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STEPHANIE ALLAIN - She Is A Powerhouse Producer And Guiding Force In The PGA

Posted By Peggy Jo Abraham, Wednesday, February 12, 2020

When your first movie is the incredibly well-received Boyz n the Hood and now you’re producing the Academy Awards, it’s absolutely clear you are doing something right. Producer Stephanie Allain and her Homegrown Pictures are in this enviable position, after much hard work and dedication to a vision. Her award-winning films have repeatedly pushed the envelope in terms of social issues, race relations and politics.

Diversity is not just a buzzword for Allain—it’s a commitment to inclusivity. She is drawn to stories (Dear White People, Hustle & Flow) about those who are underrepresented—women, people of color, LGBTQ, people with disabilities. The filmmaker pursues this goal, not only through her work on screen but within the organizations she supports, the positions she volunteers for and the people she champions. Allain lives in a world where “art meets idealism, activism and purpose.” It’s a rich, creative environment, one that keeps her busy and always pushing forward.

We have another great reason for celebrating this talented lady. Allain is an active, devoted member of the PGA, who serves on our National Board of Directors. She sets a wonderful example for both veterans and new members of the Guild. Her energy, passion and expertise are always a welcome addition to any project, meeting or event.

If that’s not enough talent wrapped in one package, consider this: The New Orleans native, who comes from a long line of strong Creole women, can cook up a mean batch of gumbo or red beans and rice. Add to the mix two children who are in the movie business and working with her on projects, a stepdaughter who is a photographer and a first grandchild on the way. Yes, life is sweet for this hardworking producer who is more than ready to meet the next decade with an abundance of ideas and energy. Allain’s enthusiasm is apparent in the lively images we captured at one of her favorite haunts—The Underground Museum in the LA neighborhood of Arlington Heights.


You began your career as a script reader. What was the most valuable part of that in preparing you to be a producer?

It was an incredibly valuable experience. I started as a book reader at CAA. After reading the latest manuscript in galley form, I’d bang out a synopsis, then write a paragraph of comments. I must have covered hundreds of books and scripts. By mastering coverage, I taught myself to succinctly pitch the movie, recap the major bones of the story, think about character development and make a decision in terms of “Can this translate to the screen?” These are the tools I use every day as a producer—evaluating material and articulating what works and what doesn’t. And that’s what my reading work taught me.

                 

What a great way to start. Then you rose through the ranks to become a studio executive. Does that kind of path actually exist anymore for people starting out in the business?

Absolutely. There will always be readers because almost every project starts with a written document. But today I think there are even more opportunities, because the tools of filmmaking are more readily available. To be a director back in the day you had to be able to afford a camera, you had to be able to afford film, and you had to be able to process that film. You also had to rent a flatbed editing system that you could run that film through. That’s all changed. You can make a film on your iPhone. The path I took was focused on story. When I realized that was a pathway to having more say in what was getting made, I thought, “Okay, I want that job.” And luckily I was working for two women—Amy Pascal and Dawn Steel. Their recognition of my talent and their literally promoting me from the trailer—where all the readers worked—to the big house, was invaluable in my being able to ascend.

 

What do you think are the biggest challenges facing female producers today?

I don’t think of a producer as gender specific. Definition of a producer is someone who makes sh*t happen. It’s more about your passion, your ability to convince everybody to come onboard this thing that isn’t quite real yet and guide that process. A lot of people say that women tend to be more nurturing in the job. Sure, that could be true. But there’s many who approach it from a different point of view. The job is so difficult and so all-encompassing, because it touches every aspect of the film, that whoever is producing, she/he/they/whoever, takes on the mantle of the leader and that has no gender.

 

You’ve been credited with launching the careers of some major talents. John Singleton and Robert Rodriguez come to mind. What difficulties did you face when you began championing them, or did you not face difficulties?

When I was trying to replace myself in the story department with a person of color, I heard John Singleton was looking for a job and that he was a writer, so I read his script. There was no difficulty. In fact, quite the opposite. It was like “Aha! This is what I’m supposed to be doing!” I’m uniquely positioned to champion this film and this filmmaker. I went to high school in Inglewood. I knew these kids growing up. I just felt passionately that I could, with a first-person point of view, get it right. So for me, it wasn’t hard. It was just exciting that I found this gem, and I wanted to share it with the world and what are the steps to get it there. It was so satisfying for my first movie to be Boyz n the Hood, and then we’re on the carpet at Cannes and there’s a 20-minute standing ovation. And beyond all of that, kids are not killing each other in drive-by shootings as much because they’ve seen their own reflection.

 

It sounds like it reaffirmed your career path, proved you were on the right track.

Absolutely. The only thing that matters is, “Do you believe in it?” If so, then you just know what to do. Craig Brewer (Hustle & Flow) and I used to say we’re in “the flow of grace” because we’ve chosen to make this happen. And that creates all this other energy and draws other people in. So it’s a joy when you find something you’re passionate about. And it takes a long time because those quickened-heartbeat reads don’t happen very often. When they do, you know you’ve got to jump on it.    

 

Selfie on the set of the TV movie Crushed with Stephanie Allain,
Regina Hall, Tina Gordon (taking picture), Rachel Polan, Bashir Salahuddin

You’ve had such a broad career path, everything from Boyz n the Hood to The Muppets. Do you have a favorite genre or type of story that usually grabs you first?

I do. It’s anything that reaffirms our higher nature. That can come in different forms. In Hustle & Flow, I had to explain to a lot of people the reason I wanted to make a movie about pimps and hos was that this pimp wanted to be a better person. Even he had the need to aspire to do something special with his life, to contribute a verse. I found that profound because no matter who you are, there’s this innate human desire to create something beautiful and if you step into that power, anything can happen.

 

So there is a common thread running through your work?

Yes, I would call it “humanism.” It’s stories about us; stories about women because we’re underrepresented, stories about people of color because we’re underrepresented, LGBTQ, less-abled people. Everybody needs to have that feeling of seeing themselves on screen and being validated by that representation. Until we get to that point, we’ll always be “othered.” When you see a story like Boyz n the Hood on the big screen and you realize these are just kids trying to negotiate their teen years, given the circumstances that they have, you realize, it’s a global human experience. And I think that’s exactly where art meets idealism and activism and purpose. That gives the work meaning. It’s not just a job.

 

And that’s a road you want to be on.

