On September 15, New York Film Academy in Los Angeles hosted veteran film producer Tom Sternberg, where he joined students for a screening of “The Talented Mr. Ripley” directed by Anthony Minghella and starring Matt Damon, Jude Law, Gwyneth Paltrow, Cate Blanchett and Philip Seymour Hoffman, which Mr. Sternberg produced. A lively Q&A, moderated by Lydia Cedrone, Interim Chair of Producing and Head of MFA Feature Productions in LA, followed the screening.
Mr. Sternberg gave an intimate, behind-the-scenes look at the making of the film and of working with the highly respected director and stellar cast, including the discovery of Jude Law in his star-making role. He shared his experience working with Miramax’s Harvey Weinstein and Paramount’s Sherry Lansing as heads of the companies distributing the film.
He spoke of his collaboration with Francis Ford Coppola at Coppola’s American Zoetrope, where he produced the Academy Award-winning film “Apocalypse Now,” “The Black Stallion,” and “The Black Stallion Returns.” His conversation provided students with behind-the-scenes anecdotes from the much-publicized, volatile set of “Apocalypse Now.” Sternberg also fielded several questions from the audience, and discussed his work with acclaimed director David Lynch, as producer of Lynch’s “Lost Highway.”
In addition to his work with Coppola and Lynch, Mr. Sternberg’s credits as producer include Wayne Wang’s “Dim Sum” and “Eat A Bowl Of Tea”; Audrey Wells’ “Under the Tuscan Sun” starring Diane Lane; Hossein Amini’s “The Two Faces of January” starring Viggo Mortensen, Oscar Isaac and Kirsten Dunst; and Kenneth Branagh’s “Sleuth” from a script by Harold Pinter and starring Jude Law and Michael Caine. Mr. Sternberg expressed his delight in working closely with the renowned Pinter on the development of the script for “Sleuth.”
From there, Sternberg spoke candidly about the changes in the business of filmmaking from the 1970’s to the present day, and how several producers and production companies become attached to films. He spoke with much enthusiasm on his current project in development, and his own efforts in seeking funding and distribution in the modern landscape of the industry. He advised students to be passionate about each film he or she develops, and not to take personally the many rejections he or she will face on the journey of getting his or her film made.
An inspiration to the many students in the audience, Mr. Sternberg has served as the American representative for many notable foreign film producers, selling the North American distribution rights to several important foreign-language films, including “Il Postino,” “Cinema Paradiso,” “Mediterraneo,” “Europa Europa,” “Indochine,” “Jean de Florette,” “Manon des Sources,” “To Live,” “The Story of Qiu Ju” and many of the films of Francois Truffaut and Eric Rohmer.
A most gracious and inspirational guest, Mr. Sternberg was met with much applause and gratitude at the end of the Q&A, as he took time to pose for several photos with students. We sincerely thank him for his visit and wish him much success with his next film.