Diane Haithman is a Deadline contributor.
The Producer’s Guild’s 5th annual ‘Produced By’ Conference gets underway Saturday at Twentieth Century Fox Studios with panelists including JJ Abrams and Roland Emmerich. (Tom Cruise was slated to appear at the time of this interview but has canceled because of ‘last-minute scheduling problems’). PGA vice president of motion pictures Gary Lucchesi — event co-chair with Tracy Edmonds, PGA president emeritus Marshall Herskovitz and Rachel Klein —talked with Deadline contributor Diane Haithman about PBC 2013.
DEADLINE: Is this a good place to pitch and sell your material?
GARY LUCCHESI: (Laughs) There are better avenues than this to submit material. I’ll tell you what though, if you do have a project you will probably be clued in to how to submit it. There is not one producer in town who is not constantly panning for gold. And there are ways to submit material to agents or producers or directors. I would think that this conference would offer people with screenplays a way in.
DEADLINE: Why a ‘Produced By’ Conference?
GARY LUCCHESI: At the end of the day most of the content is coming out of, or at least being organized by, producers. And young people and people who are struggling producers want to try to get a leg up. This conference is very informational and inspirational. On the one hand we look at it as the way to give back, but on the other hand it’s a way to grow the brand of producing as well.
DEADLINE: How has the conference changed in 5 years?
LUCCHESI: Five years ago we were a little more film-centric, now we’ve got a lot of television, and a lot of new media programs that are really focused on trying to figure it out. A couple of years ago we had James Cameron and 3D was a big thing. Look at it this way — we have Jerry Bruckheimer who has been quite successful in film and in television, we have J.J. Abrams who works in both mediums. Mark Gordon works in both mediums. Gale Ann Hurd works in both mediums. Mark Burnett has done his reality television but is now doing longform too.
DEADLINE: The event sold out last year. [The fee is $999 and lower for PGA members, students, etc].
LUCCHESI: This is not a profit-making endeavor for the Producers Guild. I mean, we break even, but this isn’t a profit center. It’s a number of us working very very hard one weekend of the year, trying to put on a good show. Every year we have gotten fantastic talent to come and be a part of it.
DEADLINE: Can attendees reserve a seat at “star” sessions?
LUCCHESI: Once you have signed up for the conference you can sign up for the sessions. I would venture to say there are probably four or five sessions that are going to be surprisingly great, that are somewhat unexpected. If you don’t get into your first choice it doesn’t mean that the second choice isn’t going to be absolutely as fascinating and inspirational. We had a session last year about music supervisors. It was fantastic. There might have been some session that had a big director, big producer or big movie star at the same time but other sessions were full.
DEADLINE: Does the producing community have a desire to give something back?
LUCCHESI: Most of us came from rather humble beginnings. Whether you are Jerry Bruckheimer or JJ or Tom Cruise, all of those careers started with dreams. And there is some sense of pride in being a producer. In being one of those few that try to struggle every day and to figure out this crazy business. The guild is growing, it now has 5,600 members, which is a much bigger number than we’d had two or three years ago. And coming from all different facets, not just features and TV any more. It’s new media that’s growing in a big way. It’s reality television.
DEADLINE: How is the conference different from the many other industry confabs in Hollywood?
LUCCHESI: The breadth of the content is so vast. I know there are many other conferences, but they tend to be specific. Ours is a little more general. The interesting thing about wanting to be a producer is there are lots of different directions you can go.
DEADLINE: Some other such conferences are closed to the press. Does press coverage cramp anyone’s style?
LUCCHESI: I don’t think that most of the speakers are interested in dirt. I think most of the speakers are really interested in telling their own story and in imparting some knowledge to up-and-coming producers, even a few tips on how to make it. I find that there’s a lot of content in these conferences without getting into the dirt part. Most successes are really about a great idea well told.
DEADLINE: You are moderating a panel. What’s the topic?
LUCCHESI: I’m moderating the panel about independent filmmaking If you have a screenplay what steps should you take to try to put it together, and get it financed and then get a distributor and put it on the screen, we’ll walk through all of that. As you see studios making less movies, the role of the independent has become more necessary and has become enhanced. Nevertheless it’s still a tricky chess match.
DEADLINE: You began your career as a William Morris agent Would you say that starting as an agent is still a good stepping stone to become a producer?
LUCCHESI: I believe that it’s true 100%. You may not want to be a theatrical film agent, which is what I was. I was a talent agent at William Morris, and I represented actors, actresses, directors, kind of everybody. But where the growth is in TV and television packaging. Because you’ve got 35 networks and cable, and the traditional networks that are buying different content. You open up the trades and you see that Amazon has bought five shows. It’s the agent who sold those shows. It was the agent that knew that Amazon was looking for content. (Laughs) Let’s put it this way: If you have son or daughter and they are looking to get into entertainment, should they go to an agency? My answer would be yes.