Fall 2008

Power Producer

Brian Grazer has been producing films and television for almost 30 years and still hasn't lost his enthusiasm for the business.

1. What do you look for a director to bring to a film?

Is the director communicating with me emotionally at any time in the movie? That, to me, is the biggest thing. The second is does it have longevity; is it soft or does it have an edge? If it's soft, I'm not particularly interested. That doesn't mean I've never made a movie that's soft. It just means that I'm looking for edge. Does this feel authentic? Do things feel real?

2. You've said if a director dresses too well you don't hire him. Was that tongue in cheek or is there something to that?

It's tongue in cheek, but it is also a measurement for me. I just feel that directors who dress impeccably are usually a little less interested in others, and I think for a director compassion is essential. So normally, I've found directors kind of mix and match [what they wear]. They don't really care that much. They wake up in the morning and that's not really the first thing on their minds. If the first thing on the director's mind is how they look, that worries me a little bit.

3. As a producer, how do you like to work with directors?

I focus my attention on picking the director. So that's on the top of the pyramid. I like to work on the script with them. But I don't want to be intrusive because that's counterproductive. As a producer you give up some of your rights pretty quickly once you've hired the director. I definitely like to work on the casting—that's essential. Department heads, I care about that a lot, but I'm not going to fight with a director about it.

4. Do you like to go to the set much?

I only like to go to the set if they want or need me there. I learned 30 years ago it was pretty much unnecessary for producers to go to sets. I think it's pretty [much] bullshit. I don't think you learn very much from it; I don't think you can influence a lot. I think you can help the work environment for a director and the stars and the crew. But you're not going to guide the creative process, nor should you believe that you're going to guide the creative process.

5. You've worked successfully in both TV and features. Do you see that division breaking down for directors?

Oh yeah, I do. I think there are very good feature directors who want to do TV shows. Even on "24", it was a feature director [Stephen Hopkins] who did the pilot and the first year. And that's true of many of my shows. That used to never happen. I started in television prior to movies, and there was a lot of snobbery in the late '70s, early '80s. And now I feel like there's almost no snobbery. Only the ignorant are snobs. [laughs]

6. Has it become harder to raise money for your films now?

It's harder, but I've found anything that I'm extremely passionate about gets made. And I found that to be true even when I had no power. I mean, for producers it's a vision and then a force of energy. So I know that it's harder, but I still can get the movies that I am in love with made.

7. But is there less money out there?

The financial architecture in which money flows is different. Sadly there are fewer dollars for movies between $25 million and $100 million, but "under 25" is one category where the dollars flow, and "over 100" is another category in which the dollars flow. It seems as though these economic paradigms the studios built have proven best for them. Artistically, it's a little bit of a shame because it's homogenizing.

8. What effect do you see new media having on production and revenue streams?

I'm asked that all the time. My gross interpretation of that would be that ultimately there would be less compensation for artists. It won't limit artists. In fact, it will expand their possibilities for making things inexpensively. But overall, it will impact artists' personal compensation in a negative way. So there could be less incentive for the very talented artists to continue to create original intellectual property. You might just go, 'Jesus, if my movie's going to get pirated or it's going to get shown on a 3-inch screen, maybe I'll just move to the desert.'

9. Do you see a time when DVDs will be day and date with theatrical?

Oh yeah, I do. I do think that DVDs will be day and date with theatrical, or day and date will occur with other outlets like the Internet. That's not my preference, but if it's my reality, then I'll work within that system. I've been making movies for 25, 30 years, and I don't want to sound like a cliché, but storytelling always has equal value. It's just the reconstitution of how it works.

10. So are you an optimist?

I am an optimist. The solution always emerges. In the struggle, we all have to find the solution. I think it will independently just surface based on audience needs. I think people will always go to movies. There are just certain things in history that seem to repeat themselves. The Romans went to theaters; we go to theaters. So I just think it won't be that different. I think we're preoccupied with trying to figure that out and I don't think it's going to change substantially.

10 Questions

Question and answer sessions with prominent figures outside the Guild about current creative and business issues.

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