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Winners: 2017 Producers Guild Awards

Posted By Administration, Sunday, January 29, 2017
Updated: Friday, February 10, 2017

- Complete results from the evening will be posted here (winners posted in full bold).

The Darryl F. Zanuck Award for Outstanding Producer of Theatrical Motion Pictures:

• Arrival
Producers: Dan Levine, Shawn Levy, Aaron Ryder, David Linde

• Deadpool
Producers: Simon Kinberg, Ryan Reynolds, Lauren Shuler Donner

• Fences
Producers: Scott Rudin, Denzel Washington, Todd Black

• Hacksaw Ridge
Producers: Bill Mechanic, David Permut

• Hell or High Water
Producers: Carla Hacken, Julie Yorn

• Hidden Figures
Producers: Donna Gigliotti, Peter Chernin & Jenno Topping, Pharrell Williams, Theodore Melfi


• La La Land
Producers: Fred Berger, Jordan Horowitz, Marc Platt


• Lion
Producers: Emile Sherman & Iain Canning, Angie Fielder

• Manchester By the Sea
Producers: Matt Damon, Kimberly Steward, Chris Moore, Lauren Beck, Kevin Walsh

• Moonlight
Producers: Adele Romanski, Dede Gardner & Jeremy Kleiner



The Award for Outstanding Producer of Animated Theatrical Motion Pictures:

• Finding Dory
Producer: Lindsey Collins

• Kubo and the Two Strings
Producers: Arianne Sutner, Travis Knight

• Moana
Producer: Osnat Shurer

• The Secret Life of Pets
Producers: Chris Meledandri, Janet Healy


• Zootopia
Producer: Clark Spencer



The Award for Outstanding Producer of Documentary Theatrical Motion Pictures:

• Dancer
Producer: Gabrielle Tana

• The Eagle Huntress
Producers: Stacey Reiss, Otto Bell

• Life, Animated
Producers: Julie Goldman, Roger Ross Williams


• O.J.: Made in America
Producers: Ezra Edelman, Caroline Waterlow

• Tower
Producers: Keith Maitland, Susan Thomson, Megan Gilbride



The television nominees are:

The David L. Wolper Award for Outstanding Producer of Long-Form Television:

*The Long-Form Television category encompasses both movies of the week and mini-series.

• Black Mirror (Season 3)
Producers: Annabel Jones, Charlie Brooker
 
• The Night Manager (Season 1)
Producers: Simon Cornwell, Stephen Garrett, Stephen Cornwell, Hugh Laurie, Tom Hiddleston, Susanne Bier, David Farr, John le Carré, William D. Johnson, Alexei Boltho, Rob Bullock

• The Night Of
Producers: Steven Zaillian, Richard Price, Jane Tranter, Garrett Basch, Scott Ferguson


• The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story (Season 1)
Producers: Scott Alexander, Larry Karaszewski, Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk, Nina Jacobson, Brad Simpson, D.V. DeVincentis, Anthony Hemingway, Alexis Martin Woodall, John Travolta, Chip Vucelich


• Sherlock: The Abominable Bride
Producers: Mark Gatiss, Steven Moffat, Sue Vertue, Beryl Vertue



The Award for Outstanding Sports Program:

 * The PGA does not vet the individual of sports programs and the winning production will be recognized at the official ceremony on January 28th.

• E:60 (2016)

• The Fight Game with Jim Lampley: A Tribute to Muhammad Ali

• Hard Knocks: Training Camp with the Los Angeles Rams (Season 11)

• Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel (Season 22) (TIE)


• VICE World of Sports (Season 1) (TIE)


The Award for Outstanding Digital Series:

* The PGA does not vet the individual producers of digital series and the winning production will be recognized at the official ceremony on January 28th.

• 30 for 30 Shorts (Season 5)

• Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee (Season 7, Season 8)

• Epic Rap Battles of History (Season 5)

• Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: ACADEMY (Season 1)

• National Endowment for the Arts: United States of Arts



The Norman Felton Award for Outstanding Producer of Episodic Television, Drama:

• Better Call Saul (Season 2)
Producers: Vince Gilligan, Peter Gould, Melissa Bernstein, Mark Johnson, Thomas Schnauz, Gennifer Hutchison, Nina Jack, Robin Sweet, Diane Mercer, Bob Odenkirk 

• Game of Thrones (Season 6)
Producers: David Benioff, D.B. Weiss, Bernadette Caulfield, Frank Doelger, Carolyn Strauss, Bryan Cogman, Lisa McAtackney, Chris Newman, Greg Spence

• House of Cards (Season 4)
Producers: Beau Willimon, Dana Brunetti, Michael Dobbs, Josh Donen, David Fincher, Eric Roth, Kevin Spacey, Robin Wright, John Mankiewicz, Robert Zotnowski, Jay Carson, Frank Pugliese, Boris Malden, Hameed Shaukat


• Stranger Things (Season 1)
Producers: Matt Duffer, Ross Duffer, Shawn Levy, Dan Cohen, Iain Paterson


• Westworld (Season 1)
Producers: J.J. Abrams, Jonathan Nolan, Lisa Joy, Bryan Burk, Athena Wickham, Kathy Lingg, Richard J. Lewis, Roberto Patino, Katherine Lingenfelter, Cherylanne Martin



The Danny Thomas Award for Outstanding Producer of Episodic Television, Comedy:

• Atlanta (Season 1)
Producers: Donald Glover, Dianne McGunigle, Paul Simms, Hiro Murai, Alex Orr


• black-ish (Season 2)
Producers: Kenya Barris, Jonathan Groff, Anthony Anderson, Laurence Fishburne, Helen Sugland, E. Brian Dobbins, Vijal Patel, Gail Lerner, Corey Nickerson, Courtney Lilly, Lindsey Shockley, Peter Saji, Jenifer Rice-Genzuk Henry, Hale Rothstein, Michael Petok, Yvette Lee Bowser

• Modern Family (Season 7)
Producers: Steven Levitan, Christopher Lloyd, Paul Corrigan, Abraham Higginbotham, Elaine Ko, Jeff Morton, Jeffrey Richman, Brad Walsh, Danny Zuker, Vali Chandrasekaran, Andy Gordon, Vanessa McCarthy, Jon Pollack, Chuck Tatham, Chris Smirnoff, Sally Young

 Silicon Valley (Season 3)
Producers: Mike Judge, Alec Berg, Jim Kleverweis, Clay Tarver, Dan O'Keefe, Michael Rotenberg, Tom Lassally, John Levenstein, Ron Weiner, Carrie Kemper, Adam Countee

