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May 04, 2020 On Wednesday, April 22, New York Film Academy (NYFA) had the pleasure of hosting a live video Q&A with the veteran producer, former president of the Academy (AMPAS), and co-founder of the Producers Guild of America (PGA), Hawk Koch. Tova Laiter, Director of the NYFA Q&A Series, moderated the event.

Hawk Koch, who started as a First AD, has risen through the Hollywood production system for many years to ultimately produce or be involved with the making over 60 major motion pictures; among them film classics such as Marathon Man, Chinatown, Wayne's World, Peggy Sue Got Married, Heaven Can Wait, The Way We Were and Rosemary's Baby. His past collaborators include Hollywood heavyweights like Francis Coppola, Robert Redford, Warren Beatty, John Schlesinger, and Sidney Pollack.

When Koch was president of the PGA, he, along with his co-president Mark Gordon, led the charge to ensure that all major film studios and independent studios upheld the Producer’s Mark (p.g.a) in all upcoming productions in order to preserve a producer’s credit from proliferating. Since his time as president of the AMPAS, Koch has remained a vocal advocate for diversity and representation in film and television, as well as professional entertainment guilds. As of 2020, Koch remains on the board of directors for AMC Entertainment, Cast and Crew, the Motion Picture and Television Fund, the PGA, and the National Film Preservation Foundation.

Tova Laiter & Hawk Koch discuss Koch’s long standing career in Hollywood

Following a brief overview of Koch’s career, Laiter opened up the Q&A by discussing some of the great moments mentioned in Koch’s latest book, Magic Time: My Life in Hollywood. When asked how he started in the business, Koch shared that when he was about four years old, he got to run around the set of a movie on which his father was working. “A guy then comes up to me on a horse and asks me if I had ever ridden on a horse before...and then asks me if I want to go on a ride,” Koch remembers. “I had the time of my life on that movie set and when I got home that night my father said to my mother, ‘Guess who gave him [Koch] his first horseback ride’?” That person, Koch revealed, was Clark Gable. “I loved being on that set at four [years old] and I still love being on set,” said Koch.

Koch’s notoriety as producer eventually led him to team up as a partner with his longtime collaborator Gene Kirkwood, who won an Academy Award for Rocky. “We started making movies together [The Pope of Greenwich Village, Gorky Park, The Idolmaker] and “Gene was a great idea guy and the helium balloon, and I was on the string holding him to the ground. He’d pull me up sometimes, but I’d have to bring him back.” As Koch puts it, it's that balance that allows you to work around other personalities and ideas.

When a student asked Koch how to find his role in the industry, Koch responded with his favorite bit of personal advice. “I like to tell students to look at what they do best. Are you best at organizing? Are you best at coming up with a story? Are you best at working with a writer?" He continued, “all of that comes under one thing, curiosity.”

Hawk’s recently released memoir ‘Magic Time: My Life in Hollywood’

Another student asked Koch, “in your experience are there surprising skills one should have to become a successful producer?” Koch immediately exclaimed that having tact is the most important skill to have. “As much as you want can’t go in and say ‘this is the way I want it’. You have to get them to think it was their idea. Don’t look for credit.”

Finally, a student asked, “if you could tell your younger self something with the knowledge you know now, what would you say?” Koch then responded by saying, “Don’t give up. Do what you believe in with consideration and integrity and you’ll make it.”

Laiter concluded the Q&A by thanking Koch for sharing his experience with NYFA’s students. Koch thanked Laiter and the NYFA students for joining the call and then remarked, “I thought you all asked me a lot of thoughtful questions that no one has ever asked me before.” He also noted that his book Magic Time: My Life in Hollywood, may be a good resource for students to look back to for more insight on producing films and the movie making industry as a whole.

New York Film Academy would like to thank acclaimed producer and former AMPAS and PGA president, Hawk Koch, for sharing his time and expertise with our students!

These guests are not faculty and do not teach at NYFA, but they have appeared to share their stories and experience with our students. As guest speakers are scheduled based on their availability, NYFA cannot guarantee whether a guest speaker will visit during a student’s attendance or who that guest speaker may be. This guest speaker forum is not part of any NYFA curriculum and attendance at guest speaker events is purely voluntary. Students should be aware that guest speaker events do not represent a job opportunity nor are they intended to provide industry connections.

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