That’s the road I’ve walked. And, by the way, it’s not the easiest road to walk. It’s only easy because the joy is there. But the money is not always there. The hustle is real. At times I wish I cared more about money, but ultimately it’s how you spend your time doing what you love to do and if you can make that float you financially. So I’ve always really just believed in living within my means, because it gives you the freedom to take chances.  Famously, I sold my house to make Hustle & Flow.

 

What’s the biggest change you’d like to see in Hollywood?

Gatekeepers at the studios need to be inclusive and representative. It’s rare you see more than one or two people of color in those rooms. That has to change because you connect with what you know. So if you don’t have enough people at the table that have a wide variety of experiences, you’re going to keep getting the same story. This also applies to critics. If you’re in a position to judge or ratify something for inclusion in mainstream culture, that’s a huge responsibility. So we need more eyes on the prize.

 

You were the director of the Los Angeles Film Festival for five years. What enticed you to take that on, and what were some of the rewards?

I was on the board of Film Independent at the time. We lost our director and because I’m always talking about gatekeepers and making sure there’s people of color at the table, I raised my hand. Live event producing was not what I was accustomed to. There is no “take two,” so the stakes are very high, but it’s very exciting. Once I took the job, I realized that the festival should represent the mission of Film Independent—to diversify the industry and to amplify voices that had been underrepresented.

 

How did you do that?

By hiring staff who believed in the mission. We systematically redid the festival in a way that allowed for those voices to be heard. We were the first festival to ask, “How many of the films are directed by women?” What we said is, “Let’s create a basket of all the films we think are amazing, that are all directed by women, and let’s choose 10 from that basket. Then let’s make a basket of filmmakers of color and let’s choose 10.” That’s how you can get the best of this, the best of that. Not just the best, because that has no real meaning. Inclusion doesn’t just happen. Up until a few years ago, that was sort of the thing—just let it happen naturally. It doesn’t. You have to make an effort. You have to have a plan.

 

Now you’re producing the Academy Awards. So first of all, congratulations.

Thank you!

 

How does one start that process? 

It’s a collaboration with Lynette Howell Taylor, whose career I’ve long admired. We didn’t know each other before this, but we’ve had so many similar instincts, which is great. I’m looking forward to marshaling everything I’ve ever learned as a producer and bringing my A-game to the show. It’s a privilege to celebrate the year in film by producing the biggest night in television! So it’s thrilling. And very secretive!

 

This is the fourth and final season of Dear White People. What’s been the most significant feedback from that series?

I think the most important thing is that Justin Simien’s voice has been amplified. He is a singular talent. He embraces his point of view, which is both intellectual and soapy, gay and straight, male and female. I can’t think of anybody else who can present multiple points of view with integrity. When we made the movie, we knew the ensemble nature would lend itself to television, and we’re all so thrilled that Netflix stepped up and really supported the show. During this turbulent political time, DWP has been a touchstone for young people sorting through the anxiety, the tension and the racial animosity—things we really didn’t think were going to be on our plate.

 

What projects do you have coming up?

After producing independent films over the past few years (French Dirty, Burning Sands, Juanita, The Weekend), I’m focusing on larger studio films. Adam Countee wrote an incredible script about Shirley Chisholm’s 1972 run for the Presidency called The Fighting Shirley Chisholm. Justin Simien is directing Rapper’s Delight. It’s the story of Sylvia Robinson, who recorded the first rap record and changed the game forever. She had the foresight to say, “This sound, which we’ve never heard before, the scratching and the rapping, needs to go on vinyl.” I’m partnered with the legendary Paula Wagner and Robert Kraft on that one. My TV business is also picking up. So the year 2020  promises to be a great one.

Allain with sons Wade Allain-Marcus and Jesse Allain-Marcus at the world premiere of their film French Dirty


It’s such an amazing time to be creating content.

Yes. We’re in a renaissance. Everyone I know is working. You can’t even find a black female director who’s not working now. That’s real progress. Now what we have to do is make sure that we’re not the only ones progressing, but our Latinx brothers and sisters, who outpopulate us, especially in California, have these same opportunities. And, of course, we need more gender parity. Across the board.

 

One last thing. You are so active in the Producers Guild. You’re on the National Board of Directors and have participated as a speaker at our Produced By LA Conference. Why is that important to you?

I’m active in the Producers Guild because I’m a producer who cares about the value of producers in films and television. Also, unlike the Writers Guild or the Directors Guild, we’re not a union, so there’s a long way to go. But in the meantime, I want to be part of the energy moving toward producers getting the respect we deserve. I divide my pro bono work between the PGA, the Academy, Women In Film and ReFrame. The truth of the matter is, service is so rewarding. Giving and serving in whatever capacity rewards you in ways you can’t even begin to imagine: the satisfaction of seeing incremental change, the satisfaction of seeing young people get to the next level, the satisfaction of seeing the Academy become more inclusive. That’s the good work. And the upside is, you’re among the high end of your peers and other like-minded individuals who believe in service, and then other good things happen. So yes, I will definitely be a part of giving back for as long as I can.


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Beating The Odds - A Leading Actor With Down Syndrome And First-Time Directors Guide 'The Peanut Butter Falcon' To Success

Posted By Tom Hymes, Thursday, February 6, 2020

The independently produced film The Peanut Butter Falcon was released last August and became a sleeper hit by the end of the year. It amassed box office receipts in excess of $20 million to become one of the most successful independent films of 2019. To say the movie’s journey from concept to screen was fraught with challenges is to define the state of most indie movies, if not all movies. But in this case the challenges—first-time writer-directors, a tight budget and shooting schedule, and a lead with Down syndrome—were so baked into the making of the film that they eventually came to explain, if not define, its success.

Making the movie was a transformative experience for Tim Zajaros of Armory Films and Albert Berger of Bona Fide Productions, two of six producers attached to the project, along with directors Tyler Nilson and Michael Schwartz. Starring Shia LaBeouf and Dakota Johnson, the movie’s titular character is played by Zack Gottsagen, a 30-something actor with Down syndrome, who is making his feature film debut. The screenplay was written specifically for Gottsagen.

“It all started with Zack,” recalls Zajaros. “The story of this film is that Tyler and Mike met Zack at an arts camp, while helping disabled actors and other people wanting to make films or art achieve their dreams. They learned he’d wanted to be an actor all his life, and they wrote this movie for him to star in.” That is the short version. The longer version tells the story of the special sauce that went into making The Peanut Butter Falcon.