• Veep (Season 5)
Producers: David Mandel, Frank Rich, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Lew Morton, Morgan Sackett, Sean Gray, Peter Huyck, Alex Gregory, Jim Margolis, Georgia Pritchett, Will Smith, Chris Addison, Rachel Axler, David Hyman, Erik Kenward, Billy Kimball, Steve Koren



The Award for Outstanding Producer of Non-Fiction Television:

• 30 for 30 (Season 7)
Producers: Connor Schell, John Dahl, Libby Geist, Bill Simmons, Erin Leyden, Gentry Kirby, Andrew Billman, Marquis Daisy, Deirdre Fenton

• 60 Minutes (Season 48, Season 49)
Producers: Jeff Fager

• Anthony Bourdain Parts Unknown (Season 5-8)
Producers: Anthony Bourdain, Christopher Collins, Lydia Tenaglia, Sandra Zweig

• Hamilton's America
Producers: Alex Horwitz, Nicole Pusateri, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Jeffrey Seller, Dave Sirulnick, Jon Kamen, Justin Wilkes


• Making a Murderer (Season 1)
Producers: Laura Ricciardi, Moira Demos



The Award for Outstanding Producer of Competition Television:

• The Amazing Race (Season 27, Season 28)
Producers: Jerry Bruckheimer, Bertram van Munster, Jonathan Littman, Elise Doganieri, Mark Vertullo

• American Ninja Warrior (Season 7, Season 8)
Producers: Arthur Smith, Kent Weed, Anthony Storm, Brian Richardson, Kristen Stabile, David Markus, J.D. Pruess, D. Max Poris, Zayna Abi-Hashim, Royce Toni, John, Gunn, Matt Silverberg, Briana Vowels, Mason Funk, Jonathan Provost

• Lip Sync Battle (Season 1, Season 2)
Producers: Casey Patterson, Jay Peterson, John Krasinski, Stephen Merchant, Leah Gonzalez, Genna Gintzig, LL Cool J

• Top Chef (Season 13)
Producers: Daniel Cutforth, Jane Lipsitz, Doneen Arquines, Tom Colicchio, Casey Kriley, Padma Lakshmi, Tara Siener, Erica Ross, Patrick Schmedeman, Wade Sheeler, Ellie Carbajal

• The Voice (Season 9-11)
Producers: Audrey Morrissey, Jay Bienstock, Mark Burnett, John de Mol, Chad Hines, Lee Metzger, Kyra Thompson, Mike Yurchuk, Amanda Zucker, Carson Daly



The Award for Outstanding Producer of Live Entertainment & Talk Television:

• Full Frontal with Samantha Bee (Season 1)
Producers: Samantha Bee, Jo Miller, Jason Jones, Tony Hernandez, Miles Kahn, Pat King, Alison Camillo, Kristen Everman


• Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (Season 3)
Producers: Tim Carvell, John Oliver, Liz Stanton


• The Late Late Show with James Corden 
(Season 2)
Producers: Ben Winston, Rob Crabbe, Mike Gibbons, Amy Ozols, Sheila Rogers, Michael Kaplan, Jeff Kopp, James Longman, Josie Cliff, James Corden

• Real Time with Bill Maher (Season 14)
Producers: Bill Maher, Scott Carter, Sheila Griffiths, Marc Gurvitz, Billy Martin, Dean E. Johnsen, Chris Kelly, Matt Wood

• Saturday Night Live (Season 42)
Producers: Lorne Michaels, Steve Higgins, Erik Kenward, Lindsay Shookus, Erin Doyle, Ken Aymong



The Award for Outstanding Children’s Program:

* The PGA does not vet the individual producers of children’s programs and the winning production will be recognized at the official ceremony on January 28th.

 Girl Meets World (Season 2, Season 3)

• Octonauts (Season 4)

• School of Rock (Season 1)


• Sesame Street (Season 46)

• SpongeBob SquarePants (Season 9)




ABOUT THE PRODUCERS GUILD OF AMERICA (PGA)
The Producers Guild of America is the non-profit trade group that represents, protects and promotes the interests of all members of the producing team in film, television and new media. The Producers Guild has more than 7,500 members who work together to protect and improve their careers, the industry and community by providing members with employment opportunities, seeking to expand health benefits, promoting fair and impartial standards for the awarding of producing credits, as well as other education and advocacy efforts such as encouraging sustainable production practices. For more information and the latest updates, please visit Producers Guild of America websites and follow on social media:

Websites: www.producersguild.org, www.pgagreen.org, www.pgadiversity.org
Twitter: @ProducersGuild
Facebook: www.facebook.com/pga
YouTube: www.youtube.com/producersguild
Instagram: www.instagram.com/producersguild
Hashtag: #PGAwards

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All 2017 Producers Guild Awards Nominations

Posted By Administration, Monday, January 23, 2017
Updated: Sunday, January 29, 2017

All 2017 Producers Guild Award winners will be announced on Saturday, January 28, 2017 at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Los Angeles. This year, the Producers Guild will present special honors to Tom Rothman (Milestone Award), James L. Brooks (Norman Lear Achievement Award in Television), Irwin Winkler (David O. Selznick Achievement Award in Theatrical Motion Pictures), the feature film Loving (Stanley Kramer Award), and Megan Ellison (Visionary Award). The 2017 Producers Guild Awards Co-Chairs are Donald De Line and Amy Pascal. Sponsors of this year’s event include: Buick, Official Automotive Partner of the Awards, Delta Air Lines, Official Airline Partner of the PGA and sponsor of the Visionary Award, and Wanda Studios. 

The 2017 Producers Guild Awards motion picture nominations are listed below in alphabetical order by category, along with eligible producers’ names. 


