Ted Hope: ‘I Am No Longer Going To Produce Films For My Living’ (Guest Blog)

Ted Hope: 'I Am No Longer Going To Produce Films For My Living' (Guest Blog)

“I want to make films that lift the world and our culture higher — and our current way of doing things does just the opposite”

This post originally appeared Tuesday on Ted Hope's home blog, hopeforfilm.com.

I have decided I am no longer going to produce films for my living. To do so requires me to deliver quantity over quality. Or to not contribute as fully as I like since I won’t be fairly compensated. Or to make something that is virtually guaranteed to not have the cultural impact it warrants. Those are three things that I am refusing to be part of.

When I resigned recently from running the San Francisco Film Society, I said I was going to produce films (among other things). But that is not what was driving me to resign. I would love to make one film a year, even two, but to depend on my livelihood to do so requires I work on about 25 films a year (developing, packaging, and financing), and all generally without any renumeration until the film gets made. The infrastructure for producing films of quality does not exist — even if you have done it across 70 films or so in the last 25 years.

Sure many folks are doing it, but when I look at what it takes doing things I no longer can tolerate. Don’t get me wrong, I admire all the indie producers I know. They impress me. Maybe they have more faith than me. I look at the way it works though, and I think it is antithetical to quality production. I don’t want to just get it made. I don’t want to even be tempted to work that way. I want the goal always to be the best film. And to pursue the best film means I won’t be able to earn a living producing films because it means I can not guarantee that I will produce two movies a year (and if you are working in NYC or LA — which you have to to produce at that level — you have to produce 2 movies a year to survive).

Producing two movies a year these days requires too many sacrifices. It requires accepting whom a financier wants, be it a director, an actor, or collaborator. It requires rushing development and selecting projects that can get made quickly. If you want to survive as a producer, when you get to do something for the money, you have to do it. It requires continual “fake meetings” in an effort to sleuth out every opportunity. It means facilitating alliances that I may have little respect for. It requires compromises that I am no longer willing to make.

What I think I do best (develop and edit) is the part I never get funded for. What I value most amongst my skill set, the industry expects me to give away for free. I may work several years on a script with a writer and/or director, getting it to a place that it can attract cast and financing. These days generally then a financier comes aboard and expects both an equal credit and fee to me or any developing producer. The funding producer knows that the lions’ share of the work ahead will still be done by the developing producer, but still expects equal compensation. There is no special credit in the US for those that develop material.

Most films that producers develop never get made. That hasn’t been true in my career, but it is true overall. As there are very few support mechanisms for producers during development, we are encouraged either to do little development or attach ourselves to projects that can quickly get made. The current ecosystem is not structured in a way that work gets better. The current infrastructure encourages concepts over depth. It is not a process that I want to encourage or participate in. Until I see it can change, I will seek to earn my living doing other things than just producing movies.

With the collapse of producer overhead deals, no producer (other than those that have accumulated or been provided with wealth) is permitted to pursue quality. Those overhead deals meant a great deal to us. The industry no longer truly values the well done or well told. If a film can not appeal to the widest markets you can now expect to not be fairly compensated. As a result, I am going to produce now exclusively for my passion — and thus be able to say no when I do not agree with what is asked of me.

Don’t get me wrong. I will produce movies. And hopefully a good number of them. Will I be able to do 70 over the next 25 years as I did for those 25 years that have now passed? Certainly not. This past year running the San Francisco Film Society cured me of my addiction. I have gone cold turkey and fled the treadmill. Yes, I was addicted to producing #IndieFilms. When I was living in NYC, I could not resist. I wanted to read your script. I wanted to take that meeting. I wanted to team up. Sorry, but fuck that. It is a waste of time and only feeds our Bizarro World. I don’t want to be part of it.

I want to make films that lift the world and our culture higher — and our current way of doing things does just the opposite.

I’m done. At least with the way it is now.

—–

There's already a lively discussion going on in the comments section on Ted's home blog; if you'd like to leave a comment, he asks that you click over and do so there.

  • Wrong side

    Someone woke up on the wrong side of the bed.

  • k_e_stewart

    I get it. And I agree with the sentiments. Do what you love. And do it in a manner that bestows respect to you and your labor of love. Otherwise you're just a pimp for people who can't make anything themselves but want the credit anyway.

  • GimmeABreakTedHope

    Ted hope never produced movies. He produced blogs and hired teams of interns and allied himself strategically with other producers who did all the work so that Ted would have time to blather on about being Mr Independent Film. And for that he gets producer credits because he brings young, naive filmmakers into his office – script-in-hand, work already done – and convinces them that he's the smartest guy in film today. Well, Ted, that might work on naive first time filmmakers, but REAL filmmakers know all about your hypocrisy. Further to that, let's see the list of filmmakers who've succeeded and returned to you to do all of that hard producing work you keep talking about. What work? Your thoughts are scattered and your mission is all over the map.

    I know many filmmakers who crawled up the ranks to make a name for themselves. Was it easy? No. Was it an addiction? Of course! Anyone who's ever succeeded at anything has had to focus incessantly on achieving their goals. This industry is, has been and always will be brutal. Is that because “the man” doesn't want audiences to see thought-provoking movies or is it because most of these movies simply don't have an audience? Furthermore, would someone please tell me the cultural significance of films like “Super” and “Adventureland”? Why are these films more important culturally than anything else that's on the market? Because TED SAYS SO? BS! Who appointed Ted Hope the king of independent film? One guess: Ted Hope did. He's self-appointed.

    One post you're not going to see is the one from the filmmaker who ACTUALLY worked their ass off to make it in this business, succeeded and now agrees with this scattershot philosophy. That said, I'm sure there'll be plenty of pissed off, ne'er-do-well “producers” who'll jump right on this defeatist bandwagon because things haven't worked out for them either. Here's my counter-philosophy:

    Dear filmmakers: Going to film brunches, getting “active” in the festival circuit and blogging about why movies suck is NOT FILMMAKING. Filmmaking is filmmaking. Everything else is just talking. So stop talking about why the world has treated you so unfairly and go make your film, or feel free to quit and move onto something that requires a little less spine.

    Yours truly, someone who earned it.

    • explodedview

      You're saying Hope conned young, naive filmmakers like Inarritu, Solondz, Lee, Burns and so on? None of these directors and their fellow producers were wise enough to catch on to Hope's ruse? And he did this 70 some odd times?? Astonishing.

      • GimmeABreakTedHope

        1) Inarritu: 21 Grams was his first critically acclaimed film. His next film “Babel” and all films thereafter, new producers.
        2) Berman and Pulcini: American Splendor was their first critically acclaimed film, The Nanny Diaries and all films thereafter, new producers
        3) Jesse Peretz: The Ex was his first critically acclaimed feature, Our Idiot Brother and all others thereafter, new producers
        4) Todd Field: In The Bedroom was his first critically acclaimed feature, Little Children and all films thereafter, new producers
        5) Ang Lee was always only there for Schamus. Once Schamus left Hope…SO DID LEE!

        • explodedview

          Ah! I see, so because a director did other films with other producers, the previous producer — in this case, Ted Hope — did not actually produce those films. Looks we have a lot of work to do…60 some-odd other films of Hope's to de-bunk and the thousands of films where directors worked with other producers! Thank God you caught this.

          PS. May I recommend to you the apparently NOT critically acclaimed “Amores Perros”?

          • GimmeABreakTedHope

            Please tell me about your personal experience working with Ted. I'd love to hear it because I actually speak to filmmakers and I actually make films. If what you do is take a pile of credits as the gospel then you are just as naive as the rest.