“When Zack told the directors how he wanted to be a movie star, Mike and Tyler were honest with him at first,” explains Zajaros, who also has a cameo in the film. ‘We don't really have any connections,’ they told him, ‘and the reality is that it’s a tough business as it is, and the chances of somebody with Down syndrome ever getting the opportunity to be a lead in a movie is slim to none.’ Zack just sat for a second, thought about it and finally said, ‘Well, why don't you guys write it and direct it, and I’ll star in it?’ And being the great guys that they are, they just kind of looked at each other and said, ‘You know what, let’s do that.’”

That decision—as well as the decision to make a proof-of-concept short with Gottsagen in character—set the stage for everything to come, including cementing the directors to the project, along with their script and their star. It led to a production dynamic in which life and art would intertwine inextricably by creating a sense of community inseparable from the story itself.

“The sense of family on the set was on another level,” says Zajaros. “I mean, everybody. I don't even know where you start with the credit. With the script, I suppose, because that’s what brought us all together … and Zack. Every shooting day we would all go to dinner, cast included. There would be 10 or 12 of us, and that just doesn’t happen.”

Directors Tyler Nilson and Michael Schwartz confer on a shot on the set of The Peanut Butter Falcon
-photograph by Seth F. Johnson

The script itself incorporated elements from Gottsagen’s life, including his interest in wrestling, his passionate desire to do what he wants to do and his frustrations at any limitations imposed on him because of his disability. The movie is an adventure story featuring a young man with Down syndrome who runs away from the nursing home where he lives to chase his dream of becoming a professional wrestler. A small-town outlaw, played by LaBeouf, becomes his unlikely coach and ally. Johnson’s character, a kind nursing home employee with a story of her own, joins them on their journey. Their Huckleberry Finn-like adventure involves a raft with a pole and achingly gorgeous vistas representing the Outer Banks of Northern Carolina, although the movie was actually shot around Savannah, Georgia. A bevy of veteran character actors, including Bruce Dern, Thomas Haden Church and John Hawkes, anchor the film.

According to Berger, it was a spirit of generosity unique to this project that allowed the producers to stretch their modest $6 million budget to include such a stellar cast and uber-competent crew. In fact, it was the commitment of one cast member in particular that really made the difference. “Shia was a producer’s best friend on this movie because he did it for love. He did not do it for money,” explains Berger. “It allowed us to make deals with everybody else. That’s why you have the cast you have, because normally a guy like Shia would eat up all the money for the movie. But he didn’t. He did it for love, and then he had such a commitment throughout the whole movie.” Zajaros adds, “It was also because his commitment to Zack is real.”

Indeed, as explained by the producers, Gottsagen’s enthusiasm and honesty were in many ways the glue that bound everyone to the project and made the working atmosphere unlike any they had experienced before. For LaBeouf, his relationship with Gottsagen is there on the screen for all to see and appreciate. Without that bond, the movie would simply not work, and out of it came screen moments of unusual and quiet intensity.

“Shia is like an on-the-field coach in a way,” says Berger. “So you had Mike and Tyler, who knew Zack inside out and wrote this for him and had a real rapport with him, and then you had Shia right there, kind of reacting to whatever Zack would do and helping that process. Dakota also had a very strong relationship with Zack, so it formed a strong core.” Working with the actors required special patience, he adds. “Zack does not say the same thing the same way twice exactly, and neither does Shia, in a very different way. You have an actor like Shia who is all about honesty and finding it in the moment, and you have Zack.” Zajaros points out the combination is powerful, explaining, “Shia had a great partner in Zack because Zack isn’t anything but truth.”

The connection extended off the set as well. “Shia had an episode where he had something that kind of turned his whole life around on this movie,” says Berger. “There was a scene where he was supposed to drink, and he drank, and it carried on into the evening, and he ended up in jail. Out of that—and it’s been very well reported—came his whole dynamic with Zack and the disappointment Zack felt and how much he was depending on Shia. I think that not only turned Shia’s life around but resulted in Honey Boy. “It’s brilliant,” Berger says of LeBeouf’s performance in Honey Boy, “and I would say the only other thing that rivals it is his performance in our movie. I mean, these are monumental back-to-back performances.” 

Producer Tim Zajaros (pointing) of Armory Films on set.
-Photo by Seth F. Johnson

Producer Albert Berger of Bona Fide Productions with Zack Gottsagen,
star of
The Peanut Butter Falcon
-Photo by David Thies

Overcoming challenges was the story of this movie’s journey, because nothing about getting it from A to Z was easy. “We thought the movie was great and we believed in it, but we could not find a festival to take it,” says Berger. “We could not find a distributor to distribute it. And finally, after getting turned down by all the major festivals, we got into South by Southwest, where we won the Audience Award. Out of that festival, we were able to engage with a great distributor, Roadside Entertainment, but still Chris [Lemole] and Tim [Zajaros] and their company, Armory Films, supplied a lot of the money to release the film. Because of them, this movie could be everything it needed to be.” It was, adds Zajaros, an “extraordinarily hard shoot.”         

“I worked harder on this than I have on maybe any other movie, and everybody says the same,” concurs Berger. “It’s important for the PGA audience to understand this because the PGA does a great job in determining who should get credit and who actually did the work as producers. But it’s very important to also understand that sometimes it takes a group and sometimes that entire group contributes. And when that happens, everybody needs to be recognized.”

Continuing an industry trend, several production companies were attached to the Peanut Butter project, raising the question of how so many people with different ideas about what a film should be can come together to agree on a strong singular vision.

“This [subject] is very important to me, because sometimes Ron [Yerxa] and I are the only producers on a movie,” says Berger, whose credits number around 30 and include Cold Mountain, Little Miss Sunshine and Nebraska. “And sometimes you’re brought together with this new group, and you’ve got to figure it out as you go. Somebody at the PGA screening said, ‘How is it possible that six people all have the PGA mark?’ The simple fact is that if everybody is there for the right reason, and you put your ego aside, you figure out a way to work together where everybody functions to the best of their capability. They don’t jump out of their lane, and they figure out what’s best for the movie. That happened on Little Miss Sunshine and it happened on this one. I think it’s very important that people figure out how to work together in the best interests of the movie, and I’m very proud that our group was able to figure that out.”

“I agree,” responds Zajaros, whose 16 producing credits include Mudbound and Arctic. “It was film first for everybody. Egos were thrown out the door. Sure, I’ve been on movies where people have producer credits, but really didn’t do much and maybe shouldn’t have gotten that credit. But literally every producer on this movie brought something very important to the shoot.”

