Last week, prolific film producer, Randall Emmett spoke to New York Film Academy students, providing them with some valuable insider Hollywood advice. Beforehand, Randall screened his most recently released film, Escape Plan, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone, which premiered only four days before. The film, with its mega-star personas and epic action scenes, was a good compliment to a larger than life producer like Randall Emmett.
Randall has produced over seventy feature films and has at any time five films in different stages of production. With a reputation for packaging movies and getting them made, Emmett’s films have been both box office ‘hits’ and acclaimed works, debuting at Sundance, Berlin and Toronto, with many nominated for Independent Spirit Awards. Randall’s films include 2 Guns (starring Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg), End of Watch (starring Jake Gyllenhaal), Righteous Kill (starring Al Pacino and Robert De Niro), 88 Minutes, The Amityville Horror, and Narc among many.
As a kid, Randall was obsessed with acting and would make short films with the family’s home video camera on the weekends. After spending a summer in high school as a PA on a movie set, Randall realized he wanted to work behind the camera and decided to attend film school in New York for college. In a sea of aspiring directors, Randall was the only student who wanted to produce. At the time, producing didn’t really exist as a discipline or specialty, so Randall learned through “trail by fire.” Starting in his sophomore year, he produced an abundance of his senior classmates’ thesis projects, offering to deliver their films for five thousand dollars. Randall would go to extremes, far beyond the efforts of the average film student to get the best equipment rates, locations, and actors for his director. He would wear numerous hats to finish the film, acting as producer, AD, production manager, casting director, etc.
Randall described the incredible amount of work he performed in school not as a burden, but a “magical experience,” because he was so in love with filmmaking. In his senior year, Randall took the highly unconventional route and chose to make a feature for his thesis. He wanted to leave school with what he believed would be a real product. Randall and his thesis team asked everyone for money, scraping together about twenty-five thousand dollars to make the film. Shooting a feature on 16mm film for such little money was a huge feat at the time, but Randall pulled it off. After moving to Los Angeles, he actually sold the film he made in college.
The famous Aaron Spelling, a mentor of Randall’s, encouraged him to work at an agency. Although Randall was opposed to working in an office, he took this advice and worked at ICM. This proved to be invaluable experience as he learned how agencies, the center of Hollywood’s universe, operated. Meanwhile, he met Mark Wahlberg through an acquaintance. They hit it off and became friends, because they both shared a passion for movies. Later, Randall left ICM and took a job Mark Wahlberg offered him to be his personal assistant. The show Entourage, which Mark Wahlberg created, is based on his crazy life with Randall as he was a rising movie star in Hollywood.
Randall had been trying to package movies throughout his time in Los Angeles. After he finished his assistant work with Mark Wahlberg, Randall found himself broke and sleeping on his friend’s couch in his late twenties. At this point he had been led astray countless times by “investors” that ended up never having a penny to their name. However, Randall didn’t give up, and finally met George Furla who ended up funding his first feature in Los Angeles. They have been producing partners ever since.
Randall’s story is one of the underdog independent producers that now dominate Hollywood. His main message to students was to always believe in yourself no matter what level you’re at. This type of excitement attracts others and opens doors. It was Randall’s extreme positive energy that had students falling in love with him all evening as he told his story. Randall Emmett is just one of those people who you want to see succeed and we wish him continued success in the future.