People feel most comfortable among their peers, which helps explain how the Produced By Conference has scored speakers like James Cameron, Christopher Nolan and J.J. Abrams in its relatively short existence.
Organized by the Producers’ Guild of America, the conference assembles a mélange of producers, writers, filmmakers, executives and journalists to discuss the art of getting movies and TV shows made in the 21st century. This weekend’s conference, the sixth, will feature conversations with David Fincher, Francis Ford Coppola, Norman Lear and Seth Rogen.
TheWrap spoke with conference chairs Gary Lucchesi and Tracey Edmonds about the challenges and opportunities posed by new technology, and what improvements Hollywood needs to make.
How has the conference changed at a time when the movie industry is constantly evolving?
Lucchesi: The goal has always been to bring the most current and relevant speakers we can in this ever-changing entertainment space. What’s different now is we know people will attend. That’s different from the first year when we were terrified people wouldn’t want to come.
Edmonds: We see more and more of a digital presence each year. Film, TV and digital are all overlapping.
What are the most important subjects for the conference this year?
Edmonds: As a female producer, we’ve got a session called courting the female audience that is particularly interesting to me. We see shows like “The Mindy Project” and “Scandal” that feature prominent female protagonists bringing in huge audiences.
Lucchesi: We have Norman Lear and Francis Coppola. These are legends; they are the Warren Buffet of TV and film. If you’re going to look at the changing landscape and want an individual who has seen it all, these are two panels that would provoke curiosity.
What does Coppola say about this changing landscape? He was the first guy to ever use digital. I remember when he had playback on these tiny Sony screens. He was watching playback before anyone else was doing it.
Tracey, you mentioned women in front of the camera. TheWrap ran a report earlier this year about the lack of female directors this summer. A woman directed only one of the studio movies this summer, and she made it with her brother. How can Hollywood address this problem?
There’s definitely room for improvement in female representation behind the camera as well. We have female directors like Kathryn Bigelow that have really made strides and made some incredible movies.
There’s still room for growth, especially on the African-American side.
Gary, digital has come to mean so many different things. What is the biggest change you’ve witnessed?
Lucchesi: The desire for filmed content continues to grow, and will never change. Who it’s going to be delivered to is going to change. Audiences do want to go to movie theaters every weekend. The conference is trying to help people figure out where to place their individual movie. We have Joe Roth, whose made some big blockbusters in the fantasy space — “Oz,” “Show White” and “Maleficent.” He’s a guy who came from doing little comedies like ‘Major League” and has adapted and figured out the space.
At the same time we have panels on independent filmmaking and how to get smaller films financed. We’re witness every Oscar season to movies like “12 Years a Slave” where it’s almost a miracle they were able to be financed.
Now you need to get Megan Ellison to show up.
Lucchesi: We’ll probably get her one of these years.
Which producers and filmmakers inspired you?
Edmonds: I grew up watching filmmakers like Woody Allen and Frank Capra. I love old movies.
Lucchesi: There was a moment when I was a trainee at William Morris, an assistant to a motion picture agent. I was questioning whether or not I wanted to continue being an agent. I was at a screening at MGM on a Sunday night and Terry Malick’s “Days of Heaven” was screening. There were only about 20 people in the audience. I watched it and thought it was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen. I knew I had to stay.