In the end, the filmmakers expressed a deep satisfaction with the experience of making this movie, combined with a slightly bittersweet sense of what could have been. “It’s run its course,” Berger says of the film’s theatrical run, which topped out at about 1,600 screens. “Now the DVD is on iTunes, and it’s really got a great life. Of course, the difference between now and when Little Miss Sunshine was made [in 2006] is that it’s much harder to get people into the theater, particularly for an independent film. People will go to the theater to see Batman, they’ll go to see Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood, they’ll go to see the Marvel movie, but now streaming has taken over the whole province of film.

You know,” he adds after a moment’s thought, “Roadside did a magnificent job with this movie, but you have to wonder, if a big studio had really gotten behind it, the opportunities would have been limitless. This movie connects with people, and when a movie connects with people it doesn’t matter if it’s a $100 million Marvel movie or a $4 or $5 million movie.”

For Zajaros, producing the film brought many exhilarating moments that he savors. “The feeling I got from this movie—and I don’t want this to sound arrogant because it was our movie—but it’s why I got in the business. There are not that many movies that make me feel like that anymore.”

The word-of-mouth hit continues to soar. Gottsagen received the Rising Star Award at the 2020 Palm Springs International Film Festival. He was also the subject of a December Los Angeles Times profile with the headline, “Zack Gottsagen has Down syndrome. And a movie role. And a best bud named Shia LaBeouf.” This momentum is not lost on the producers, whose hope is that the buoyant flight of The Peanut Butter Falcon is a sign that Hollywood is serious about embracing diversity in front of and behind the camera.

“Storytelling is coming back, and what is changing now is new voices and diversity and people being able to finally tell their own story,” says Berger. “I think we are to some degree participating in that because of Zack and because Mike and Tyler saw this opportunity to work with him to tell a story that he would be comfortable with and would be able to deliver on, and I think the next frontier is Zack telling his own stories. That’s where it really starts to get exciting.”


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Producers Guild Awards Winners and First-Ever Red Carpet Live Stream

Posted By Administration, Friday, January 17, 2020

The 31st annual Producers Guild Awards take place January 18, 2020 at the Hollywood Palladium in Los Angeles, CA.  One of the awards season's marquee events, the Producers Guild Awards celebrates the fine producing work of the year, and gives the Guild an opportunity to honor some of the living legends who have shaped our profession.  In addition to the competitive categories the Guild will present special honors to powerhouse producers and leaders who have left their indelible mark on the entertainment industry. The 2020 honorees include Ted Sarandos (Milestone Award); Brad Pitt, Dede Gardner and Jeremy Kleiner of Plan B (David O. Selznick Achievement Award in Theatrical Motion Pictures); Marta Kauffman (Norman Lear Achievement Award in Television); Octavia Spencer (Visionary Award); and the Lionsgate film Bombshell (The Stanley Kramer Award).

Throughout the night, the winners will be updated below in bold.  You can also follow the action on social media with #PGAAwards.  

The 2020 Producers Guild Awards also marks the first-ever live stream of the red carpet.  You can watch the live stream starting at 6:30pm exclusively on Entertainment Tonight's youtube channel:



 

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

      1917

      Producers: Sam Mendes, Pippa Harris, Jayne‐Ann Tenggren, Callum McDougall

      Ford v Ferrari

      Producers: Peter Chernin & Jenno Topping, James Mangold

      The Irishman

      Producers: Jane Rosenthal & Robert De Niro, Emma Tillinger Koskoff & Martin Scorsese

      Jojo Rabbit

      Producers: Carthew Neal, Taika Waititi, Chelsea Winstanley

      Joker

      Producers: Todd Phillips & Bradley Cooper, Emma Tillinger Koskoff

      Knives Out

      Producers: Rian Johnson, Ram Bergman

      Little Women

      Producer: Amy Pascal

      Marriage Story

      Producers: Noah Baumbach, David Heyman

      Once Upon a Time in… Hollywood

      Producers: David Heyman, Shannon McIntosh, Quentin Tarantino

      Parasite

      Producers: Kwak Sin Ae, Bong Joon Ho

 

The Award for Outstanding Producer of Animated Theatrical Motion Pictures

      Abominable

      Producer: Suzanne Buirgy

      Frozen II

      Producer: Peter Del Vecho

      How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World

      Producers: Bradford Lewis, Bonnie Arnold

      Missing Link

      Producers: Arianne Sutner, Travis Knight

      Toy Story 4

      Producers: Mark Nielsen, Jonas Rivera

 

The Norman Felton Award for Outstanding Producer of Episodic Television - Drama

      Big Little Lies (Season 2)

      Producers: David E. Kelley, Jean‐Marc Vallée, Andrea Arnold, Reese Witherspoon, Bruna Papandrea, Nicole Kidman, Per Saari, Gregg Fienberg, Nathan Ross, David Auge, Lauren Neustadter, Liane Moriarty

      The Crown (Season 3)

      Producers: Peter Morgan, Suzanne Mackie, Stephen Daldry, Andy Harries, Benjamin Caron, Matthew Byam Shaw, Robert Fox, Michael Casey, Andy Stebbing, Martin Harrison, Oona O Beirn

      Game of Thrones (Season 8)

      Producers: David Benioff, D.B. Weiss, Carolyn Strauss, Bernadette Caulfield, Frank Doelger, David Nutter, Miguel Sapochnik, Bryan Cogman, Chris Newman, Greg Spence, Lisa McAtackney, Duncan Muggoch

      Succession (Season 2)

      Producers: Jesse Armstrong, Adam McKay, Will Ferrell, Frank Rich, Kevin Messick, Mark Mylod, Jane Tranter, Tony Roche, Scott Ferguson, Jon Brown, Georgia Pritchett, Will Tracy, Jonathan Glatzer, Dara Schnapper, Gabrielle Mahon, Lucy Prebble

      Watchmen (Season 1)

      Producers:Damon Lindelof, Tom Spezialy, Nicole Kassell, Stephen Williams, Joseph E. Iberti, Ron Schmidt, Lila Byock, Nick Cuse, Christal Henry, Karen Wacker, John Blair, Carly Wray

 

The Danny Thomas Award for Outstanding Producer of Episodic Television - Comedy

      Barry (Season 2)

      Producers: Alec Berg, Bill Hader, Aida Rodgers, Liz Sarnoff, Emily Heller, Julie Camino, Jason Kim

      Fleabag (Season 2)

      Producers: Phoebe Waller‐Bridge, Harry Bradbeer, Lydia Hampson, Harry Williams, Jack Williams, Joe Lewis, Sarah Hammond

      The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (Season 3)

      Producers: Amy Sherman‐Palladino, Daniel Palladino, Dhana Gilbert, Matthew Shapiro, Daniel Goldfarb, Kate Fodor, Sono Patel

