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

 Jessica Chou

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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