The Darryl F. Zanuck Award for Outstanding Producer of Theatrical Motion Pictures:

Arrival
Producers: Dan Levine, Shawn Levy, Aaron Ryder, David Linde

Deadpool
Producers: Simon Kinberg, Ryan Reynolds, Lauren Shuler Donner

Fences
Producers: Scott Rudin, Denzel Washington, Todd Black

• Hacksaw Ridge
Producers: Bill Mechanic, David Permut

• Hell or High Water
Producers: Carla Hacken, Julie Yorn

• Hidden Figures
Producers: Donna Gigliotti, Peter Chernin & Jenno Topping, Pharrell Williams, Theodore Melfi

• La La Land
Producers: Fred Berger, Jordan Horowitz, Marc Platt

• Lion
Producers: Emile Sherman & Iain Canning, Angie Fielder

• Manchester By the Sea
Producers: Matt Damon, Kimberly Steward, Chris Moore, Lauren Beck, Kevin Walsh

• Moonlight
Producers: Adele Romanski, Dede Gardner & Jeremy Kleiner


The Award for Outstanding Producer of Animated Theatrical Motion Pictures:

• Finding Dory
Producer: Lindsey Collins

• Kubo and the Two Strings
Producers: Arianne Sutner, Travis Knight

Moana
Producer: Osnat Shurer

• The Secret Life of Pets
Producers: Chris Meledandri, Janet Healy


Zootopia
Producer: Clark Spencer


The Award for Outstanding Producer of Documentary Theatrical Motion Pictures:

Dancer
Producer: Gabrielle Tana

• The Eagle Huntress
Producers: Stacey Reiss, Otto Bell

• Life, Animated
Producers: Julie Goldman, Roger Ross Williams

• O.J.: Made in America
Producers: Ezra Edelman, Caroline Waterlow

Tower
Producers: Keith Maitland, Susan Thomson, Megan Gilbride



The television nominees are:

The David L. Wolper Award for Outstanding Producer of Long-Form Television:

*The Long-Form Television category encompasses both movies of the week and mini-series.

Black Mirror (Season 3)
Producers: Annabel Jones, Charlie Brooker
 
The Night Manager (Season 1)
Producers: Simon Cornwell, Stephen Garrett, Stephen Cornwell, Hugh Laurie, Tom Hiddleston, Susanne Bier, David Farr, John le Carré, William D. Johnson, Alexei Boltho, Rob Bullock

• The Night Of
Producers: Steven Zaillian, Richard Price, Jane Tranter, Garrett Basch, Scott Ferguson

The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story (Season 1)
Producers: Scott Alexander, Larry Karaszewski, Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk, Nina Jacobson, Brad Simpson, D.V. DeVincentis, Anthony Hemingway, Alexis Martin Woodall, John Travolta, Chip Vucelich

• Sherlock: The Abominable Bride
Producers: Mark Gatiss, Steven Moffat, Sue Vertue, Beryl Vertue


The Award for Outstanding Sports Program:

 * The PGA does not vet the individual of sports programs and the winning production will be recognized at the official ceremony on January 28th.

E:60 (2016)

• The Fight Game with Jim Lampley: A Tribute to Muhammad Ali

• Hard Knocks: Training Camp with the Los Angeles Rams (Season 11)

• Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel (Season 22)

• VICE World of Sports (Season 1)


The Award for Outstanding Digital Series:

* The PGA does not vet the individual producers of digital series and the winning production will be recognized at the official ceremony on January 28th.

• 30 for 30 Shorts (Season 5)

• Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee (Season 7, Season 8)

• Epic Rap Battles of History (Season 5)

• Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: ACADEMY (Season 1)

• National Endowment for the Arts: United States of Arts


The Norman Felton Award for Outstanding Producer of Episodic Television, Drama:

• Better Call Saul (Season 2)
Producers: Vince Gilligan, Peter Gould, Melissa Bernstein, Mark Johnson, Thomas Schnauz, Gennifer Hutchison, Nina Jack, Robin Sweet, Diane Mercer, Bob Odenkirk 

• Game of Thrones (Season 6)
Producers: David Benioff, D.B. Weiss, Bernadette Caulfield, Frank Doelger, Carolyn Strauss, Bryan Cogman, Lisa McAtackney, Chris Newman, Greg Spence

• House of Cards (Season 4)
Producers: Beau Willimon, Dana Brunetti, Michael Dobbs, Josh Donen, David Fincher, Eric Roth, Kevin Spacey, Robin Wright, John Mankiewicz, Robert Zotnowski, Jay Carson, Frank Pugliese, Boris Malden, Hameed Shaukat

• Stranger Things (Season 1)
Producers: Matt Duffer, Ross Duffer, Shawn Levy, Dan Cohen, Iain Paterson

• Westworld (Season 1)
Producers: J.J. Abrams, Jonathan Nolan, Lisa Joy, Bryan Burk, Athena Wickham, Kathy Lingg, Richard J. Lewis, Roberto Patino, Katherine Lingenfelter, Cherylanne Martin


The Danny Thomas Award for Outstanding Producer of Episodic Television, Comedy:

• Atlanta (Season 1)
Producers: Donald Glover, Dianne McGunigle, Paul Simms, Hiro Murai, Alex Orr

• black-ish (Season 2)
Producers: Kenya Barris, Jonathan Groff, Anthony Anderson, Laurence Fishburne, Helen Sugland, E. Brian Dobbins, Vijal Patel, Gail Lerner, Corey Nickerson, Courtney Lilly, Lindsey Shockley, Peter Saji, Jenifer Rice-Genzuk Henry, Hale Rothstein, Michael Petok, Yvette Lee Bowser

• Modern Family (Season 7)
Producers: Steven Levitan, Christopher Lloyd, Paul Corrigan, Abraham Higginbotham, Elaine Ko, Jeff Morton, Jeffrey Richman, Brad Walsh, Danny Zuker, Vali Chandrasekaran, Andy Gordon, Vanessa McCarthy, Jon Pollack, Chuck Tatham, Chris Smirnoff, Sally Young

Silicon Valley (Season 3)
Producers: Mike Judge, Alec Berg, Jim Kleverweis, Clay Tarver, Dan O'Keefe, Michael Rotenberg, Tom Lassally, John Levenstein, Ron Weiner, Carrie Kemper, Adam Countee

• Veep (Season 5)
Producers: David Mandel, Frank Rich, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Lew Morton, Morgan Sackett, Sean Gray, Peter Huyck, Alex Gregory, Jim Margolis, Georgia Pritchett, Will Smith, Chris Addison, Rachel Axler, David Hyman, Erik Kenward, Billy Kimball, Steve Koren


The Award for Outstanding Producer of Non-Fiction Television:

• 30 for 30 (Season 7)
Producers: Connor Schell, John Dahl, Libby Geist, Bill Simmons, Erin Leyden, Gentry Kirby, Andrew Billman, Marquis Daisy, Deirdre Fenton

• 60 Minutes (Season 48, Season 49)
Producers: Jeff Fager

• Anthony Bourdain Parts Unknown (Season 5-8)
Producers: Anthony Bourdain, Christopher Collins, Lydia Tenaglia, Sandra Zweig

• Hamilton's America
Producers: Alex Horwitz, Nicole Pusateri, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Jeffrey Seller, Dave Sirulnick, Jon Kamen, Justin Wilkes

