The first NYC edition of the PGA’s `Produced By’ confab launched this morning with a conversation between former PGA president and producer Hawk Koch and Nightcrawler‘s Jake Gyllenhaal, also in town prepping for his Broadway debut in the Manhattan Theatre Club production of Constellations.
Pointing out that Gyllenhaal already is a certified film star (with an Oscar nomination for Brokeback Mountain behind him all the way up through his “amazing performance” in Nightcrawler) Koch started off by asking him that, with all the problems associated with the job, Why become a producer?
“I think that headaches and heartbreak are part of any job if you put your heart into it,” Gyllenhaal responded. “I grew up with my parents behind the camera and that was the language that I knew. It wasn’t until later that I became an actor. I’ve aways been fascinated with the abrasion between the actors in front and the people behind the camera, and with balancing all the issues between the two.”
Nightcrawler, he said had challenges that included a low budget of $8M and a very short shoot. ”I memorized the movie like a play,” he said. “I was agile enough to to know I would have three takes to do this because we would have four company moves in one night. “Oddly, what would happen, you’d be in these meetings and I would know I was ready as an actor to go.
“We were deciding which company would finance the movie but that was when I came one on. We all came to the conclusion that Bold would be the right fit. And then we sold the foreign rights in Toronto. We marketed the movie and sold the movie domestically in Cannes. We did the soliloquies into camera; Bold sold the whole movie on me speaking directly into the camera.”
Asked what drives him to a project, Gyllenhaal spoke like the son of a director and a screenwriter that he, in fact, is. “I’ve never read a script as an actor,” he said. “That’s probably a problem. My mother [Running On Empty scripter Naomi Foner] always taught me that story is king. I’ve always read scripts from a story standpoint first.”
Koch asked Gyllenhaal to answer without too much thinking who he’d most like to work with, as an actor or producer. Gyllenhaal took a few seconds anyway and then answered, “Denzel Washington, as an actor.” As a producer? “I’ll leave it at that,” he replied.
As they were speaking to an industry crowd, Koch gave Gyllenhaal an opportunity to address producers on working with actors, and actors on working with producers, and he didn’t disappoint.
His advice to both, he said, is “Don’t take it personally. Eveyone has an agenda and their agenda is to be respected. Acting is an immature and selfish profession but on the flip side it can also produce great empathy. It’s all about human behavior. Be aware of your place in the grand family that is making a movie. Remember that the movie you’re working on has been in development for years and everything led to that moment.”
Producers, he said, need to remember that acting is “an extraordinarily sensitive job .” He recalled working with Michael Pena on the final scenes of End Of Watch, when they had to break, the production was under pressure, “we were running out of money,” and Pena”walked all the way to the end of the alley. I said, ‘why are you walking so far?’ He said ‘It’s like an animal, like coaxing a tiger in the jungle,’ talking about acting. ‘’I need to keep the tiger quiet.’ It’s an odd thing,” Gyllenhaal said, “conjuring up feelings in the midst of all this chaos. It’s magic and somehow we merge those two things — the sensitivity and the heart that it takes to do both those jobs. I think I’m talking about vulnerability.”