THR's Producer Roundtable: 7 Behind-the-Scenes Players on Saying No to Directors, What to Do When Studios Kill Projects

 Jessica Chou

Letty Aronson, Tim Bevan, Jim Burke, Chris Columbus, Michael De Luca, Kathleen Kennedy and Bill Pohlad explain how movies really get made.

THR: Has that come up with Lincoln, the Spielberg film you're shooting now?

Kennedy: The logistics of Lincoln are pretty straightforward. We do have one specific issue, which is we're getting access to a lot of government buildings. Because government is out of session, in Richmond, Virginia, they turned over everything to us. That creates constraints, meaning we can shoot for X number of weeks, but we can't go back. So that makes for a very efficient process.

THR: If you sat with a group of students, what would you say is the most important thing about being a great producer?

Chris Columbus: Certainly, I had to forget that I wasn't [directing The Help]. I had promised [DreamWorks'] Stacey Snider and Steven Spielberg that I would be on the set every day, and that was terrifying. I had to learn how to really be a diplomatic, caring producer. I had to learn to respect all those guys who used be hovering over my shoulder when I was directing.

THR: Do you regret anything on that film?

Columbus: I regret a couple of conversations that I had early on where I felt like I came on really strong with [director] Tate Taylor, who knew absolutely what he was doing. This was early on in the screen test, and I was a little harsh in an e-mail, and I still feel bad about that.

THR: Bill, What was the most surprising thing about working with Terrence Malick?

Bill Pohlad: I thought there would be a lot of tension, and there actually wasn't. It was very relaxed and very easygoing. The challenges mostly came in post [production]. In actual production, Terry is very flexible. You give him the parameters and he lives within the parameters.

THR: The golden rule of Hollywood is, you don't spend your own money -- but you did on Tree of Life. Why?

Pohlad: This one was special because I had been working with Terry for so long and I really believed in it. We decided to roll the dice, so to speak. I wouldn't want to do that too often, and I don't, but in that case it seemed worthwhile to do it. I knew that this movie probably wouldn't get made in the way that it was intended to be made without somebody doing something like that.

THR: Would you spend your own money again?

Pohlad: Yes, judiciously. (Laughter.)


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