Making a Murderer (Season 1)
Producers: Laura Ricciardi, Moira Demos


The Award for Outstanding Producer of Competition Television:

• The Amazing Race (Season 27, Season 28)
Producers: Jerry Bruckheimer, Bertram van Munster, Jonathan Littman, Elise Doganieri, Mark Vertullo

• American Ninja Warrior (Season 7, Season 8)
Producers: Arthur Smith, Kent Weed, Anthony Storm, Brian Richardson, Kristen Stabile, David Markus, J.D. Pruess, D. Max Poris, Zayna Abi-Hashim, Royce Toni, John, Gunn, Matt Silverberg, Briana Vowels, Mason Funk, Jonathan Provost

• Lip Sync Battle (Season 1, Season 2)
Producers: Casey Patterson, Jay Peterson, John Krasinski, Stephen Merchant, Leah Gonzalez, Genna Gintzig, LL Cool J

• Top Chef (Season 13)
Producers: Daniel Cutforth, Jane Lipsitz, Doneen Arquines, Tom Colicchio, Casey Kriley, Padma Lakshmi, Tara Siener, Erica Ross, Patrick Schmedeman, Wade Sheeler, Ellie Carbajal


• The Voice (Season 9-11)
Producers: Audrey Morrissey, Jay Bienstock, Mark Burnett, John de Mol, Chad Hines, Lee Metzger, Kyra Thompson, Mike Yurchuk, Amanda Zucker, Carson Daly



The Award for Outstanding Producer of Live Entertainment & Talk Television:

• Full Frontal with Samantha Bee (Season 1)
Producers: Samantha Bee, Jo Miller, Jason Jones, Tony Hernandez, Miles Kahn, Pat King, Alison Camillo, Kristen Everman

• Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (Season 3)
Producers: Tim Carvell, John Oliver, Liz Stanton

• The Late Late Show with James Corden (Season 2)
Producers: Ben Winston, Rob Crabbe, Mike Gibbons, Amy Ozols, Sheila Rogers, Michael Kaplan, Jeff Kopp, James Longman, Josie Cliff, James Corden

• Real Time with Bill Maher (Season 14)
Producers: Bill Maher, Scott Carter, Sheila Griffiths, Marc Gurvitz, Billy Martin, Dean E. Johnsen, Chris Kelly, Matt Wood

• Saturday Night Live (Season 42)
Producers: Lorne Michaels, Steve Higgins, Erik Kenward, Lindsay Shookus, Erin Doyle, Ken Aymong


The Award for Outstanding Children’s Program:

* The PGA does not vet the individual producers of children’s programs and the winning production will be recognized at the official ceremony on January 28th.

Girl Meets World (Season 2, Season 3)

• Octonauts (Season 4)

• School of Rock (Season 1)

• Sesame Street (Season 46)

• SpongeBob SquarePants (Season 9)



For media coverage of the 2017 Producers Guild Awards, a completed press credential application MUST be received no later than Friday, January 13, 2017 for consideration. To request an application, please email Ashley Simon at Ashley.Simon@42West.net. 

All other PGA and Producers Guild Awards media inquiries should be directed to Annalee Paulo at Annalee.Paulo@42West.Net or Lyn Cowan at Lyn.Cowan@42West.net 

ABOUT THE PRODUCERS GUILD OF AMERICA (PGA)
The Producers Guild of America is the non-profit trade group that represents, protects and promotes the interests of all members of the producing team in film, television and new media. The Producers Guild has more than 7,500 members who work together to protect and improve their careers, the industry and community by providing members with employment opportunities, seeking to expand health benefits, promoting fair and impartial standards for the awarding of producing credits, as well as other education and advocacy efforts such as encouraging sustainable production practices. For more information and the latest updates, please visit Producers Guild of America websites and follow on social media:

Websites: www.producersguild.org, www.pgagreen.org, www.pgadiversity.org
Twitter: @ProducersGuild
Facebook: www.facebook.com/pga
YouTube: www.youtube.com/producersguild
Instagram: www.instagram.com/producersguild
Hashtag: #PGAwards

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EASTERN PROMISE - New Outreach To Hollywood - And The Opening Of A Mainland Super Studio - Smooth The Path For Co-Productions In China

Posted By Matt R. Lohr, Tuesday, January 17, 2017

With rising production and marketing costs keeping pace with globalization, international box office is an ever-more-decisive factor in determining a film’s success. In recent years China, home to the world’s largest ticket-buying population, has seen its position as a box-office driver increase dramatically. In 2014, Paramount’s Transformers: Age of Extinction crossed the $1 billion worldwide mark thanks in large part to a record-breaking $300-million-plus haul in China, and earlier this year, Legendary Entertainment’s Warcraft offset an underperforming U.S. take with over $200 million in Chinese earnings. Now China is set to further solidify its place in the global film firmament through a major endeavor designed to encourage and facilitate international co-production on the mainland.

PGA member and President Emeritus Hawk Koch first got a glimpse of China’s potential as a co-production hub in 2009, when he traveled to the country with producer/director Taylor Hackford to scout a then in-development production. “I spent 10 weeks there,” says Koch. “It was like the Wild West. Everybody for the first time was kind of figuring out, wow, we’re gonna make a whole movie in China, and you can’t just go in and say, ‘Well, we’re big Americans, we’re gonna walk in and show them how to make movies.’ That doesn’t work. You have to see and learn from them how they make movies, and hopefully there’s a common ground.”

The Hackford project never came to fruition, but Koch reconnected with China’s emergent co-production potential in 2013, when as president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, he hosted a visit from Chairman Wang Jianlin, founder of Dalian Wanda Group, a multinational real estate and development conglomerate whose holdings include AMC Theaters and, as of last January, Legendary Entertainment, producers of Warcraft. Over lunch during his visit, Chairman Wang told Koch of his plans to build a major movie studio space in China with facilities and amenities capable of hosting multiple major productions. “I said, well, if you’re gonna build a movie studio in China, don’t build it for today,” Koch recalls. “Let me help you get the best production designers and FX supervisors and cinematographers and sound technicians, and build a studio for 2018, not for 2013.”

Later that August, Chairman Wang announced the $10 billion groundbreaking of the Qingdao Movie Metropolis (QMM), a massive development project in the temperate 9-million-strong port city of Qingdao, encompassing state-of-the-art business, residential and entertainment/recreational facilities, all surrounding the new and still-growing Wanda Studios. Koch, who since wrapping up his Academy presidency has joined Wanda as a special advisor to Chairman Wang, feels that the production facilities and amenities Wanda currently offers, and the additional tools forthcoming, are like nothing else available in the country. “We’ve got 15 stages up, with another 15 that’ll be ready at the end of next year. We’ll have both indoor and outdoor marine tanks and the largest soundstage anywhere in Asia—100,000 square feet.” Set construction is already underway on the facility’s existing soundstages for Legendary’s forthcoming sci-fi sequel Pacific Rim: Maelstrom, with more Legendary productions planned to shoot on site in the near future.

