If you’ve ever wondered just what it is an Executive Producer does, or maybe you’ve heard the ambient soundscape of Tangerine Dream in an 80’s film favourite without knowing who you were listening to, this is the list for you!
Here are the letters A-E…
American Movie is the title of an award-winning 1999 documentary which follows the exploits of wannabe auteur Mark Borchardt as he attempts to pull together the funds to make his long-cherished feature film, “the great American movie” Northwestern.
Borchardt (with best friend and acid/booze casualty Mark Schank in tow) embarks on the making of a low-budget horror short named Coven (with often hilarious results) in the hopes of raising the capital for his dream project. This production soldiers on as Mark struggles to maintain a balance in the real world – he is way behind on maintenance for his three kids (from a past relationship), doesn’t hold down any regular employment, and still owes a large amount of money to his once-encouraging family.
American Movie was a critical success upon its debut and went on to win the Grand Jury prize for Best Documentary at the Sundance Film Festival. Borchardt has yet to make his magnum opus.
Black List (The). Not to be confused with the politically-charged blacklist a number of figures from the US entertainment industry found themselves on during the 1940’s and 50’s, this one is an annual list of Hollywood’s most-admired unproduced screenplays, published each year on the second Friday of December.
Compiled by film executive Franklin Leonard, it began in 2004 as a survey with contributions from 75 film studio and production company executives. In 2009, over 300 executives gave their opinion and thoughts on that year’s entries.
Over the course of seven years, a number of screenplays which have cropped up on the list have been optioned, produced, and released – many to great commercial success, including the Oscar-winning Juno by Diablo Cody and Lars and the Real Girl by Nancy Oliver. Current titles from the list in production are Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter and The Wizard of Oz reworking, Oz the Great and Powerful.
Chungking Express (1994) is a Hong Kong feature written and directed by Wong Kar-wai. The film is made up of two narratives, each concerning a Hong Kong policeman and his relationship with a woman. The first features Takeshi Kaneshiro and Brigitte Lin and the second stars Ka-Wai veteran Tony Leung, Faye Wong and Valerie Chow.
Wong Kar-wai is renowned for his expressionistic and often breath-taking imagery and lyrical beauty, achieved (in part) by a highly successful and collaborative relationship with Australian-born cinematographer Christopher Doyle, who has worked on the majority of his films. Chungking Express is no exception, and the vibrant Hong Kong city culture is captured here in all its bustling and exotic beauty. Be warned however – if you’re not a fan of 60’s classic California Dreamin’ stay away. It’s played almost constantly throughout!
This was the first film of the director’s to really reach an international audience, and in 1996, the film was release theatrically in the US under Kar-wai fan Quentin Tarantino’s (now defunct) distribution company under Miramax, Rolling Thunder.
Donald Cammell (1934 – 1996) was a Scottish-born director who came to prominence in 1968 when he co-directed the cult classic Performance alongside Nicolas Roeg. Throughout his almost thirty-year career, Cammell made only four films, and his second feature (1977’s sci-hi horror Demon Seed) was released almost a decade after his debut. His lack of productivity didn’t stop him becoming a cult figure in the industry however, where his bold and unconventional approach to narrative and content (his underappreciated serial killer thriller White of the Eye is another example of his unique viewpoint) found many admirers.
1995’s Wild Side was wrestled away from him in the edit by the producers, who had hoped for a more straightforward erotic thriller (had they not seen any of his previous work?!) This situation caused Cammell great distress and he ultimately committed suicide because of it. A happy ending of sorts came about when FilmFour commissioned a new edit of the film a few year later, which attempted to restore the late director’s original vision.
A novel called Fan-Tan he co-created with the equally-eccentric Marlon Brando in 1978, was published posthumously in 2005.
Executive Producer is the title given to someone who is generally not involved in any technical aspects of the filmmaking process, but who may still have a hand in the overall production, possibly in dealing with the business and legal issues side.
Sometimes the title is more arbitrary in nature, and actors and directors can receive the credit in instances like bringing the property to the attention of a studio/other director, or by spending some time developing it themselves, before moving on elsewhere. Darren Aronofsky is a recent example of being credited in this role for The Fighter, a film he toyed with making (even bringing in another creative team) before settling on The Wrestler.
A number of popular family favourites from the 80’s and 90’s bore the mark of Steven Spielberg as Executive Producer. These films were made through his production company (Amblin), although in this case, it’s likely Spielberg would have been on hand to offer creative advice and support alongside the other aspects of production.
Check back tomorrow for the next installment of the HeyUGuys A-Z.