      Schitt’s Creek (Season 5)

      Producers: Eugene Levy, Daniel Levy, Andrew Barnsley, Fred Levy, David West Read, Ben Feigin, Michael Short, Rupinder Gill, Colin Brunton

      Veep (Season 7)

      Producers: David Mandel, Frank Rich, Julia Louis‐Dreyfus, Lew Morton, Morgan Sackett, Peter Huyck, Alex Gregory, Jennifer Crittenden, Gabrielle Allan, Billy Kimball, Rachel Axler, Ted Cohen, Ian Maxtone‐Graham, Dan O'Keefe, Steve Hely, David Hyman, Georgia Pritchett, Erik Kenward, Dan Mintz, Doug Smith

 

The David L. Wolper Award for Outstanding Producer of Limited Series Television

      Chernobyl

      Producers: Craig Mazin, Carolyn Strauss, Jane Featherstone, Johan Renck, Chris Fry, Sanne Wohlenberg

      Fosse/Verdon

      Producers: Thomas Kail, Steven Levenson, Lin‐Manuel Miranda, Joel Fields, George Stelzner, Sam Rockwell, Michelle Williams, Tracey Scott Wilson, Charlotte Stoudt, Nicole Fosse, Erica Kay, Kate Sullivan, Brad Carpenter

      True Detective

      Producers:  Nic Pizzolatto, Scott Stephens, Daniel Sackheim, Peter Feldman, Steve Golin, Bard Dorros

      Unbelievable

      Producers:  Susannah Grant, Sarah Timberman, Carl Beverly, Lisa Cholodenko, Ayelet Waldman, Michael Chabon, Katie Couric, Jennifer Schuur, Becky Mode, John Vohlers, Kate DiMento, Chris Leanza

      When They See Us

      Producers: Jeff Skoll, Jonathan King, Jane Rosenthal, Robert De Niro, Berry Welsh, Oprah Winfrey, Ava DuVernay, Amy Kaufman, Robin Swicord

 

The Award for Outstanding Producer of Televised or Streamed Motion Pictures

      American Son

      Producers: Kenny Leon, Kerry Washington, Pilar Savone, Kristin Bernstein

      Apollo: Missions to the Moon

      Producers:  Tom Jennings, David Tillman, Abe Scheuermann, Chris Morcom, Rob Kirk

      Black Mirror: Striking Vipers

      Producers:  Annabel Jones, Charlie Brooker, Kate Glover

      Deadwood: The Movie

      Producers: David Milch, Carolyn Strauss, Gregg Fienberg, Scott Stephens, Daniel Minahan, Ian McShane, Timothy Olyphant, Regina Corrado, Nichole Beattie, Mark Tobey

      El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie

      Producers:  Mark Johnson, Melissa Bernstein, Charles Newirth, Vince Gilligan, Aaron Paul, Diane Mercer

 

The Award for Outstanding Producer of Non-Fiction Television

      30 for 30 (Season 10)

      Producers: Libby Geist, Connor Schell, John Dahl, Rob King, Erin Leyden, Gentry Kirby, Deidre Fenton, Marquis Daisy, Jenna Anthony, Adam Neuhaus

      60 Minutes (Season 51, Season 52)

      Producer: Bill Owens

      Leaving Neverland

      Producer: Dan Reed

      Queer Eye (Season 3, Season 4)

      Producers: David Collins, Michael Williams, Rob Eric, Jennifer Lane, Jordana Hochman, Rachelle Mendez, Mark Bracero

      Surviving R. Kelly (Season 1)

      Producers:  Joel Karsberg, dream hampton, Jesse Daniels, Tamra Simmons, Brie Miranda Bryant, Jessica Everleth, Mary Bissell, Maria Pepin, Charlotte Glover, Allison Brandin, Laura Hoeppner

 

The Award for Outstanding Producer of Live Entertainment & Talk Television

      The Daily Show with Trevor Noah (Season 25)

      Producers:  Trevor Noah, Jennifer Flanz, Jill Katz, Justin Melkmann, Zhubin Parang, Jocelyn Conn, Max Browning, Eric Davies, Pamela DePace, Ramin Hedayati, David Kibuuka, Elise Terrell, Dave Blog, Adam Chodikoff, Jimmy Donn, Jeff Gussow, Kira Klang Hopf, Allison MacDonald, Ryan Middleton

      Dave Chappelle: Sticks & Stones

      Producers:  Dave Chappelle, Stan Lathan, Rikki Hughes, Sina Sadighi

      Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (Season 6)

      Producers:  John Oliver, Tim Carvell, Liz Stanton, Jeremy Tchaban, Christopher Werner, Laura L. Griffin, Kate Mullaney, Matt Passet, Marian Wang, Charles Wilson

      The Late Show with Stephen Colbert (Season 5)

      Producers:  Stephen Colbert, Chris Licht, Tom Purcell, Jon Stewart, Barry Julien, Denise Rehrig, Tanya Michnevich Bracco, Paul Dinello, Matt Lappin, Opus Moreschi, Emily Gertler, Michael Brumm, Bjoern Stejskal, Paige Kendig, Jake Plunkett, Aaron Cohen, Sara Vilkomerson, Adam Wager

      Saturday Night Live (Season 45)

      Producers:  Lorne Michaels, Steve Higgins, Erik Kenward, Lindsay Shookus, Erin Doyle, Tom Broecker, Ken Aymong

 

The Award for Outstanding Producer of Game & Competition Television

      The Amazing Race (Season 31)

      Producers: Jerry Bruckheimer, Bertram van Munster, Jonathan Littman, Elise Doganieri, Mark Vertullo, Phil Keoghan

      The Masked Singer (Season 1)

      Producers: Craig Plestis, Izzie Pick Ibarra, Nikki Varhely-Gillingham, Rosie Seitchik, Stacey Thomas-Muir, Nick Cannon, Ashley Sylvester, Lindsay Tuggle, Pete Cooksley, Chelsea Candelaria, Anne Chanthavong, Zoë Ritchken, Deena Katz, Erin Brady, Jeff Kmiotek, Lexi Shoemaker

      RuPaul’s Drag Race (Season 11)

      Producers: Fenton Bailey, Randy Barbato, Tom Campbell, Mandy Salangsang, RuPaul Charles, Steven Corfe, Bruce McCoy, Michele Mills, Jacqueline Wilson, Thairin Smothers, John Polly, Michelle Visage, Jen Passovoy

