Industry Trends

Star Wars, Marvel, and More: Your Ultimate Guide to Disney Investor Day Announcements

It’s been quite an eventful year for Disney. Like many, they were left trying to figure out a whole new theatrical release model for big-budget films like Mulan in the midst of the pandemic and pushing their new streaming service platform, Disney+, to the forefront to compete with the likes of Netflix, HBO Max, Amazon Prime, and others. 

They stole our hearts with Baby Yoda (sorry, we still won’t be calling him Grogu) in Star Wars spinoff, The Mandalorian, as part of their slate of first original programming, nabbed Broadway darling Hamilton for a streaming event so epic that it made even your typical non-musical fans sing “The Schuyler Sisters,” and they dropped two massive music events for the most prolific artists of the last decade, Taylor Swift (Folklore: The Long Pond Sessions) and Beyoncé (Black is King).

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Enter Disney Investor Day; boy did Disney deliver. The Mouse paraded a whole lineup of new shows, movies, and company announcements that would send any fan of pop culture into media overload and make any company executive jump up and down from all the intellectual property that is about to be put on display. Don’t worry, if you’re feeling overwhelmed, you’re not alone. Let’s break down some of the highlights. 

1) It’s all about numbers, and Disney has them: 137 million global paid subscriptions, to be exact, which includes:

  • 11.5 million ESPN+ subscribers
  • 38.8 million Hulu subscribers
  • 86.8 million Disney+ subscribers

Disney plans to see these numbers rise tremendously by the 2024 fiscal year, with projections of 300–350 million total subscriptions, driven primarily by a significant increase in content output.

(Photo Credit: Disney)

2) “Content is King,” and Disney is coming for the crown: Disney announced that they would be targeting 100+ new titles per year on Disney+. Yep, you read that right. For Disney+ alone, Disney revealed an impressive slate of content spanning across the Disney, Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars, and National Geographic catalogs. They also announced that they would be releasing some feature films in theaters and Disney+ simultaneously.

Some of the top content announcements included:

  • Star Wars getting the Marvel treatment: Easily one of the biggest surprises of the day was Lucasfilm president, Kathleen Kennedy, announcing a slate of 10 Star Wars series stretching into 2023 for Disney+, the most aggressive creative expansion of the franchise since Disney acquired Lucasfilm in 2012. The theatrical film, Star Wars: Rogue Squadron, was also announced with director Patty Jenkins attached as director. Taika Waititi has also been attached to an unnamed Star Wars feature film. Probably the biggest Star Wars news of the day, however, was the return of Hayden Christensen to play Darth Vader alongside Ewan McGregor in the Obi-Wan Kenobi series, sending fans into a frenzy

  • Avengers may be over, but Marvel is just getting started: Starting off Marvel’s Phase 4 is WandaVision, The Falcon and The Winter Soldier, and Loki. Joining the previously announced lineup, Disney announced three new series for Disney+ including the Samuel L. Jackson-led Secret Invasion, Ironheart with Dominique Thorne as a genius inventor, and Armor Wars, starring Don Cheadle as James Rhodes. She-Hulk is here; starring Tatiana Maslany as lawyer Jennifer Walters. “Guardians” fans will be happy to hear that James Gunn will return to write and direct The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special for Disney+, and everyone’s favorite baby tree will get his own series in I Am Groot. Marvel Studios also revealed that Black Widow will be released in theaters, Christian Bale joins the cast of Thor: Love and Thunder, Black Panther 2 will retire the character of T’Challa in memory of Chadwick Boseman, and Nia DaCosta (Candyman) will direct Captain Marvel 2.

  • Pixar is still focusing on quality over quantity: While Pixar’s latest film, Soul, will launch on December 25 on Disney+, Pixar revealed three new films: Lightyear, an origin story starring Chris Evans; Luca, set in a seaside town of Italy, arriving in theaters June 2021; and Turning Red, which follows a 13-year-old girl with the ability to transform into a giant red panda.

