On Tuesday, August 13, the New York Film Academy hosted a Q&A with Executive Producer, Producer, and UPM, Nathan Kelly. Kelly was joined by a creative executive for Working Title Films, Dana Himmelstein, and the event was moderated by NYFA instructor Denise Carlson.
Kelly’s line producing credits include Destroyer, Certain Women, Short Term 12, and he just finished production on Covers for Working Title / Focus Features. Recently, Nathan served as the Unit Production Manager on Once Upon a Time in… Hollywood and White Boy Rick.
Carlson began the Q&A by asking Kelly and Himmelstein to share how they got started in the industry. Kelly shared his journey through film school in which he took part in many different aspects of the film industry before deciding he wanted to become a producer. “I thought I wanted to script supervise then quickly realized I wanted to be more on the producing side of things,” Kelly stated, adding, “So I found my way into becoming an assistant to producers and I worked for a music manager, television producer, celebrity manager in LA for a bit and just learned the general details on how to get things done and navigate problems.”
When asked to share his experiences in performing multiple aspects of production, from executive producing to serving as a unit production manager, Kelly shared, “Each role has a lot of overlap. It’s really unique to the movie and it’s unique to the people you’re working with. It all kind of filters into this idea of being kind of like a team leader and overseeing, helping to manage the budget, the logistics, and the overall methodology of the production and how you’re gonna shoot the movie.”
Working as collaborators on Working Title / Focus Features’ latest project, Covers, a film about the music industry, Kelly and Himmelstein were asked to share what the development process was like. Nathan began by saying, “This script had an unusually high amount of rewriting for a production which had nothing to do with the script. The challenges were related to production, and when the movie gets cast a lot of times you may rewrite the roles to fit these different actors that you never anticipated coming on.” Dana added, “There’s a difference in what makes a really good script and what makes a really good movie. Once you’re in production mode, the goal post just moves.”
Carlson then inquired about Kelly’s biggest project and the summer blockbuster hit, Once Upon a Time in… Hollywood, asking him about the environment on set and working with the points of views of well-known filmmakers and acclaimed actors. Kelly stated, “It taught me so much about different ways of thinking about filmmaking. The way that the set functioned was as a big movie, but it also had an intimate energy to it as if it were an independent film. Everybody cared so deeply about what they were doing and the level of dedication that was there was not just from the crew, but also on the cast side as well. Everybody was just insanely dedicated, on time, and available. It was really easy to adopt that same attitude throughout the process.”
Kelly’s shared some wisdom on what encompasses a great producer, asserting, “You have to protect the movie from every aspect. It’s basically a really careful process of communicating with everybody and allowing the ideas to be out on the table, but making sure to squash all the ones that take away from the film.”
The New York Film Academy would like to thank Kelly and Himmelstein for sharing their experiences and entertainment industry advice with students.