Koch’s longtime associate Sarah Platt, a fellow PGA member who is now Wanda’s director of international engagement and outreach, emphasizes that the studio represents just one aspect of the experience Wanda will offer producers. “The Qingdao Movie Metropolis is like an ecosystem that supports filmmakers,” Platt says. “Because five-star hotels and villas and condos will be just over the bridge, you don’t have to worry about turnaround much anymore. There will be international schools and an international hospital as well. As a filmmaker, being away from your family is tough. A lot of people don’t want to go out of town. If they do it, they do it grudgingly. But in this case, you can bring your family, you can enroll your children in school for the year or for six months, and it really provides a unique opportunity for your family to stay together and experience something totally different, while you make your state-of-the-art film.”

The formal international launch of Wanda Studios and the QMM took place on October 17 at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, where Chairman Wang addressed an overflow crowd of Hollywood business notables. In addition to outlining the amenities and facilities available at the Qingdao complex, the Chairman also provided details about another important opportunity Wanda offers to producers looking for co-production possibilities: an incentive program, supporting filmmakers on a first-come, first-served basis, capitalized to provide up to $150 million per year over the next five years, with potential expanded funding to come in the future.

These incentive programs, notes Koch, can be utilized to support any of the three major types of international/Chinese co-productions. “A full co-production, which means Chinese financiers or producers put up some of the money for the film, guarantees your film can be released in China, as long as the Chinese censors have read and signed off on your script and you made the film the script said you were going to make.” (China’s current quota system restricts traditional international film releases to the country’s screens to 34 titles per year.) “If you do it as just an assisted production, with no set level of commitment from a Chinese partner, you’re not guaranteed Chinese release. A full co-production can take between 40% and 45% of the box office out of the country. If it’s an assisted production, you only get 25%.” (The third Chinese production model, an entrusted production, is for Chinese-language films produced with international funds; these films typically play only in Chinese theaters, although some will occasionally travel to countries with large Chinese-speaking populations.)

Koch says that since the announcement of the incentive program, “the phone has been ringing off the hook” with producers eager to pursue this unique-in-the-Chinese-marketplace opportunity. One company that will be utilizing the Wanda incentive program is Arclight Films, a US/Chinese/Australian operation whose past and upcoming titles include a broad range of films in both English and Chinese, released under the company’s Easternlight Films subsidiary. Arclight managing director Gary Hamilton was part of the launch event at LACMA and says Arclight plans to bring three productions to Wanda over the next two years. “I had the pleasure of going to the facility not too long ago,” says Hamilton, “and I was blown away. I’ve never seen anything like it.” He praises the relationship he has thus far enjoyed with the Wanda team. “I find them incredibly helpful. We were flying a director over recently, and it was immediately, ‘What flights do you need booked?’ ‘What hotels?’ They really want to please, they want to go out of their way to make sure it’s going to be very professional. Just about everybody I’ve dealt with at Wanda, they’ve either worked at the studios, or they’re very westernized, so communication is no problem. I think once the studio is fully up and running, it’ll be seamless going there.”

Koch and Platt have prided themselves on preparing Wanda to address any concerns international filmmakers and their productions may bring to the QMM. “I know the previous problems producers would have coming to China,” says Koch, “and I think we’ve solved most of them. We can deal with customs, visas, how to get your money out, and we have a great production services company that will help you.” Platt cites an in-the-works database of locally based non-Asian atmosphere extras, as well as a new short-term, multi-entry work visa known as “Type Z,” which Wanda arranged with the Qingdao government for international crews. “Before now,” explains Platt, “I think an international crew person would only have been able to get a working visa for something like 30 days, and then they have to leave the country and come back and try to renew it. [Type Z is] a 90-day work visa, with an option to extend for another 90 days. And my understanding is that you don’t have to leave to extend it.”

But even with Wanda’s up-to-the-nanosecond production facilities and the various bureaucratic and logistical efforts that have gone into easing the flow of international co-production into the Chinese filmmaking community, Hamilton still cites key intangibles which incoming international producers should be aware of before bringing a project to China. “Unlike a lot of people,” he says, “I’ve been going back and forth to China for many years. And I think some producers are still a little skeptical, because they’ve never been to China and have their preconceptions. But the Chinese, the way they want to absorb and learn about western culture and Hollywood movies, I think is a very positive thing. It’s a very open industry, and from a business standpoint, obviously we’ve seen the Chinese market grow. For an independent producer, it is the Holy Grail to get theatrical release in China, at the scale where you’re talking 3,000 to 5,000 screens. It’s hard to do that in the U.S. as an independent producer. You know, if you get 500 screens you’re doing well.”

Koch notes the quality of a producer’s relationships in China as another key factor for successful co-production. “The Chinese place a tremendous emphasis on trust,” he observes. “They really have to trust you in order for the relationship to work.” He also recounts a recent film viewing experience during his latest visit to the mainland as illustrative of a key point for producers interested in making a run at Chinese box office success. “I went and saw Ang Lee’s new film (Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk) in a Chinese cinema, with the 120 frames per second and the IMAX 3D. And the place was packed with young people, and they applauded at the end. I think as Chairman Wang said at the LACMA event, of course we love all the tentpoles and the big action movies, but he also sees the reversion to really strong storytelling and strong characters. The Chinese audience, of course they’re gonna go see Fast and Furious whatever number it is. But the fact that they were going to see Billy Lynn as well, to me, that’s heartwarming.”

Koch and Hamilton each have one key piece of advice for any producer considering bringing a production to China and hoping to satisfy its viewing audience. And it’s the same piece of advice from both of them. “I think they have to go there first,” says Hamilton, “and really see it for their own eyes. It doesn’t take much to actually talk to a few Chinese people and listen carefully to what they want. The market is very young there. I think the average audience member is like, 23 years old. So when you start talking about going there, I think you really do need to do some homework and get to know the market.”