  • Disney Animation is Bringing Your Favorites Back: Zootopia Plus, a series based on the little-seen creatures of Zootopia, will arrive on Disney+ in spring 2022; Baymax!, featuring the robot of Big Hero 6, will be released in 2022; Moana will be receiving a long-form musical comedy series spinoff; and Tiana, based on The Princess and the Frog, is also getting a spinoff. Raya and the Last Dragon will receive a day-and-date release in theaters and on Disney+ Premier Access on March 5, 2021, and Lin-Manuel Miranda will be writing music for Pixar’s new Columbia-set musical comedy Encanto.

  • More titles announced: The Sanderson Sisters will return in Hocus Pocus 2; Noah Hawley is developing an Alien series for FX; Andy Samberg and John Mulaney will voice our favorite chipmunks in a reboot of Chip and Dale: Rescue Rangers; and Will Smith and Chris Hemsworth are each getting their own National Geographic shows. Lucasfilm is also rebooting Willow with Warwick Davis returning as the beloved character, with Jon M. Chu announced to direct the pilot. 

This only scratches the surface. Check out all of Disney’s upcoming content here.

3) Star power: The media giant also announced that it will be launching another general streaming service called Star for the international market as a fully-integrated part of Disney+ that will launch in Europe, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Singapore as early as February 23, 2021. Star will feature more adult-orientated content from the company’s ABC, FX, Freeform, Searchlight, and 20th Century Studios brands.

In short, Star will act like a service similar to Hulu, which Disney CEO Bob Chapek mentioned has “no brand awareness” outside of the U.S. Star will also include aggregated third-party content (likely from Hulu) and will instead focus on shows that Disney owns, as well as content that does not fall into other licensing arrangements on a global scale.

4) Latin America is getting its own version of Star: In the offshoot of Star, a standalone streaming service, Star+, will launch in June 2021 and will feature Disney’s umbrella of general entertainment content and live sports. The decision for Star and Star+ is said to be a result that followed the launch of Disney+ Hotstar in India in April 2020 and Indonesia in September 2020. 

For years now, Disney has sold its ABC shows to linear broadcasters and local streaming services around the world. So, essentially, Disney has a massive web of content to untangle when it comes to acquiring certain rights for content again, which is why Star is the answer to that solution…for the time being. 

In conclusion, the ambitious business moves from Disney prove that it is ready and willing to do whatever it takes to expand and compete with other streamers. With more than 137 million subscriptions worldwide, in a world where shows and films are now being launched at any moment on a streaming platform, Disney has shown they are committed to developing their intellectual properties (IP) to keep their viewership intrigued and gain more subscribers.

From Book to Screen: Adapting Philip Roth's 'Indignation'

On Thursday, December 20, New York Film Academy (NYFA) hosted a guest lecture by producer, production attorney, and NYFA board member, Avy Eschenasy. Eschenasy is the principal of Eschenasy Consulting, which provides advisory services in connection with all business aspects of motion picture production, financing, and distribution.

Previously, Eschenasy was a senior executive at Focus Features from 2002 until 2013, where he was Executive Vice President of Strategic Planning, Business Affairs and Acquisitions. Eschenasy is known for producing Indignation (2016), Casting JonBenét (2017), and A Prayer Before Dawn (2017).

Avy Eschenasy

Eschenasy began the lecture by discussing how the book Indignation by Philip Roth, was optioned to be produced as a feature film. In order for a producer to option a book, they must pay the publisher an “option fee.”

“That fee entitles [producers] to exclusively have the opportunity to buy the rights [to produce the book as a film]” said Eschenasy, “for a limited time period, usually 12 to 18 months” if the producer can find a production company or movie studio that wants to produce the optioned book as a film.

If the producer can find a production company or movie studio that is interested in producing the book as a film, then they would pay the publisher an additional fee for the exclusive opportunity to produce the book as a film. That means that once Eschenasy purchased the rights to produce Roth’s Indignation, Roth’s publishing company was not allowed to sell the option or production rights to any other producers.

Avy Eschenasy

Eschenasy went on to discuss turning the book into a screenplay. In order to get a book adapted to a screenplay, the producer must negotiate with a screenwriter, usually a member of the Writers Guild of America (WGA).

In the contract with the screenwriter, the producer outlines fees paid for the first couple drafts of the script and many times will pay an additional fee if the film makes it all the way to production and distribution. The fees paid to a writer also depend on how they are credited: for example, a writer that has written a script alone would be paid more than a writer that co-wrote a script with one or more partners.

