Four new films that take on grand-scale social issues from the intimate perspective of the people affected by them were the subject of a too-brief, provocative panel at Saturday afternoon’s continuation of the Producers Guild of America’s Produced By: NY conference. Titled “The Power of Successful Creative Collaboration,” the panel included some of the talents behind and in front of the cameras involved in Trumbo, about the screenwriter Dalton Trumbo, blacklisted during the McCarthy Era; Carol, about a lesbian love affair set in the 1950s; Room, about child abduction; and Spotlight, about the abuse of children by priests in the Boston archdiocese and the Catholic church hierarchy’s long history of covering up the crimes.
In each case, the film was fueled by personal tales, intimately revealed. Spotlight director Tom McCarthy said, “We were witnessing the stories through the journalists’ eyes,” as the film’s title suggests: Spotlight was the name given the Boston Globe’s investigative team, which doggedly pursued the story at the urging of new editor in chief Martin Baron, a classic outsider looking at the close-knit world, McCarthy said, “and asking basic questions that proved to be prophetic.” McCarthy also admitted that getting Spotlight made had been no easy task, not least because of the subject matter.
“We were kind of at a breakpoint even though we had all these great people” — the cast includes Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, Liev Schreiber, Rachel McAdams and Brian d’Arcy James — “but it still fell apart two or three times.” The tide turned when executive producer Michael Bederman risked his director’s wrath by suggesting that Toronto substitute for Boston for the filming (except for exteriors) — a savings that ultimately made the movie possible. “These watershed points — we needed a lot of them just to get to the starting point,” Bederman said. One of them: “Mark Ruffalo announced he was attached before it was even real.”