This blog post is an assignment for the “Negotiation and Deal Making” course that I’m currently taking at Full Sail University. We had to watch three videos that discuss negotiation techniques.
My first discussion comes from The Hollywood Reporter Oscar Roundtable hosted by Matthew Belloni. I found it on a blog by IndieWire. The hour-long interview is titled The Producers: Full Uncensored Interview, and it features six producers whose films have gone on to receive multiple nominations and awards this season, including the Academy Awards, Golden Globes, PGA Awards, to name a few. Among the interviewees are Phillipa Boyens (The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey), Stacey Sher (Django Unchained), Joanne Sellars (The Master), Grant Heslov (Argo), and Eric Fellner (Anna Karenina, Les Miserables).
Producers are problem solvers. In the case of Fellner, one of his main goals include analyzing formulas that determine if producing a film on a predetermined budget makes sense. On the other hand, producers such as Sher, want to make sure they are able to make the director’s vision happen.
When it comes to negotiation techniques, Sher and the Django team had to handle a dirty trick by “Mother Nature” in a creative way. The cast and crew were scheduled to shoot a scene at a ski resort in Mammoth, California. To everyone’s surprise, no snow was falling for the first time in a hundred years, and that was an essential element to the scene. A few days later, the producers decided it would be more efficient to move the set to a different state. This is an example of Murphy’s Law at its best.
Another example of a hardship that Heslov talks about is when somebody says “no” or falls back. Having to start all over again when you depended on someone can be pretty frustrating.
The second video is presented by the Los Angeles Times in association with Epix, and is hosted by John Horne. It is a Directors Roundtable that includes Tom Hooper (Les Miserables), Sacha Gervasi (Hitchcock), Ben Affleck (Argo), Kathryn Bigelow (Zero Dark Thirty), David O. Russell (Silver Linings Playbook), and Ang Lee (Life of Pi).
The interview covered many different topics, but I picked two that caught my attention. In the first one, Bigelow talks about the challenge of capturing a moment of time that would test time. Shooting began only a year after Bin Laden’s assassination, so realizing that it was very recent and contemporary, as well as prepping for two continents, required a lot of confidence on her behalf. When shooting began for Les Mis, Hooper wanted to shoot a scene with Hugh Jackman in the French Alps. His line producers told him it was too expensive, but that he should go look at Scotland or Wales. Convinced that there’s nothing like France, Hooper came to a negotiation with the production team. They skipped three days of rehearsal and put the Jackman and the crew on a commercial flight. They shot that for thirty grand.
Last but not least, I remembered a video I saw about three months ago on YouTube that interviews screenwriters and directors Lana Wachowski, Andy Wachowski, and Tom Tykwer of the underrated film Cloud Atlas, which also happens to be my favorite film of 2012. The interview is done by the DP/30 Channel
They pretty much broke the “rules of cinema” and talk about some of the things they made in a non-traditional way to make it happen. For example, they composed the music first and played it during the table reads with the actors. They talk about the challenge of telling a tale with six stories and how it would require for the audience to engage in the storytelling process. “There’s this trend in the industry where audiences go to the movies to turn off, and we don’t want to turn off when we go to the movies. We don’t want a passive movie-going experience. We want to be stimulated. We want to participate. We are trying to take a stand in terms of trying to tell an adult big film and something you’ve never seen before,” says Andy Wachowski.
An example where the director had to trust a key player in the crew happened when the casting agent demanded them to send Hugh Grant the script. At first, they never believed he’d be able to play the characters in the film, but it took a try and listening the to casting director to find out that indeed, he was meant for the part, or parts, since the main cast plays more than three characters. Another thing that required extreme communication skills was that they shot separately with two crews. They had two keys for each department.
These interviews definitely opened my mind a bit more to the challenges that present themselves when making a film. However, they also reminded me that passion is key to being successful. Sher mentioned how she was finally able to start a project that had been in the talks for twelve years. So patience and finding the right time for a project is important.