      Top Chef (Season 16)

      Producers: Dan Cutforth, Jane Lipsitz, Doneen Arquines, Casey Kriley, Tara Siener, Justin Rae Barnes, Blake Davis, Patrick Schmedeman, Wade Sheeler, Tom Colicchio, Padma Lakshmi, Elida Carbajal Araiza, Brian Fowler, Caitlin Rademaekers, Steve Lichtenstein, Emily Van Bergen

      The Voice (Season 16, Season 17)

      Producers: John de Mol, Mark Burnett, Audrey Morrissey, Stijn Bakkers, Amanda Zucker, Kyra Thompson, Teddy Valenti, Kyley Tucker, Carson Daly

 

The Award for Outstanding Producer of Documentary Motion Picture

●      Advocate

○      Producers: Philippe Bellaiche, Rachel Leah Jones

●      American Factory

○      Producers: Steven Bognar, Julia Reichert, Jeff Reichert

●      Apollo 11

○      Producers: Todd Douglas Miller, Thomas Petersen

●      The Cave

○      Producers: Kirstine Barfod, Sigrid Dyekjaer

●      For Sama

○      Producers: Waas al-Kateab

●      Honeyland

○      Producers: Atanas Georgiev, Ljubomir Stefanov

●     One Child Nation

○      Producers: Christoph Jörg, Julie Goldman, Christopher Clements, Carolyn Hepburn, Nanfu Wang, Jialing Zhan

 

 The following winners were awarded in the previous weeks:

 

The Award for Outstanding Short-Form Program

      Billy on the Street with Billy Eichner

      Born This Way (S5)

      Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee (S11)

      Creating Saturday Night Live (S3)

      Under a Rock with Tig Notaro (S1)

 

The Award for Outstanding Sports Program

      Hard Knocks: Training Camp with the Oakland Raiders (S14)

      Lindsey Vonn: The Final Season

      Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel (S25)

      SportsCenter with Scott Van Pelt (S5)

      What's My Name | Muhammad Ali

 

The Award for Outstanding Children's Program

      Carmen Sandiego (S1, S2)

      Green Eggs and Ham (S1)

      Jim Henson's The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance (S1)

      A Series of Unfortunate Events (S3)

      Sesame Street (S49)


The PGA Innovation Award

      20,000 Leagues Under the Sea: An Interactive Adventure

      Artificial

      Black Mirror: Bandersnatch

      Bonfire

      Cosmos Within Us

      Eleven Eleven

      First Man VR

      How to Train Your Dragon: Fly with Toothless VR

      How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World Virtual Tour

      Interactive Play at Sesame Street Land, SeaWorld, Orlando

      Mesmerica

      Tree VR

      Vader Immortal: A Star Wars VR Series - Episode I

      You vs. Wild

 

Suzanne Todd is the Executive Producer of the 2020 Producers Guild Awards. Sponsors include: Chevrolet, Official Automotive Partner; Delta, Official Airline Partner and sponsor of the Visionary Award; GreenSlate, PGA annual partner and Cocktail Reception sponsor; and William Grant & Sons spirits.


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Beyond 'Blood Diamond' - How Social Impact Campaigns Add Lasting Value To Productions

Posted By Bonnie Abaunza, Thursday, January 16, 2020

The civil war in Sierra Leone began in 1991 and lasted 11 years. It claimed the lives of more than 50,000 people. When it began, diamonds mined in the strongholds controlled by a rebel group, the Revolutionary United Front, were sold to finance the war effort or traded for weapons and military training. Journalists and human rights activists on the ground raised the alarm and alerted the international community about the sale of these “conflict diamonds,” or “blood diamonds,” as they came to be known. But it wasn’t until the 2006 feature film, Blood Diamond, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, that the public learned the term and the role that diamonds played in the devastating civil war.

The film’s impact campaign, spearheaded by Global Witness and Amnesty International, helped to educate the global community about blood diamonds, as well as the Kimberley Process used to certify conflict-free diamonds, the complicit role of some international jewelry companies, and the specific actions that individuals could take to be responsible, conscious consumers of diamonds. Global Witness and Amnesty International mobilized their members to spread the word about the film.

Thirteen years after the movie’s release, jewelers still promote to customers that their diamonds are certified conflict-free. Like blood diamonds, the terms blood minerals, blood chocolate and blood gold are now also part of the progressive vernacular, in large part due to the film and impact campaign. Blood Diamond has been integrated into the curricula in high schools and college courses, and is referenced by organizations in international human rights legal cases. Numerous other documentaries focusing on conflict minerals and gold have modeled their social impact campaigns after Blood Diamond.

 

The Value of Social Impact Campaigns

In the most widely used structure of social impact campaigns, organizations partner with studios and filmmakers on projects that can be mutually beneficial: the films help raise awareness with the theatergoing public about the issues these organizations confront, and in turn, organizations help mobilize their millions of members to support the film during its theatrical release. The NGOs also provide a “seal of approval” about the film’s accuracy and help generate stories in both mainstream and nontraditional press about the film partnership. The same model of cooperation has been used for documentaries, TV series, streaming and other media.

When Jeff Skoll started Participant Media as a company with the double mission of producing socially relevant films that also had impact campaigns, the company set a high bar and firmly established the landscape of social impact entertainment. Campaigns for films and documentaries like An Inconvenient Truth, FOOD, Inc., and most recently, Roma, helped drive audiences to theaters and inspired people to take actions that led to tangible changes.

Some films have had lasting social impact long after theatrical release or broadcast and are still being used by organizations, educational institutions and community-based groups. An Inconvenient Truth continues to energize people to engage on the issue of climate change, Blackfish assisted the animal rights movement in compelling Sea World to end its captive orca breeding program and phase out its orca shows, and Super Size Me and FOOD, Inc. led to changes in the fast-food industry. The documentary The Hunting Ground continues to be screened by colleges as part of their Title IX commitments to combatting campus sexual assaults. The music video for the Oscar-nominated song “Til It Happens to You,” written by Diane Warren and Lady Gaga, was an initiative of the film’s social impact campaign. It has been viewed more than 47 million times, and the Sexual Assault Hotline number included at the end of the video resulted in an increase of 34% in calls during the first 48 hours after the video premiered. The music video is still being viewed, and survivors of sexual assault continue to call the hotline.

 

Developing and Executing Impact Campaigns

Social impact campaigns bring together filmmakers, production companies and distributors with nonprofit organizations, think tanks and foundations. Collaboration is vital from the beginning. It is also critically important to define initiatives, metrics and goals in partnership with the people doing the work on the ground, on the policy side, and in agencies that have the power to effect change. Working with organizations helps filmmakers analyze issues from different perspectives. NGOs have credible experts who understand the complexity of the issues in the films and provide valuable insights.

