An oft-repeated truism about Hollywood is “never let them see you sweat’. Which is why movie people go to great lengths to hide even the hint that their careers may not be going well. So I’m certain that’s why a veteran film producer decided to call himself “Mr. X” when he recently penned for The Times Of London a revealing first-person piece under the title “Will I Ever Eat Lunch In This Town Again?” about his tough time getting even one project going. “Ostensibly, I produce movies for a living. The most recent movie I had a hand in producing won the Academy Award for Best Picture. Pretty heady stuff, to be sure. The reality, though, is slightly less fulfilling. We shot that film two years ago and, since then, I’ve produced nothing. Zilch. Not a frame of film, a byte of sound, a kernel of popcorn.” So who is he? Mercifully, he left a lot clues in the article. 1) There was the Best Picture Oscar-winning film shot two years ago that he helped produce. 2) He refers to his “old boss Harvey Weinstein”. 3) He talks about trying to make a script about a border patrolman. 4) He lines up for it a director who’d just helmed “a very well received film whose lead actor was nominated for an Academy Award”. 5) He has a nice way with words. Based on these few facts, the first source I contacted guessed Mr. X’s identity in 2 minutes: he’s probably Rick Schwartz, the head of NYC-based Blueprint Films.
Because all the pieces fit. The Oscar pic was The Departed. The script was Southbound. The director was Terry George (Hotel Rwanda). Rick started with Miramax as the assistant to co-chairman Harvey Weinstein and worked his way up to senior VP of production. And he’s known to put pen to paper. OK, so now view this next bit of his article with a little more compassion: “People in the industry were beginning to wonder – what was I working on? Calls were going unreturned. I developed the unmistakable stench of desperation. My wife started leaving the mortgage payment notices (and her shopping receipts) on my bedside table… I clearly wasn’t making a movie. What I was doing was bleeding money. I had rung up a profoundly large credit card bill (wooing the various talents), ludicrously high legal fees (negotiating everyone’s deals) and astounding costs for therapy and medication (very poor health care system in America). This was in addition to actually buying the script, paying for rewrites and flying people back and forth for meetings. Stuck in Purgatory, I’m currently faced with several decisions. Find a new actor? Hire a different director? Wait for the studio regimes to change and pray that someone responds to my script? Fire my travel agent? Get a good divorce lawyer? It’s now been two years since I last produced a movie, and the script sits prominently on my desk, taunting me daily. Help me, it pleads, get me to the screen where I belong. Heed the signs, people tell me, this one just wasn’t meant to be. And still I carry on, for some unknown reason. Passion? Stubbornness? Desire? Stupidity? Who knows – it’s probably a combination of all of the above, but mainly the latter. For these are the tools of my trade. I’m a producer.”