TVFilmRights.com is priviliged to share with you our exclusive interview with legendary film Producer, and recent Oscar Nominee for Best Picture (“Black Swan”), Mike Medavoy of Phoenix Pictures.
Medavoy’s success in film spans decades, leaving his fingerprint on many of our time’s most celebrated movies, including 7 Best Picture Oscar Winners. While serving as Head of Production for United Artists, he was part of the team responsible for, “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest”, “Rocky”, and “Annie Hall”. Also under his guidance at UA were “Apocalypse Now”, “Raging Bull”, “Network”, and “Coming Home”.
Chairman & CEO
Following his brilliant tenure at UA, he co-founded Orion Pictures, spearheading the release of award winning films such as, “Platoon”, “Amadeus”, “Dances with Wolves”, and “The Silence of the Lambs”. His midas touch continued as Chairman of TriStar Pictures where he oversaw the release of even more critically acclaimed films including, “Philadelphia”, Sleepless in Seattle”, “The Fisher King”, “Legends of the Fall”, and “Hook”.
In 1995, Medavoy launched Phoenix Pictures. As Chairman and CEO, he delivered to audiences “The People vs. Larry Flynt”, “The Mirror Has Two Faces”, “U-Turn”, “Apt Pupil”, “The Thin Red Line”, “The 6th Day”, “All The King’s Men”, “Zodiac”, “Pathfinder” and “Miss Potter”, among others. Most recently, Phoenix Pictures released “Shutter Island”, (directed by Martin Scorcese and starring Leonardo Di Caprio), as well as “Black Swan”, which garnered a Best Picture Oscar Nomination for Medavoy and team, and an Oscar Winning Best Actress performance from Natalie Portman.
Mr. Medavoy joined Scott Manville at TVFilmRights.com for a brief chat about film producing, story, and his newest projects that hold a personal connection for this Iconic Producer.
TVFilmRights.com | Scott Manville: Thank you for sharing your time with us, Mr. Medavoy. We’re honored to have you.
Mike Medavoy: Thank you.
Scott Manville: You are, arguably, one of the most successful Producers Hollywood has ever had, but equally so, you are an incredibly successful person. With family, business, foundations, and being Patriarch of so many things- what is the one common thread within your life, or self, that has brought such incredible success to fruition and allowed you to maintain?
MM: I would say that learning from my mistakes, learning in general from mentors. I would say, being optimistic and not negative, and living life larger than the film business. My family is probably the most important part of it, and a few close friends.
SM: You’ve produced films that span all genres, appealing to different audiences. Is there any one type of project or story that you prefer to produce?
MM: No. I think a good story with great characters in almost any genre is a good start. I like action-adventure stories, but they really can be in any genre, as long as they’re fun and exciting.
SM: We’ve seen the transformation of the film industry from the more insulated studio system, to a world of new media and independent studios. Which of those worlds is more ideal for a Producer?
MM: Any place or system that can put a film out to a large audience is ideal. People will go to the movies if they are interested and it’s good.
SM: This is an elementary screenwriting 101 question, but to hear it from you would be incomparable. What makes a great story for film?
MM: Put it in pictures, make it feel true and real… emotional and with an intelligence behind it that makes the audience think. Originality does help. That’s what works best for me, but its about making it an exciting 2 hours.
SM: Do some stories translate better to film than others, or is any great story good for cinema?
MM: Well, if its not boring, that would help.
SM: Its great to see the Chilean Miner’s story in your hands for adaptation. How has the process been for you?
MM: Its exciting for me to undertake this. I feel that I have not done anything like this before. It’s got so many levels for me; my living there once, to going there, to the miracles of their survival.
SM: Is the Miner’s story intended for a theatrical release, or will this be a vehicle for television?
MM: Theatrical- because it is a big story that takes place inside and outside the mine. All films are about great characters that inhabit a great story.
SM: You were born in Shanghai, China before fleeing with your parents to Chile when the Japanese occupied Shanghai. Now, with your new projects, “The Chinese Pianist”, and “The Chilean Miners Story”, I’m seeing a beautiful slate of projects that connect to your own history, from where you came. Are you moving toward a period of producing more “passion projects” that hold personal relevance?
MM: “360″…going back to your roots is a great thing for me, after all. How often do people have a chance to do that?
SM: Quick question about books for adaptation- How important is it for a book to have a following (“bestseller”, etc.) for it to find a path to being adapted as a film?
MM: Not much, but it helps in some cases.
SM: What advice can you share with our new, young industry execs hoping to get their first project sold, and facing the mountain of challenges inherent with any project?
MM: Be ready for lots of heart aches and heart breaks, but be smart and determined. Be smart about how you start, and when you decide to quit.
SM: What advice can you share with our Screenwriters shopping specs? Any blunt advice as they formulate their next projects?
MM: Connect with a good producer or a good agent- someone with lots of experience. There is something also to be said about working with nice people.
SM: When you discover an amazing true story, let’s say- a person’s life story, and you’ve secured the tv/film rights, what is the most critical element in bringing it to production? The Director’s vision? The Writer? How do you manage that creative process as a Producer?
MM: Lots of people play a part in any project’s success. Failures are usually orphans.
SM: Is there any project you know of that’s been held in development purgatory forever, and deserves to be on the big screen? Any story that hasn’t been told, that you’d love to see made?
MM: There are quite a few…but I don’t want to give them away.
SM: A few fun questions. You’re on an island- Four films to watch the rest of your life- What are they?
MM: Robin Hood (1939), Lawrence of Arabia, Gunga Din, Godfather 2.
SM: If there were any other career or profession for you outside of film, what would you wish to be, or experience?
MM: Nothing. There is no other business for me, now that I have done this.
SM: The reach of film is limitless in today’s world. Where would you like to see this country’s film industry expand? What global relationships are important?
MM: China and India are big future markets.
SM: I wish you continued success with your new projects, and many happy years ahead. Thanks for sharing your insights with us.
MM: Thank you for thinking me worthy.
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