Koch reiterates Hamilton’s suggestion and reinforces the emerging central role Wanda Studios will play in China’s film future. “Come to Qingdao, and look at it firsthand. If you’ve never been to the moon, it might be a little scary,” he laughs. “But once you’re there you go, ‘Wow, this is amazing.’ I’ve made over 65 movies, in places like Durango, Mexico and Emporia, Kansas. I know what it’s like to go on location and be in someplace where the only thing you’re doing is working, and the rest of the time is really not very fruitful. There’s a lot of culture in Qingdao and in China, and so it’s exciting. We’re not just Hollywood anymore. The world is very small today, and you have a real chance to enjoy your life and make a really good film there.”


- This article originally appears in the December/January 2017 issue of Produced By magazine.

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SPEAKING THE SAME LANGUAGE - A Quartet of PGA Members Comes Together To Produce "Arrival"

Posted By Michael Ventre, Monday, January 9, 2017

Meetings aren’t always fruitful. Sometimes they’re simply opportunities for the parties involved to feel each other out, exchange ideas, chit-chat about current events, complain about traffic, enjoy bottles of water.

Shawn Levy and Dan Levine had a general meeting a while back with writer Eric Heisserer, known for such horror titles as The Thing and Lights Out. It was pleasant enough. They got to know each other. It ended with handshakes. But as Heisserer headed for the door …

“I asked him what he was reading these days,” Levy recalls. “He said, ‘I really like a collection of short stories by Ted Chiang called Stories of Your Life.’”

So naturally Levy and Levine—the producing tandem atop 21 Laps—perked up from that general meeting malaise. They got the book, read it and paid particular attention to one tale, “Story of Your Life,” about a linguist who learns an alien language. What followed is one of those quintessentially Hollywood string of felicitous events that film people gush over at awards season cocktail parties—if the picture is well received, at least.

producers Shawn Levy, Aaron Ryder, and Dan Levine 
en route to Arrival's Venice premiere.

In this case the prognosis is excellent, judging by the reception that the sci-fi drama Arrival has gotten. Directed by Denis Villeneuve and starring Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner and based on the aforementioned source material adapted by Heisserer, Arrival is about a language expert with a tragedy in her recent past, who is summoned when a bunch of mysterious space ships settle at different spots around the globe.

It all started with that general meeting, which set the tone for the high level of communication that developed among all the parties involved.

“We spent two hours with him,” Levine said of the meeting with Heisserer, which occurred about five years ago. “When he mentioned, ‘Story of Your Life,’ it was like a lightning bolt. It was one of the most incredible short stories we had ever read.”

From that point, usually the road to production becomes perilous, because a lot can go wrong. In this case, perhaps because of the admiration of the material by everyone involved, elements fell into place quickly.

The producers learned that the rights to the story were indeed available, but needed to spend some time convincing Chiang that his creation could actually become something Levy described as a “cinematically rich” motion picture before the author would agree to the option.

At the same time they were wooing Chiang, they brought the project to Villeneuve. As a directing entity, he’s been hotter than any sun in any galaxy, with Prisoners and Enemy released in 2013 and last year’s Sicario to his credit, as well as a current gig shooting the long-awaited reboot Blade Runner 2049.

Villeneuve warmed to the project immediately. With all of the principals having the same reaction to the story, momentum came naturally.

Producers Dan Levine and Aaron Ryder (left) confer with 
director Denis Villeneuve on set.

“I think if you ask Denis and my fellow producers, you might get a different answer for each person,” explains Levy, director of family-friendly comedies like the Night at the Museum series. “When you speak to people who have seen the film, it resonates in different ways for different people.

“For me it wasn’t because it’s deeply cerebral or spectacularly visual,” he continues. “For me it’s this core theme that, if you know your love will end in loss, do you choose it anyway? That for me is in the short story and in the screenplay and in Denis’ vision. It’s the first thing that got me kind of vibrating about this material—that fundamentally human question, that fundamentally human capacity, to choose love even if you know it will end in heartbreak. It’s beautiful. It’s resonant. That’s why.”

While the rights were being obtained and Villeneuve’s services were being secured, Levy and Levine partnered with David Linde, now CEO of Participant Media, and Aaron Ryder of FilmNation, and all four producers eventually set up the title with Paramount as distributor.

“It was kind of this fantastic gift that dropped on our desk,” Ryder explains. “I was attracted to it because I don’t think I’ve seen elevated science fiction in a long time. There was an emotional component to this as well. I haven’t really seen anything like it since Contact, which was 20 years ago, or Close Encounters, which was 40 years ago. Those two stood the test of time.”

Linde, formerly CEO of Lava Bear Films, was one of those enraptured from the start. “The script was submitted to us by 21 Laps,” he recalls. “We always felt it was a beautiful piece of material. We began to pursue it as a fellow producer and financier. Lo and behold, some of my best friends at FilmNation were doing the same thing. There was a lot of competition for the title.

“We and FilmNation and 21 Laps decided the best way forward was for us to all work together,” adds Linde. “And that’s what we did.”

Not every three-company collaboration works, but this one did. While having Villeneuve attached as director was considered a godsend, it was also a source of concern. After all, he’s a busy man these days.

The team at La Biennale di Venezia 2016 (from left): producer Aaron Ryder,
cast members Jeremy Renner and amy Adams, producers Shawn Levy, 
Dan Levine and David Linde.

“Our biggest obstacle was having the most prolific director working today,” Ryder elaborates. “He has quietly made five films—none of them small movies— over four years. We had to put the movie together and we cast Amy, but basically we had to put it on hold for the better part of a year to wait for Denis to finish another film. It was daunting to keep our arms locked together and not let the project fall apart. But that spoke to the faith of everyone involved in the project.”

Casting of the leads also came together relatively quickly. Amy Adams was a name that appeared at the top of everyone’s list and not because it was done in alphabetical order.

“Amy played Amelia Earhart in my second movie (Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian),” Levy relates. “She was very, very quickly, if not instantly, at the top of the director’s list as well as the producers’. If the producers are seeing it with Amy and the director is seeing it with Amy, it’s gotta be Amy. She instantly responded to the script and came aboard.”

Adams plays Dr. Louise Banks, who after enduring a personal tragedy early in the story, is recruited by the military to try and communicate with an alien presence that has suddenly visited Earth. Despite the sci-fi trappings, the role emphasized the emotional life of the character.

“Part of her brilliance is that she doesn’t need to go big in order to find power on the screen,” Levy says. “I think this is a tour de force performance of quiet power. Amy’s eyes have a transparency to her feelings that carry the movie. Count the number of closeups—static big closeups. That is the bedrock of the movie. She can do a tremendous amount with simple things.”

The role of Ian Donnelly went to Renner, but that casting was less clear at the beginning.

