Vachon produces a real-life page turner
Vachon produces a real-life page turnerNEW YORK -- It's hard to know how Christine Vachon does it. Surely it's not easy being the mother of a 7-year-old daughter, producing four films in the summer alone (including longtime collaborator Todd Haynes' star-filled Bob Dylan-inspired epic "I'm Not There") and promoting her new autobiography with a title that sums up her attempt to juggle it all: "A Killer Life: How an Independent Film Producer Survives Deals and Disasters in Hollywood and Beyond."
She has been working this hard for more than two decades and there still is much on the horizon at her Killer Films, which she leads with partners Pamela Koffler and Katie Roumel and primary funding from John Wells. Her upcoming projects include Julian Schnabel's "The Lonely Doll," a biopic of children's author Dare Wright; an adaptation of Brad Land's college hazing memoir "Goat"; and Helen Hunt's directorial debut, "Then She Found Me," in which the actress will play a school teacher.
In her book, indie film guru John Pierson, top film execs like Bob Berney and directors including Mark Romanek and John Cameron Mitchell have contributed odes to her perseverance. Even former Focus Features co-president David Linde added a few pages, despite a section where Vachon details her grudge over his company's "Far From Heaven" Oscar campaign.
"In a business filled with narcissistic, deceitful misanthropes, Christine is the antidote: a truthful voice driven by pure passion for film," says longtime collaborator and producer Ted Hope, who will be interviewing Vachon on Oct. 19 at the Hamptons International Film Festival.
Vachon's tough, no-nonsense style even has inspired grudging respect from those she has battled, including Harvey Weinstein with whom she argued over the final cut of Haynes' "Velvet Goldmine."
"I feel like on every movie, Killer Films has to be ruthless," she says. "But to me, ruthlessness implies one goal above all others, though, and usually in the kind of movies we make it's a lot more complicated than that. It's about protecting the filmmakers' vision but also massaging the talent, making sure the financiers are happy ..."
Despite her reputation, Vachon bends over backward to be diplomatic in her book, and often withholds names to protect the not so innocent. "A lot of people are surprised by how it's sort of a tell-all, but not in a way that exacts revenge," she says, yet jokes that "my last book will be posthumous."
Vachon worked on "Killer Life" with co-writer Austin Bunn for about three years. "I don't think either of us expected us to be such a long, drawn-out process, but just as we were about to conclude it something else would come up," she says. "Otherwise, it would have encompassed the shooting of Todd's movie, the release of Tommy O'Haver's 'An American Crime' and (Tom Kalin's true crime tale) 'Savage Grace.' There was just too much." She did manage to include a chapter expressing her understandable dismay over producing the second Truman Capote biopic, Douglas McGrath's "Infamous."
The book follows how Vachon's expertise has grown with the industry. "There's a lot more equity financiers who are funding at every single level," she says. "I know a lot more about how to mix foreign financing, soft money or German funds with equity and our distributors than I ever thought I would need to know."
"I'm Not There" came together this way after many stops and starts. "It was just a million different pieces and very hard to keep it all on track," she says. "Now everything's fine." But when asked what advice she would give to aspiring producers, her game face disappears. "Don't do it," she sighs.