Once the script is finalized, it is time to focus on production. The producer needs to have a “package” ready to prepare for launching production, said Eschenasy. “The script, cast, the director, and the budget.”

Avy Eschenasy

The budget is put together by a line producer and then the producer must try to raise that amount of money to make the film; with independent films like Indignation, this money is typically raised with “pre-sales” to distributors. A “pre-sale” is a contract between the production team and distributors that outlines stipulations that the production team must follow in order to secure financing from the distributor; usually the distributor’s agreement is contingent upon the producer promising a script and a known actor. A way to save money during production is to shoot in a state or a country with tax credits for film and television productions; because of this and a few other reasons, Indignation was shot in New York.

For Indignation, a big part of the production “package” was the actor, Logan Lerman, best known for starring in The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012). Eschenasy needed a name like Lerman to get distributors interested, but he also needed to make Lerman and his representatives feel confident in Indignation as a production; producers get actors and their representatives to trust their productions with contracts. The contract outlines the shoot schedule, the actor’s “billing” (much like the writer’s “credit” discussed earlier), the fee paid to the actor (including bonuses if the actor wins awards for the role), and perks if applicable.

After all the negotiations and contracts were completed and all of the necessary funds were raised, Indignation went into production. Everything went well during the production phase and then it moved to post-production. Once the final cut of the film was finished, Indignation was entered in the Sundance Film Festival, where it was received very well by critics. Lionsgate Entertainment made an offer to distribute the film in the United States and Sony Pictures Entertainment made and offer to distribute the film to the majority of the international market. After all of their hard work, the Indignation production team got the film made, critically acclaimed, and distributed all over the world.

New York Film Academy would like to thank Avy Eschenasy for sharing his industry expertise and experiences getting Indignation produced with our students!

2019 Oscars: Best Adapted Screenplay Nominees

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences have announced the nominees for the 91st annual Academy Awards, to be given out during ABC’s televised ceremony on Sunday, February 24. The Oscars will cap off a months-long awards season featuring industry veterans, newcomers, and as always, endless debates about who deserves to go home with the golden statue.

New York Film Academy (NYFA) takes a closer look at this year’s Academy Award nominees for Best Adapted Screenplay:

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, Joel Coen & Ethan Coen

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs is an anthology of six Western-themed vignettes, adapted from a variety of sources, including original short stories the Coen brothers had been developing themselves over the past couple decades. One vignette is based on the Jack London story All Gold Canyon while another is adapted from The Gal Who Got Rattled by Stewart Edward White. The Coen brothers previously won in this category for No Country for Old Men, and have won and been nominated for several Academy Awards in their careers, including a win for Best Original Screenplay in 1997 for Fargo.

BlacKkKlansman, Charlie Wachtel, David Rabinowitz, Kevin Willmott, and Spike Lee

BlacKkKlansman tells the true story of Ron Stallworth, an NYPD detective who infiltrated the KKK in the 1970s. Charlie Wachtel and David Rabinowitz adapted Stallworth’s own memoir into a screenplay along with details they gleaned from interviewing him. Director Spike Lee and collaborator Kevin Willmott worked on the script as well before shooting. This is the first Oscar nomination for Watchel, Rabinowitz, and Willmott. Lee has five nominations in total, including one for his Do the Right Thing screenplay, as well as an Honorary Oscar awarded in 2016.

Can You Ever Forgive Me?, Nicole Holofcener and Jeff Whitty

Can You Ever Forgive Me? is adapted from the 2008 memoir of the same name by Lee Israel, and chronicles Israel’s time forging letters from dead authors and playwrights, which eventually led to her being sentenced to probation and house arrest. This is the only screenplay credit for Jeff Whitty, who co-wrote Tony-winning Avenue Q. Nicole Holofcener has previously written Lovely & Amazing, Friends With Money, Please Give, and Enough Said. This is the first Oscar nomination for both writers.

If Beale Street Could Talk, Barry Jenkins

If Beale Street Could Talk was adapted from the 1974 novel by renowned author James Baldwin, a love story set in Harlem. Barry Jenkins wrote and directed the film, following up his 2016 Best Picture winner Moonlight. For Moonlight, Jenkins was nominated by the Academy for Best Directing and Best Adapted Screenplay, and won the latter.