“We struggled with the Ian role,” Levy recalls. “It never was going to be a big, loud starring role. We needed an actor with intelligence because Ian is a man of science. But we also needed generosity in an actor who could hold the screen with Amy without trying to find moments and make scenes his own. Amy and Jeremy knew each other from American Hustle, and she was a staunch advocate. She felt like he was the guy we were looking for.

“A bonus with Jeremy is that he brings wit and levity to a very serious movie,” Levy continues. “And I think audiences will be grateful for that.”

Producer Aaron Ryder consults with director Denis Villeneuve on set. 

The producers’ close communication in prep led to a blissfully uneventful shoot. “Our biggest challenge, production-wise, was the Hazmat suits,” Levine reports. “They were claustrophobic, hot and heavy, so we had to train our wardrobe team to be like an Indy pit stop crew to get our actors into them fast and, more importantly, out of them at lightning speed. They practiced over and over, and during filming they did an amazing job. They’re the real unsung heroes on the film.”

Arrival may be arriving at the right time. Given the frenetic pace and intensity of the current news cycles, the film represents a rare opportunity to pause and reflect. It works as sci-fi, as mystery, even as a thriller, but above all, it just gets you thinking.

“What’s beautiful about this movie is that it speaks to us and the audience in a myriad of different ways,” Linde shares, “from an incredibly thrilling, beautifully directed film to something that actually speaks to contemporary life in a big way about the necessity for communication and trust. They're pretty powerful messages.

“Denis’ incredible dexterity in mixing big powerful moments with almost incredible subtleties of direction is what makes this movie work,” he continues. “It’s that mixture of a very large canvas with the intimacy of character, especially Amy’s character, that I think is resonating so strongly. Denis is a unbelievable communicator.”

 Dan Levine and Aaron Ryder discuss an upcoming scene with
Amy Adams

Although Villeneuve is a relative newcomer to Hollywood, the four producers—all PGA members—have known each other to varying degrees for many years and are all fans of each other’s work.

“On a project like this, it’s always great to have the PGA at your back,” Levine says. “I’m really proud to be a member. I know Shawn is as well. It’s nice to know in the end you’re recognized by your peers.”

Said Linde, “Being a PGA member is one of the highlights of my career. I have been accused of being a hybrid, in that I enjoy doing many different things. But everything about my career has centered around the production of films by great filmmakers. To be recognized for that by the PGA is a thrilling moment.”

Levy is busy these days with a number of projects, including season two of Stranger Things on Netflix; he and Levine also have this season’s John Hamburg-helmed comedy, Why Him?, starring Bryan Cranston and James Franco. Ryder has the indie drama The Founder, among other titles, in the pipeline. Linde has A Monster Calls coming out at the end of 2016, directed by J.A. Bayona and starring Sigourney Weaver and Felicity Jones.

But right now they’re enjoying the rewards of that rare phenomenon in the movie business whereby the elements fall into place as dreamed—almost a Hollywood script unto itself.

“This is one of our great prides,” Levy smiles. “A classic, homegrown piece of development.”

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DO THE MATH - An Amazing True Story Plus A Dedicated Team Adds Up To "Hidden Figures"

Posted By Justine Neubarth, Tuesday, January 3, 2017

In one of the opening scenes of Fox 2000’s feature Hidden Figures, the camera floats above NASA mathematician Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer) lying on her back and fixing a car on a rural stretch of Virginia road. Even from its first moments, the film, which centers on the true story of three female African American mathematicians at NASA Langley Research Center during the 1960s, embraces women doing hard and sometimes unglamorous work. And it’s this hard work and persistence that Donna Gigliotti—one of Hidden Figures’ producers alongside fellow PGA members Peter Chernin, Jenno Topping and Ted Melfi (as well as non-member Pharell Williams)—sees as both the movie’s central lesson and something that she has embodied in her own career.

Gigliotti, producer of Shakespeare in Love, The Reader and Silver Linings Playbook, discovered the story in the form of a book proposal that landed on her desk in March of 2014. The author, Margot Lee Shetterly, was in the process of writing a nonfiction account of the black female mathematicians at the NASA program in Hampton, Virginia, whose calculations were integral to the space race and John Glenn’s 1962 orbit around the Earth. “I kind of couldn’t get over the fact that this was a true story and I didn’t know anything about it,” Gigliotti shares. “I thought well, this is a movie.” The book, titled Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race, was released in September; the movie will be released on Christmas Day.

From left, producer Donna Gigliotti, Chernin Entertainment exec
Ivana Lombardy, i Am Other exec Mimi Valdez

Hidden Figures follows the trio of Katherine Johnson (Taraji P. Henson), Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer), and Mary Jackson (Janelle Monae), all members of the mostly female pool of human “computers” that NASA used for technical calculations during the space race. A math prodigy and scientific pioneer, Johnson was asked personally by John Glenn to double-check his landing numbers before his launch. Kevin Costner joins the cast as the director of the NASA Space Task Group; Jim Parsons and Kirsten Dunst also co-star.

The film proved a natural fit for Gigliotti, who professes an affinity for strong female characters. As a woman who’s fought for success in a male-dominated field, she found plenty in Hidden Figures to relate to. “A scene that I like tremendously is when Taraji Henson says, ‘I need to be in that room,’ and Jim Parsons says, ‘There’s no protocol for a woman being in the room,’ and Taraji replies, ‘Well, there’s no protocol for sending a man into space, either.’ Those are words that could have come right out of my mouth. Because as a woman in any business, I think making your voice heard is the biggest challenge.”

After reading the 55-page proposal, Gigliotti bought the rights and was on the hunt for a script when she met a young writer named Allison Schroeder. In their initial meeting, Schroeder declared that she “was born to write this script.”

“Now, I have been in the movie business a long time,” smiles Gigliotti. “And when people say that, you kind of roll your eyes at them.” Then Schroeder revealed that her mother, grandmother, and father had all worked at NASA, and Schroeder herself had interned there during summers while studying math and engineering in college. At that point, Gigliotti admits, “She kind of had me.” Once Schroeder had signed on, she and Shetterly—who was in the process of writing the book and is herself the daughter of a NASA Langley scientist—began their exchange of research and ideas.

Gigliotti then partnered up with director Theodore Melfi, who brought with him producers Jenno Topping and Peter Chernin at Fox 2000. Topping and Chernin, who had previously produced Melfi’s theatrical feature debut St. Vincent, were eager to work with him again. “The more you think about it”, says Topping, “the more [this film] makes sense for Ted in terms of his general interest and his oeuvre. He’s a humanist if nothing else.” When Melfi took himself out of the running for the next Spider Man film so that he could make Hidden Figures, Gigliotti was sold. “That kind of commitment and enthusiasm for a project is not something that comes along every day, and you have to acknowledge that that is a very potent motivator, when someone wants to make a movie at that level.”

