Sony’s Doug Belgrad, and Matt Tolmach (Producer) Grilled

Tolmach: “Over time I felt the pull to be more involved creatively in movies and less in 8 to 10 meetings a day”

Last Updated: October 29, 2010 @ 4:34 PM

Doug Belgrad and Matt Tolmach spoke to TheWrap about the transition announced Friday by Sony Pictures Entertainment. Belgrad becomes sole president of Columbia Pictures, while Tolmach becomes a producer on the lot. They got grilled by Sharon Waxman.

(To Matt) You wanted this change?
Matt – Everyone is asking this question. It’s something I frankly have been talking about on and off for better part of year and  a half. I proposed a hiatus to make a documentary. They laughed at me and told me I wasn’t allowed to do that, lovingly.

I love this job, I’ve been in this job a long time. Over time I felt the pull to be more involved creatively in movies and less in 8 to 10 meetings a day. I’m 46 years old, I wanted to make a change. But always in the context of doing it here for Amy, Doug and Michael.

How has the job been divided, and Doug, how will you adjust?
Doug – When we were given the job by Amy (Pascal) in 2003 it was a natural evolution of our work together as executives. We have a similar creative sensibility and have shared taste. But we had separate relationships. Outwardly facing, I covered one group of people, Matt covered another group of people.

Speaking to the transition, Matt and I feel we have a powerful partnership and this was something I wanted to uspport him in. I want to make sure he’s supplying the studio with good movies.

So now a sensitive question: is Matt joining the Spider-Man producing team because Laura Ziskin is sick?
Matt – Laura Ziskin is the strongest person I know. She battled it (cancer) before, and I’m completely confident she’ll do the same thing again. It was always contemplated that I’d join them. It’s a perfect way for me to kick off my producing career. But it wasn’t that thing that you’re referring to. That is something we’ll all deal with.

And tell us about the promotion of Hannah Minghella?
Doug – She’s fantastic. She’s already demonstrated to the creative community how great she is. I had chance to work with her when she first came to the company and worked on 'Casino Royale.'

She’s reinvigorated the animation group, has a crystal clear creative point of view. She’s a great advocate of material, a great advocate of people – capable of getting the job done. I saw her step into that role and work with Bob Osher to run that (animation) company.

We have a great team here, and we’ve a real run of success. Bringing Hannah back, rather than someone outside the company makes for a seamless transition.

Can we expect other kinds of movies going forward?
Doug – Our slate mix has been evolving over time to meet the needs in marketplace. Matt, Amy and I worked really hard to make sure we had the right tentpoles, but also made movies under $40 million that could go the distance – a dozen movies in that price range that grossed 3 times their negative cost.

We’ll still be taking that approach, and recognize that the marketplace has real challenges. With the video market declining, there seems to be an emphasis on originality and quality in marketplace. We have to continue to make movies like The Social Network, that have commercial appeal and stand out as unique.

We want a mix of original great stuff and presold, high quality beloved stuff as well.