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Eastwood at PGA event: ‘Material is the Nucleus’

Shares thoughts on selling, producers’ roles and his upcoming Nelson Mandela project.

The star power of Clint Eastwood highlighted the second and final day of the PGA’s Produced By Conference on the Sony lot.


Eastwood appeared with his Malpaso production company partner, Rob Lorenz, and was greeted to enthusiastic standing ovation as he joined a full house in the Cary Grant theater.


During the session, he emphasized that successful work starts and ends with a good story. “Material is the nucleus. Without the material, you are lost.” he said, as he and Lorenz discussed their work, known for a disciplined budget and creative excellence.


Eastwood also discussed selling — admitting that his Academy Award-winning “Million Dollar Baby” was actually a hard sell.


“People didn’t know what to make of a girl boxing story,” he said. “It’s not. It’s a father/daughter love story.”


“You always have to sell, its never an easy process,” he said. “ ‘Gran Torino’ wasn’t a tough sell because we decided to do it reasonably and went to Michigan and used new rebates. ‘Mystic River’ was a hard sell. You just never know how people are going to interpret something.”


As to his next project, “Invictus,” based on the life of former South African president Nelson Mandela and starring Morgan Freeman, Eastwood said: “Warners liked it right away, it was a very easy sell,” he said, added with a laugh, “I hope that isn’t a bad sign.”


During the session, Eastwood also showed his support for the role of producer and proper credit. “Some producers are in name only,” he said. “It agitates me frankly, because I’d like to see the credit go to the person who does the work. … It’s important to the people who did the work.”


Asked about the challenge of getting a “grown up” film made, Eastwood suggested that to some degree it is about seniority. “We have made some successful pictures without catering to the core audiences,” he said. “I don’t what to make pictures for teenagers, although I’d like to see teenagers watch ‘Gran Torino’ and ‘Letters from Iwo Jima.’… But you can’t beg them, you can just do the best you can.”


Looking ahead, he didn’t rule out another Western — if the story was right. “I always felt that ‘Unforgiven’ felt like the last western as a performance. It had a wrap up feeling to it. But I would do another if there was a great script.”


Produced By attracted more than 500 attendees over the course of the two-day event, which combined exhibits with a conference program, held on various stages and theaters on the Sony lot.


Several exhibitors did however comment that attendees generally visited the stands during breaks in the conference, and they would have liked to have more exhibit time where they were not competing with the main program. Lunch was served outdoors, where attendees could sample food from various production catering businesses.



The takeaway from a session on tax incentives: Pay attention to proposed domestic tax incentive legislation this year, particularly as states aim to deal with budget challenges.


One bill discussed during the session was proposed New York Senate Bill 5674, which was described as aiming to add $24 million to its fund but also reducing incentives in the process. The kicker was that it is retroactive for applications filed after Jan. 1, 2009.


“If they can pull the rug out from under us, what certainty do we have that we will see the money?,” asked MaryAnn Hughes, VP Film Production Planning for Walt Disney Pictures. “This may have a chilling feel as if New York can do it, other states can do it.”


Speakers suggested getting a contract if one is tapping tax incentives. Also, producers should determine not just what money is available, but how quickly it can get to the production.


Producers, cinematographers and camera and production equipment vendors packed into the Cary Grant Theater for preview of the much anticipated Camera Assessment Series (CAS), an initiative of the Producers Guild, American Society of Cinematographers and Revelations Entertainment (which funded the project). The ongoing project is a side-by-side assessment of the current generation of HD digital motion picture cameras and one 35mm camera.



Sunday’s schedule also included a trip down Wisteria Lane.


“Desperate Housewives” creator and executive producer Marc Cherry related that “Desperate Housewives” was conceived when Cherry was with his mother, watching news about the trial of Andrea Yates, the Texas woman who killed her five children. “I remember saying ‘Can you image a woman being so desperate?’ and my mom said ‘I’ve been there.’ I knew I had latched onto something. I think that is the cornerstone of every hit show — something that appeals to a wide variety of people.”


He emphasized that for a successful show: “Make sure the person that you are working with has a vision, and if they don’t, help them get one.” For “Housewives,” he said casting for his dark comedy meant that the actors had to be able to do both comedy and drama. 


Cherry quipped that despite her aid, his mother did not get a stake in his hit show, saying “That’s show biz.”