It is not easy for me to define my feelings about the lecture conducted by Vachon since she has been producing today's cinema most appreciated independent and arthouse films. Her collaboration with Todd Haynes and Todd Solondz and her virtue to discover first time filmmakers has always been a fascination for me and the lecture gave me an insight look of how to really operate in a system like American Cinema and yet creating very personal and auteur films today which seems almost impossible!
A few years ago when I went to my hometown to visit my parents, I realised there was a new book in the house. It was a book by Andrew Bailey edited by Paul Duncan and the name of the book was Cinema Now. As I turned the pages, I came to understand that there were many filmmakers operating today which I never even heard of. And one of them which really attracted me with its strong visuals was Todd Haynes' Far From Heaven.
Three years ago, I came across a detailed interview with Ed Lachman which was conducted by American Cinematographer. It was about the new film by Todd Haynes, a biopic on the life of Bob Dylan. I knew from that moment that this was never going to be released in Turkey. Yet I was wrong, it was released but a little bit delayed. However, I saw the film in a very small theater in London in 2008 and the impact was inevitable.
Christine is that kind of a producer. She is smart, practical, funny and she has a very strong sense of what will work in cinema and what will not work since she has been in this business more than twenty years producing more than three films in a year.
She advised us about many things. About presenting a film to a sale agent to exhiting a film in a major film festival. She talked about the new narrative forms of today and how twitter was going to be bigger that facebook in terms of social media, communication and marketing and distributing a film.
She said the most important thing is to articulate a vision properly! Effecting talking in a comforting level is the most important aspect of how to pitch a film! And pitching is a skill. Not everybody has it. Look for the people who has invested the kind of films you would like to make. Make a research about them, understand their background, impress them with your knowledge and get the money you need to produce your next picture. Be kind and smart! Do not get into elaborate plot explanations!
She even spoke us about how to find new materials for projects and how they produce ideas from books, articles and paintings.
When working with first time filmmakers, she emphasized the significance of a strong short film. A well done short film may not lead you to go to shoot a feature yet it has a key factor to promote yourself as a first time filmmaker. In order to promote yourself as a filmmaker, an image book instead of a screenplay is very effective to hunt the producers since it gives them a solid insight of what kind of visuality you are looking for!
"Nobody's going to read your script! I don't know you why would I?" told us. You really have to start from the bottom and make your way all the way to the top! It is a very complex profession which requires full time commitment and consistency! She ironically told us that when looking at first time filmmakers, she checks whether the director has a long term relationship or not? It is a very effective way to understand whether the person is able to commit himself or herself three or four years for a project to be done and finalised!
"Do you like the process?" a student asks, "No, but I like the films being done!"
For her, the task of a producer is to keep the balance between the director who protects a vision and financier who protects his money. Todd Solondz, before making Happiness, lost most of his budget because Rosanna Arquette was unable to be a part of the film yet Solondz worked very hard to protect his vision and make the film he wanted to make with his choice of cast!
What kind of films you would like to make? It is the most important question before meeting a sale agent! What is the tone? Is it a film that has redemptive qualities or an uplifting movie? Or make the world a better place? Without these answers, it is impossible to produce a film. Since what you are trying to sell is about communication. It is not about the product itself.
Execution Dependant is a term that I learned during these three day lectures. “Execution dependent” means that the best version of the movie is a hit, while a mediocre incarnation is worth vastly less. It’s not a diss. Most films that win Academy Awards are execution dependent, as are many blockbusters.
Yet when you think about most of the films she has been producing, all her films are execution dependant. The films directed by Todd Haynes could not be directed by someone else because it is a film that can only done by him not by someone else and that's what makes the film so special!
Before wrapping up the enty, let me share you some links that she shared with us. I also would like to say that I am very lucky since I was in a Todd Solondz lecture this April in Istanbul and it was a really good opportunity to meet with Christine in Helsinki...