Building a strong coalition behind a movie takes time, partly because securing NGO support requires many levels of approval. This is one reason why it is essential to give social impact campaigns a long runway. It allows the impact campaign team to see the film far enough in advance to start partner outreach, develop a strategy with initiatives and goals, and execute the campaign.

In terms of budgets, a social impact campaign for a studio feature film averages around $300,000; documentaries and independent films between $75,000, and $150,000, depending on length of campaign (6–18 months), number of initiatives, and domestic and international events. Filmmakers and distributors should consider the fact that campaigns can bring numerous additional benefits to a film’s release and can create value long past theatrical and into other platforms.

American Factory directors/producers Steven Bogner and Julie Reichert with President and Mrs. Obama

 

Delivering the Message

Filmmakers sometimes express concern that an impact campaign will politicize their film or will cause the public to perceive the film as a “message” movie that will lecture rather than entertain. In general, documentaries lend themselves to hard-hitting messages while some feature films benefit from a more nuanced “Trojan horse” approach to implementing a campaign. In both cases, the campaigns should complement the marketing and advertising for the film, and should be aligned with the goal of driving box office attendance or drawing viewers to broadcasts or streaming services. The organizations and groups supporting the impact campaigns are a built-in audience that can be mobilized to turn out for the films and to be active partners in promoting them through social media.

 

Current Campaigns

Two critically acclaimed Netflix documentaries have robust campaigns in progress:  Knock Down the House and American Factory.

Knock Down the House, produced by PGA members Regina K. Scully and Stephanie Soechtig, follows four extraordinary women—Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Amy Vilela, Cori Bush and Paula Jean Swearengin—as they take on the congressional establishment by mounting grassroots campaigns and building a movement during a time of historic volatility in American politics. Knock Down the House’s campaign focuses on the importance of civic engagement, voting, and inspiring young girls and women to pursue elected office.

The outreach initiative has formed partnerships and alliances with a broad base of nonpartisan organizations, community groups and schools. To date, there have been 400-plus high school, college and community-based screenings, and more than 40 nongovernmental organizations are supporting and promoting the documentary.

American Factory, presented by Higher Ground Productions and Participant Media, is the first title from President and Mrs. Obama’s production company. It documents the revitalization of a factory in Dayton, Ohio, and provides a startling glimpse into the global economic realignment playing out in cities across the country and the world. The documentary serves as the launching pad for a national campaign to seed a conversation around the dignity of work, bring visibility to the fractured compact between workers and employers, and build support for a future of work that benefits everyone.

U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and students from the documentary Knock Down the House

Its social impact campaign include a national tour with film screenings in communities across the country. The tour kicked off in Louisville and will continue on to Indianapolis, Pittsburgh, Boston, Detroit and Seattle. Experts from the AFL-CIO, New America, and Working America have partnered to create discussion guides and an impact tool kit. Screenings are also being self-organized by individuals and groups in 35 states across the U.S., Italy, Luxembourg and Puerto Rico.

Knock Down the House and America Factory are resonating with a wide variety of organizations and people who are taking action through the impact campaigns. Judging by the engagement metrics, both films are poised to have short- and long-term impact.

This past spring, The UCLA Skoll Center published its landmark report The State of Social Impact Entertainment that maps this landscape, examines frameworks for evaluation, establishes best practices and highlights key issues in the field. With contributions from studio executives, distributors, filmmakers, impact campaign producers and others analyzing the campaigns of narrative and documentary films, television, theater and emerging forms, the report finds that “the financial and critical success of social impact entertainment proves that audiences have a real hunger for stories that entertain, engage and inspire.”


- Photos courtesy of Netflix



Bonnie Abaunza has been an impact campaign producer for 20 years. She is founder of the Abaunza Group, which develops and executes campaigns to help films move the needle on critical social, political and cultural issues. 

 

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Once Upon A Film Fan - Bill Hader Sets His Sights on Story

Posted By Katie Grant, Friday, January 10, 2020

The Jaws T-shirt was a clear giveaway when Bill Hader showed up to work as a PA in the early 2000s on sets like The Scorpion King, Collateral Damage and Critical Mass. A giveaway that he is, was, and always will be a film nerd. Since those days, the former SNL cast member has earned more distinguished titles, such as multiple Emmy winner (for acting and producing), DGA winner, WGA winner, showrunner and producer. Most importantly, Bill Hader can now finally call himself a filmmaker. Well, as he puts it, he can do that—but only when he’s “alone in the shower.”

Hader headed to LA from Tulsa with the singular goal of making movies. “I just want to see how these things are made,” he remembers thinking. That spirit of curiosity and humility, still very present, made way for Hader’s climbing success. After all, he never meant to be in front of the camera. He ended up on SNL purely by chance when Megan Mullally saw him in a backyard performance with his four-man improv troupe—which he landed in because he simply wanted something to do, something creative. Mullally called Lorne Michaels, Hader auditioned, and the rest is history.

Hader started making his own films as a teen chasing his willing sisters through the woods with a camera for action scenes. Without an editing system, he would try to cut his work between VCRs but mostly edited in camera on the VHS format. The positive feedback he got from a high school teacher who said, “You’re really good,” combined with the creative high he felt, kept Hader going and fed his drive to make movies.

True to form, Hader can’t help but use a film reference to explain how he sees producing: “Well, it’s kind of like Lee Marvin’s character [Major Reisman] in The Dirty Dozen. He pretty much puts everyone together. He’s the person that says, ‘We need an explosives guy. We need this. We need that. We need this so we can pull that thing off.’ And sometimes the filmmaker, the producer, will oversee that aspect.”

Currently as co-creator, co-executive producer, writer, director and star of Barry (HBO), Hader tries to think like a producer, but admits that after all his years in the business, it’s “instinctual. That’s the hardest thing about all this. You have to have the experience in order to get the experience. You have to kind of win the lottery.”

Bill Hader on the set of Barry 

And win the lottery he did. Landing SNL gave Hader the ability to reach out and meet, or better yet, work with, artists he looks up to. As a big Pixar fan, Hader asked to collaborate with their visionaries and Pete Docter, in particular. That turned into a writing credit on Inside Out, the Oscar-winning animated feature on which he played the voice of Fear. He was actually asked to play Fear after recording a temporary voice track for the animators to work with that featured all the characters. Speaking in that voice of Fear, Hader has become an unofficial and very vocal spokesperson for anxiety, citing the terror he experienced working on live TV for SNL.

