Producers, Creatives Talk ‘Safe Spaces’ – Produced By NY

Jeremy Gerard

The topic was “The Power of Creative Collaboration,” and it seemed inevitable that the long shadow of Harvey Weinstein would be cast over the panels during today’s “Produced By New York” annual confab thrown today by the Producers Guild of America. During the first of two “Master Class” discussions with eight film producers and creatives, moderator Bruce Cohen addressed the elephant in the room head on, asking how they created an environment in which everyone felt protected.

The subject was especially pertinent given the intimacy of the films represented on the panel, the first of two Master Classes slated for the day. The participants included Peter Spears and Timothée Chalamet, producer and co-star of Call Me By Your Name; Christine Vachon and Carter Burwell, producer and composer of Wonderstruck; Graham Broadbent and Inbal Weinberg, producer and production designer of Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Mississippi; and Amanda Lipitz and Penelope Falk, writer/director and editor of the Baltimore-based documentary Step.

“How do we, moving forward, how important is a ‘safe space’ in film, pre-production and production?”

“There’s a lot of intimate moments in this movie,” Spears said. “When we were shooting that, there was always a consciousness of how to do in a way that was respectful of their creativity but also their privacy…We wanted the film to have a sensuality about it, to be sexual, but also how to do that in a way that was respectful of the artists.”

Vachon, who has a 30-year producing partnership with Wonderstruck director Todd Haynes, acknowledged that “It’s a big question.”

“We make sure that the actors know that I’m there. Sometimes they’d rather talk to me than the director, because I’m female or maybe they’re a little nervous about the director, so I try to establish those lines of communication early and often.” Adding that “we’re not just talking about the actors,” Vachon said, “We’ve also examined our practices in the past few weeks. We’re a very female-run company and we try to be as responsive – it doesn’t happen very often, but it has happened where people come up and make complaints, and we’ve dealt with them as quickly and effectively as possible.

“I think producers keep their eye on the ground to be sure there’s no real toxicity happening,” Vachon said. “Because even though we’ve made progress having more women department heads and more women DPs on our films, most film sets are mostly male. It’s just still the way it is.”

Broadbent, whose movie features Frances McDormand in a film about racism and violence towards women, was asked how he approached those issues on camera and off.

“These weeks made it very contemporary,” Broadbent noted. “I produce films because I like stories and I want the stories to be made…You want to make sure everyone feels included, happy and embraced. But there’s a tone you set that comes from the senior people on the film about what’s alright and what’s not alright. And I wouldn’t sit around a place that isn’t alright.”


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