SBIFF Producers Panel (Glenn Whipp, Moderator, 2015) USA
Reviewed by e Howard Green. Presented at the Lobero Theatre, Santa Barbara, Saturday, January 31, 2015.
As stated in the Press Release, “SBIFF’s Movers and Shakers panel, assembles a sampling of some of today’s most established producers to discuss not only their current projects  also their thoughts on current cinema trends and the evolution of the entertainment industry. Moderated by Los Angeles Times film writer Glenn Whipp, this year’s panelists include[d]:
Lisa Bruce (The Theory of Everything)
John Kilik (Foxcatcher)
John Lesher (Birdman or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
Robert Lorenz (American Sniper)
Teddy Schwarzman (The Imitation Game)
Cathleen Sutherland (Boyhood)”. Also there were two additional participants, (???) Chris Nolan (Interstellar) and (???) Wes Anderson (Grand Budapest Hotel).
Each producer gave insights on aspects of their effort, ranging from the 28 years of material for Boyhood which had to be condensed into two hours of film, to shooting of Birdman as a series of Very long (ie continuous) takes, shot over 29 days, to the shift in American Sniper from Director Steven Speilberg to Clint Eastwood after production cycle was underway, and to the fact that the filming rights for Imitation Game were first optioned to Warner Brothers, which failed to exercise it’s rights, allowing the final team to produce the film.
Storyboarding and animation were used in the planning to reduce actual field shooting time. Dealing with multiple backers and financial interests was described as driving a bus full of multiple drivers. Having limits induces creativity.
The balance between depicting History accurately versus the Art of storytelling necessitates interpretation, the ability to mutate versions of individuals understanding of events. One must choose your truths to make a movie and be prepared for criticism. Most movies are an art form, not documentaries.
Producers identify with being ‘jack of all trades’ and seldom doing the same thing twice. Their job is very much ‘in the moment’ and gain great satisfaction of seeing the results. A best part was said to be finding good material.
Advice to aspiring producers was the wrap-up topic:”Don’t give up”. “Keep going, maintain momentum”, expect to be 24×7 for many years, pardner with good people, have stamina, be a cheerleader, “it’s all hot air til you actually start to shoot”, “making is the experience, not the result itself”. follow your dream, see the vision, and “don’t sell yourself short”.
For the attendee at SBIFF, whose time is stretched multiple directions, the Panels provide a particularly focused way to understand aspects of the film industry. They offer an interesting way to compare and contrast the opinions of multiple personalities in the industry in a condensed format, perhaps better than the more glossy Tributes presentations.