Hader also worked with the writers of South Park, aiming to hone his story structure. That stint became his first producing credit and his first Emmy win. If working as a PA taught Hader how to run a crew properly, SNL showed him how to produce his own work, suggesting costumes, makeup and basic set pieces for the sketches he wrote. And then South Park let him see that producing stories is really about finding the emotional heart of the piece rather than a three-act story structure or the hero’s journey.

“I used to think it was that stuff. And it's not. What I learned at South Park is you follow the emotion and have a logic. And I think that's why Alec [Berg] and I write really well together. I’m like almost all emotion and he's almost all logic.”

Berg is Barry’s co-creator and co-EP whom their mutual agent paired Hader with in hopes they’d nail an idea for Hader’s HBO deal. They happened upon the premise of a hit man, which Berg famously did not like at first. But once Hader explained that it would be him, not the slick, skinny-tie-wearing idea of a hit man we usually see, they were off and running—straight to an acting class for research. And therein lies the brilliance of Barry, because placing a hit man with PTSD from his military years in an acting class so he can get in touch with his emotions is unexpected, interesting, dramatic and funny.

That acting class was taught by Howie Deutch—famous for directing films like Pretty in Pink and Grumpier Old Men—at the Beverly Hills Playhouse. Hader had plenty of experience in improv classes but not acting classes, which are a whole different animal. Between Deutch’s consulting on the first season and a cast full of actors playing actors with decades of class time between them—not to mention Henry Winkler, who studied with the famed acting teacher, Stella Adler—the show is so true to form that it adds to Barry’s already disturbing nature. And that combo of Hader and Berg playing off the right and left sides of their respective brains is, literally, a winning one. Sixteen awards later, the team is currently working on season 3 of Barry.

Hader, Stephen Root and Barry co-creator Alec Berg

Hader learned on the job how to make hard production calls like the one he cites from Barry season 2’s final day of shooting. They were slated to film a big shoot-out scene on location as well as a three-page monologue for Stephen Root’s character, Fuches, Barry’s crime boss. But it was raining, so sound was an issue. The suggested plan was to do the shoot-out, wait on the rain and do the monologue, hoping to make it in between storms. Hader said, “I don’t want to do that to Stephen because he’ll be in his head going, ‘I have to nail this. I have to get it right.’”

Hader made the costly decision to bring the entire crew back for a half day at the end of the week when it wasn’t supposed to rain. He says he was met with an “awful, dead silence. That was a big one where I felt like I dropped a bomb and then walked away. It was really for the actor… I didn’t want him trying to give a long monologue, and then instead of listening to him, we’re looking at the sky.”

Hader credits keeping it simple and taking things one day at a time for getting through days like that. “It’s kind of the mountain climber thing where they have to look right in front of them. It they look at the top, they’ll just freak out. So you have to look in front of you and not see how much longer you have to shoot.”

Besides Barry season 3, next up for Hader is a feature film called Henchmen that he wrote with four other people. It’s about “two guys who learn they are henchmen for a bad guy.” He also continues to contribute as a writer, producer and performer to the Emmy-nominated Documentary Now!, a farcical mockumentary series he created with Fred Armisen, Seth Myers and Rhys Thomas for IFC. “Documentary Now! is like an ultimate collaboration between people who have their own shows. Rhys Thomas and Alex Buono, those two guys make that show happen. We make the jokes and stuff and talk about the recipe basically. But they have to go and make it. So I give them most of the credit for that show.”

Hader is also a dad helping raise three girls and, when asked to compare parenting and producing, he offers, “I think people just like feeling heard. You try to do things with as much respect as you can and hear people as much as you can, even if you think you know the answer to something. The flip side is if you’re too nice, people feel like they can take advantage of you. So you have to just be nice but really honest and no bullshit. And that might involve saying, ‘This isn’t working.’”

Hader’s advice for up-and-coming fellow film nerds is simply to fail. “The big thing for me was failing and learning from failure. When I was coming up, it was so expensive to make something and make it on a professional level, but now you can do it with your phone. So you don’t really have an excuse.

Henry Winkler with Hader in season 2 episode

“I think the thing that holds people back is fear of failing. They get nervous and I just would make it, see what happens and learn. If it comes from your life, then it’s easier to write because you know how you felt. Everyone starts off copying the stuff that they like. You do that for a while and then slowly, you start to know what you like, and you start just being honest in your storytelling.”

Honest stories, Hader says, must include both the dark and lighter sides of life. “Life is like that if you’re open to it. You have bright moments and terrible moments and that’s just how it works. So when you don’t have that, it feels weird. I always feel like when something’s too light, I kind of roll my eyes at it. Or if something is too serious, I roll my eyes at it.”

Casting Barry was another exercise in authenticity for Hader. He says Anthony Carrigan won the part of NoHo Hank because of the way Carrigan listened in the audition. “Sometimes people like to cut out the listening and I like to watch it. I like seeing the thought enter someone’s head. I love just sitting and watching someone behave.”

One of Barry’s casting directors, Sherry Thomas, was hired partially because she, like Hader, happened to have Winkler on her short list to play acting teacher Gene Cousineau. She came in to the interview with that list, admitting presumption, but that bold move was a sign to Hader they were on the same page.

It was a show that, by the way, Hader couldn’t believe anyone was actually watching until Barry got 13 Emmy nominations for the first season. Those accolades won’t keep him from working hard, though. Even when he’s called a “TV auteur” by the press, Hader offers, “It’s nice, but you can’t look at yourself that way. It doesn’t make you better at your job. You’ve got to just keep trying to get better.”

What he’s improving on now is point of view. As an 8-year-old boy, watching classic films with his dad, Hader realized he “was always moved by scenes that had a very strong point of view, like the scene in Taxi Driver when DeNiro’s on the phone with Cybil Shepherd after their disastrous date, and while he’s talking to her, the camera just kind of dollies off of him. It’s almost like the movie can’t watch what’s happening.”

On Barry, holding to that point of view gets harder with all the hats Hader wears. “You have to do it all as one job. You’re telling a story, then you get out of the way of it and then everything else, the acting and directing, it’s all just enhancing that point of view, that story. Every aspect of filmmaking is to harness that and to try to foster it or get out of the way of it.” Judging by his work, Bill Hader is one film nerd-turned-filmmaker who’s mastering that process.


-photos courtesy of Isabella Vosmikova/HBO

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