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The Art of the Possible
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On Thursday, October 14, the PGA East Seminars Committee presented Roland Tec’s The Art of the Possible, sponsored by HSBC Bank. The panelists, producers Dolly Hall, Peter Saraf and Eric Steel, addressed a producers’ conundrum — how many variables must be in place before a project can be green-lit. These seasoned independent producers shared specific examples of crucial elements that were and were not in place when the decision was made to go ahead.


Left to right: Eric Steel*, Roland Tec*, Peter Saraf*, Dolly Hall, Seminars
Committee Co-chair Diane Houslin* (*PGA Member)
Moderator Roland Tec began by sharing his very first experience as a producer, working out of his apartment. "In 1996 I was in pre-production on my first feature film, which I was writing, directing, and producing. I had never done
a feature film and we didn’t have the money for post but once we were shooting, this Australian man appeared who had started a post-production company and had read a little blurb in the newspaper about us. He told us, ‘I want some free publicity for my new start-up post facility, so I’m going to donate all the post to you guys.’ This is what happens. You can’t predict where everything’s going to go or who’s going to be waiting around the next corner. Sometimes you take a chance and it pays off.”

In response to the question, "What is the hardest element to have missing when you begin production?” Dolly did not have to think long for an answer: "All the money,” she responded. "You know, I think that as I’ve gotten older and wiser and meaner, it just gets harder to start the movie without all the money. You have to know yourself really well. How much stress can you take? Can you go to bed at night and know that you don’t have all the money? I don’t recommend doing it on more than one movie at the same time, which unfortunately, I’ve also done. One at a time is really plenty.”

Peter Saraf was emphatic that the script is the most important element to have completed when starting production. "The worst feeling and the worst outcome is when you start shooting before the script is done. You might think it’s good enough, but that’s just you telling yourself it’s really not ready. That it could use more work. There is nothing more important than the script. It’s the foundation on which everything is built. While a great script will come to life on set with great actors and a great director, a script that is ‘good enough’ is not going to get better. It’s just going to
make everyone’s job harder.”

Eric Steel responded to a query on networking from an audience member, "I don’t think there really is a ‘network.’ You have to be almost as creative in thinking of where the money is coming from as you do in terms of where the project comes from. I’m working on a movie now—it’s a documentary that has a lot to do with fl y-fi shing. I tell you, I’m going to a lot of dinners where I’m eating a lot of salmon.”

By Jacob Hentoff
Photo by
Catrin Hedström