When it comes to movies, most of us "pay no attention to the man behind the curtain." We follow the stars and often directors, but rarely does the producer of a film get to be in the spotlight.
But in many ways, the producer of a film is the one person most central to the creation— from choosing a screenplay, to hiring key personnel, to facilitating the millions of details large and small required to successfully coordinate a large number of creatives and technicians. Behind the scenes is a fascinating world where creativity, skill, structure and logistics all must work together to create the finished product. As an artist who's interested in how things are done, I've long wanted to see what I could learn from a film producer that might also apply to making and promoting other forms of art.
Dean Zanuck was the perfect guy to ask. With deep experience in both the studio system and the independent space, I felt that Dean gave a much more complete picture of the realities, process and passion of producing a major film. As the third generation of one of Hollywood's most successful and well know families, he grew up within the traditional Hollywood system, eventually working 13 years as Vice-President of Development at The Zanuck Company. But for his most recent film, Get Low, Dean chose to make his own name as an independent producer working without the net that a studio provides— the "army and infrastructure of people that deal with the nooks and crannies, all the trench-work and heavy-lifting."
We also talked about Dean's focus on original stories and narrative, and the idea of producing a career in the arts as though it were a Hollywood film.