fights, and then the guy trained for years and years in his backyard after he built a gym. There is no reason why he wouldn't have been a producing partner with us on this one.
And every producer's role is different, and Mark was kind of the godfather of all of it and a driving passionate force behind it. And the guy, as Micky Ward says "never give up," Mark really never gave up, and thank God he was our partner, because he pushed it forward and kept pushing it forward and said, "We are going to make this movie," and the three of us kind of agreed. And we all lent different things to it, but thank God for him. Patrick: Iain. Iain Cannning: In terms of Geoffrey, he was interested in making the film before we even came on board, because through David's theatrical agent at that time, he'd got scripts through his letterbox.
And so he then came on board. My producing partner Emile had worked with Geoffrey on two films before. And we then brought Tom on board, and we financed the film at that point with just Geoffrey and the script and Tom. And he was obviously a huge part of that financing, and also decided to come over three weeks before he needed to come over in order to start rehearsals, in order to just sort of get together with Tom, and just went above and beyond of what he needed to do.
Moderated by Patrick Goldstein from the Los Angeles Times, these six producers cover many topics not often discussed in the entertainment press. The struggle to get a picture funded, ratings battles with Motion Picture Association of America, where the lines are drawn making a dramatic film based on a real life event, and working with a difficult director. They offer amazing stories of perseverance and triumph.
This panel includes Darla K. Anderson (Toy Story 3), Iain Canning (The King’s Speech), Alix Madigan (Winter’s Bone), Todd Lieberman (The Fighter), Mike Deluca (The Social Network), and Jamie Patricof (Blue Valentine).