1. Some producers are more hands-on than others. What kind of working relationship do you think is ideal for a producer to have with a director?
The important thing is understanding the movie you’re both making and being on the same page. And that comes from your interview process, when you sit down with the director and you decide what’s his point of view, is he right for the movie. Once you agree on that, and agree on the screenplay, it should be pretty smooth sailing. Even though you will have arguments and confrontations, it’s part of the creative process. I certainly want them to come to me and say, ‘This scene is terrible, you should change it.’ An effective argument always wins.
2. Have you ever thought about directing yourself?
Well, I think about it, but when I work with really talented directors I see that they’re much more talented than I’d ever be. I certainly don’t have the vision that they do, and I’m not sure I’d have the attention span to focus on just one thing for 2-3 years like a director has to do.
3. You’ve been responsible for giving a lot of directors their first shot. How do you go about finding new directorial talent?
I’m one of those people, you got to show me, so I have to see something first. I would want a director at least to have directed something, it doesn’t have to be a feature film. We’ve used a lot of directors that have done videos or commercials. Michael Bay and Tony Scott came out of commercials, even though Tony had already done a feature [when we used him]. If you view enough of them–and I have viewed a lot of them–you can tell who’s really special, who can tell a story in a very short period of time, who has a unique visual style. But the most important thing is telling a story. You’ve gotta be able to tell a story. An understanding of literature, an understanding of characterization and plot and themes–those are all key for a director to learn. The technical part of it is something that you can learn fairly quickly. Some directors know very little about it, they just throw their hat in the ring and start doing it and learn on the fly.
4. Why do commercial directors frequently make good feature directors?
Commercial directors are forced to work with clients, meaning the advertising agencies and the client themselves. Whether it’s a soft drink company or whoever, they have to be responsible to them. It’s no different than dealing with a studio or a production team or a producer. Also, they understand the crew etiquette. They understand where the power lies on a crew.
They understand how to move a crew along. They understand that the clock is usually your enemy in trying to get your work done.
5. Do you find that more feature directors are open to working in television these days?
I think so. I mean, you look at some of these shows that David Kelley and Bochco and Wells and Dick Wolf–this whole slew of very talented executive producers–are doing. Time after time they come up with really unique and interesting material. And a director always wants to work with good material. That’s how you get good actors. A number of very talented film directors have done television for us and we’re talking to a whole bunch more. Andy Davis worked on Just Legal; Taylor Hackford did the pilot for E-Ring; Quentin Tarantino did an episode of C.S.I. Some of the most talented feature directors end up working in television because the medium has expanded to accept them and understand that you have to give them the kind of respect and power that sometimes in television they don’t give directors.
6. Has the creative distinction narrowed between film and television to allow this?
The creativity has always been there, it’s just the money that’s the problem. You don’t have the kind of money that you have making a feature. But I think feature directors are challenged by the fact that they can do something in 8 or 10 days and tell a story in 40-some minutes. So I think they look at it as a challenge and they also pick up skills they can use in their future career.
7. So is television getting better?
Oh, I think television’s made huge leaps. There are a lot more dramas on the air, so it’s a whole different kind of filmmaking. In the past there were tons of sitcoms, which are 3-camera, half-hour stories with laugh tracks. Cinematically it would be difficult to break the mold. But all these dramas that we do are like little movies. We consider them feature television, that’s what we call it.
8. What do you think about the supposed box office slump?
You know, I think it’s always about the product. Are we distracted by other things like the Internet, like video games? Of course we are. But if there’s a picture you have to see, everybody’s talking about it at school or at the office, you want to be part of the conversation, so you’re going go out and buy a ticket. We just really didn’t have enough of those pictures this summer that engaged an audience as well as we had in the past. I mean, you’re only talking about a 7 to 10 percent drop. It’s not like the bottom fell out. That could be one huge hit movie.
9. In terms of distribution, do you see a time when DVDs will be day-and-date with theatrical release?
Certain pictures may hit the video stores much sooner if they don’t perform well theatrically. That window narrows because the studios want to get as much money back as soon as possible and not pay interest on the money they had to spend, so that’s certainly a possibility. And maybe your smaller art films might because there’s not that much access to them. But I think for a major big release, unless they price DVDs at a lot more than they’re charging for them now, I would doubt it. The technology in the home has gotten much better but still, you want to get out of the house, get away from the screaming kids, or kids like to get away from their parents. The right kind of movie will always take them out of the house.
10. What about VOD, do you see that taking off and replacing the rental and sale of DVD?
The technology apparently isn’t there yet. Hopefully, it’ll get there and there’s always that possibility. I don’t know how to predict the future. If I did, I wouldn’t be talking to you, I’d be in Hawaii sipping Mai Tais.