Pharrell Williams, who joined the project as a producer alongside business partner Mimi Valdes, grew up just a few miles outside of Hampton, Virginia and is a self-professed NASA enthusiast. When he heard about the project, he pursued it “doggedly,” Gigliotti reports. While on a visit to New York, Williams invited Gigliotti to his suite in the Crosby Street Hotel and played her some ‘60s-inspired tracks that he had been working on. When he discovered that he didn’t have a recording of one song he had written, “I sat on the couch and he sang the song to me,” recounts Gigliotti. And so, with a private concert from Pharrell, the final members of the producing team fell into place.

Naturally, Williams took on responsibility for the film’s soundtrack, and brought Hans Zimmer and Ben Wallfisch on for help with the score. “The real, the big huge love affair that nobody knows about on this film is that Pharrell is in love with Hans Zimmer and Hans Zimmer is in love with Pharrell,” laughs Gigliotti. “You’ve never seen two guys riff on one another in the way that they do.”

Also key to his involvement was Williams’ history of advocating for STEM education. Women are rarely portrayed as being employed in STEM fields in popular media; a 2012 study by the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism found that across family films and prime time shows, there was only one female mathematician in over 10,000 characters. “So,” says Melfi, “here we are with a movie that has social and educational relevance for the entertainment industry.”

After Melfi undertook rewrites of portions of the screenplay (he and Schroeder are credited as co-writers), principal photography took place over 43 days in Atlanta. The city was chosen for both the tax incentives it offers, as well as for a few unique locations, including the last remaining full-size wind tunnel on the East Coast and the National Archives building. Given the film’s themes, Gigliotti was particularly sensitive to making sure there was as much gender and ethnic diversity as possible among the crew. “On average, on major motion pictures, approximately 12-15% of the crew is women,” she notes. “On our picture, I am happy to report it was 33% … Women gaffers? They exist. You just have to go and hire them.” 

producer and director Ted Melfi (center) on the set of Hudden Figures with cast members Octavia Spencer (left)
and Taraji P. Henson.

In its depiction of a segregated workplace, Melfi said he wanted to focus on “a different kind of racism that I think is more prevalent today: the everyday slights and the everyday unconscious biases that individuals grapple with.” On top of that, he adds, “The second most important thing to me was to get their home lives right, because we so rarely get to experience in cinema, middle-class African-American lifestyles and households in the 60s.”

But make no mistake, this film is also very much about space travel, culminating in John Glenn’s nail-biting launch in the Friendship 7. And in fact, the biggest difficulty of making the film proved to be “juggling three storylines, thousands of extras and the space race.” Gigliotti, Melfi confirms, was essential to making all of the gears turn. “Donna lived on set. She was the first champion of this movie … and is one of the best producers I’ve ever worked with.”

That support also included making sure that Shetterly provided her counsel during prep and filming. One of the first things Gigliotti asked of Shetterly was that she make all of her research available. Says Melfi, “I spent a lot of time with Margot. She took us on a tour of NASA-Langley when we first met … We kind of fed each other. It just kind of worked that way. She was writing, full-steam ahead, and we were actually shooting.”

The math of the story is incredibly complex, based in PhD-level orbital trajectory calculations. Even though much of it might be incomprehensible to the average viewer, Melfi and Gigliotti were attentive to the calculations seen on-screen and their accuracy. While Gigliotti says she is not a math person (“I went to Sarah Lawrence,” she cracks. “I don’t even know if they have math classes at Sarah Lawrence, in all honesty.”), she and the production team brought on Dr. Rudy Horne of Morehouse College to tutor the cast and crew on set. “Taraji P. Henson, she should be nominated for an Academy Award just because what she is doing on the chalkboard,” says Gigliotti. “Everything that she is doing, she is doing accurately.” Melfi agrees, laughing, “I got way too deep. I know more math now than I ever want to know.”

 Ted Melfi chats with fellow producer Pharrell Williams on the set.

Now that the final mix is complete and the film is set to be released, Gigliotti gets to participate in one of her favorite parts of producing: watching other people watch the film. “The truth is,” she professes with rueful humor, “for producers, you’re blamed if it doesn’t work, and if it does work, everybody else is the genius. So you got to take it where you can get it, and where you can get “it”—the affirmation of the work—is by actually watching audiences respond to the film.” She has already had the privilege of screening the film for the now 98-year-old (and “sharp as a tack”) Katherine Johnson.

“So we’re in Hampton, Virginia,” Gigliotti recounts. “Elizabeth [Adler, of Fox 2000] and I are in the back; Katherine Johnson is in front of us with her two daughters. And Taraji is up on the big screen playing Katherine Johnson. It was a little nerve-wracking, because you really hope that you’ve done a good job. But we did get a big thumbs up from both of her daughters and Katherine.”

Gigliotti estimates that from the moment she read the option to the release of the film, it will be have been two and a half years, which is “mind-boggling. In Hollywood terms, that is lightning speed.” She, Topping and Melfi all agree that there was a real and rare eagerness to get the film done as quickly as possible. “God, this was kind of one of the easiest [films] I’ve ever done,” Topping concurs. “They’re all horrible and this one wasn’t. It was a very happy set, a happy experience. And a great outcome, which is certainly amazing and refreshing.”

The timeliness of the story had a lot to do with it, according to Gigliotti. “I said to Margot originally—because I’d never heard this story and because what’s going on in the world and in the country¬—this is so special. It’s like you’ve captured lightning in a bottle. And anybody who read that script or the book felt exactly the same way: that the time was right. In the words of Martin Luther King, there was the ‘fierce urgency of now.’”

And of course, Hidden Figures is a true American story, one that’s perhaps particularly trenchant in our current moment. Says Melfi, “In my mind, the film is incredibly relevant to what we’re experiencing today. Here we have a time in the nation’s history where black and white, male and female put a man into space. The mission trumped all of the nonsense, trumped all of the racial inequality and the gender inequality. There’s a line in the movie, Kevin Costner says it: ‘We all get there together or we don’t get there at all.’”

Gigliotti echoes that sentiment. “It’s a movie, ultimately, about these women’s contribution to something in American history that was formative in the nation. The entire country—no matter your gender, your race, Democrat, Republican¬—the entire country was about America, and it was about America getting a man in orbital space. Maybe we need to be reminded, as a country, that we can be like that.”

- This article originally appears in the December/January 2017 issue of Produced By magazine.

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