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RISK TAKERS - Dropping The Science: A Smart Story Is A Good Story

Posted By Administration, Monday, April 16, 2018

THOMAS CAMPBELL JACKSON
THINGS IN MOTION PRODUCTIONS
NEW YORK, NY

EXECUTIVE PRODUCER
PARTICLE FEVER
ART AND CRAFT
THE FLY ROOM
CLOSER THAN WE THINK

Every producer has at least one “movie that changed my life.” What’s yours, and why?

Particle Fever was an eye-opener for me, especially with regard to how much impact a well executed—and expertly edited—documentary can have! I can’t tell you how happy it makes me that it has steered many young people into science. That’s really when I got the bug.

Lord knows, there are easier and more reliable ways to make a living than by investing in films. What draws you to film as a business opportunity?

People make a living at this? Seriously, for me, independent film is less of a business and more of an opportunity … for sharing stories, for drawing attention to important topics, for meeting new people and for having fun.

What’s a project you’re excited about backing right now?

Soon after I met Particle Fever director Mark Levinson, we discovered that we shared a passion for Richard Powers’ 1991 novel The Gold Bug Variations. That sprawling work jumps back and forth from the dawn of the DNA era to the cusp of the computer/internet age, with plenty of love, loss and music along the way. We think it lends itself well to film and are very excited about the project.

What are the essential qualities you look for in a producing partner? What flaws are you willing to overlook?

Enthusiasm and originality but also patience and discipline. Transparency and honesty you would hope to be givens, but alas, aren’t always. Unconventional and niche projects don’t faze me.

What material have you seen or read over the past year or so that really connected with you?

It is (mostly) great that there are so many new platforms for film and video content, but the printed word is not dead. The team over at Nautilus magazine is doing a wonderful (and award-winning) job of telling stories powerfully, through a combination of excellent writing, sharp editing and thoughtful, creative illustration. The Bellevue Literary Press is another powerhouse of storytelling. And the spoken word is thriving at The Moth and The Story Collider.

What’s the quickest way to make sure you will NEVER back the script I’m pitching you?

I don’t like to be the sole backer and prefer the creative team to have a meaningful financial stake in the project. I generally steer clear of overly aggressive pitches or those looking for super quick turnaround. Grandiose visions and budgets are certainly red flags.

Given that “Particle Fever – The Musical” is in development, what’s been the biggest challenge of adapting a documentary into a musical?

Several Broadway professionals have said it is a natural candidate for the musical stage, with its compelling personalities, big stakes, dramatic setbacks and exhilarating breakthroughs. Though I imagine they’ll have a heck of a time trying to rhyme words like “Boson,” “Supersymmetry” and “Multiverse.” Choreographing atomic particle collisions might also pose a challenge.

 

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