A Star Is Born, Eric Roth, Bradley Cooper, and Will Fetters

A Star is Born is adapted from the original 1937 film of the same name and its two remakes. This is the first Oscar nomination for Will Fetters, who previously wrote Remember Me. It’s the seventh nomination for director and star Bradley Cooper, who has four acting nominations and two Best Picture nods. Eric Roth is a veteran screenwriter with five total nominations for his work—all adaptations—including a win in 1995 for Forrest Gump. Roth’s other credits include The Insider, Munich, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The Horse Whisperer, and Ali, among many others.

Check out the New York Film Academy Blog after this year’s ceremony for a full list of the 2019 Oscar winners and losers!

2019 Oscars: The Best Original Screenplay Nominees

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences have announced the nominees for the 91st annual Academy Awards, to be given out during ABC’s televised ceremony on Sunday, February 24. The Oscars will cap off a months-long awards season featuring industry veterans, newcomers, and as always, endless debates about who deserves to go home with the golden statue.

New York Film Academy (NYFA) takes a closer look at this year’s Academy Award nominees for Best Original Screenplay:

The Favourite, Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara

Deborah Davis started the screenplay for The Favourite in 1998, using actual letters written by the film’s lead characters—Queen Anne, Sarah, and Abigail. It was Davis’ first script; she went to night school to learn how to turn the story into a film. After Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos became attached to the project, Australian screenwriter Tony McNamara (Doctor, Doctor; The Rage in Placid Lake) updated the draft. This is the first Oscar nomination for both writers.

First Reformed, Paul Schrader

Despite having written Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, American Gigolo, The Mosquito Coast, The Last Temptation of Christ, and Affliction, among several others, this is the first Oscar nomination for Hollywood veteran Paul Schrader. Schrader has also directed many films, including First Reformed, a drama concerning a small congregation in upstate New York that includes a much buzzed-about performance by Ethan Hawke.

Green Book, Nick Vallelonga, Brian Currie, and Peter Farrelly

All three writers are also Oscar-nominated producers of the Best Picture contender. Green Book is one of the first screenplays written by actor Brian Currie, while Nick Vallelonga is a writer, actor, and director whose father, Tony, is played by Viggo Mortensen in the film. Farrelly has co-written several comedies with his brother Bobby, including Dumb and Dumber, There’s Something About Mary, and Me, Myself & Irene.

Roma, Alfonso Cuarón

Alfonso Cuarón has written several of his directorial efforts, including Y Tu Mamá También, Children of Men, and Gravity. Roma is a very personal film for the artist, and he is nominated for Oscars for directing, shooting, and producing the film as well. He’s been nominated by the Academy ten times overall and won twice for Gravity, for Directing and Editing.

Vice, Adam McKay

Adam McKay made his name as a comedy writer, having been head writer for Saturday Night Live before moving on to feature films like Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, Step Brothers, and The Other Guys. In 2016, he won the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay for The Big Short, which he also received a nomination in Directing for. This year he is up for three Academy Awards in total for Vice, including Best Directing and Best Picture.

Check out the New York Film Academy Blog after this year’s ceremony for a full list of the 2019 Oscar winners and losers!

How Does 'Bohemian Rhapsody' Fit the Biopic Mold?

Bohemian Rhapsody, the story of rock band Queen and iconic frontman Freddie Mercury, has already won Best Drama at the Golden Globes and is a contender for Best Picture at the Academy Awards. It’s also the latest in a long line of biopics about famous 20th century musicians, including Ray, Walk the Line, La Vie en Rose, Get on Up, and Straight Outta Compton.

How does Bohemian Rhapsody fit the mold? Here are some of the most important ingredients to gather into making a successful biopic:

The Roots

Many biopics start with at least a scene from the subject’s childhood, and if they don’t, they usually at least include flashbacks. Bohemian Rhapsody is no different, giving us a look where Mercury is originally from.

The Love Interest

Biopics tend to distill the love life of their subject to one or two key relationships that define and drive the character’s motivations and keep them grounded as their fame and world explode. The focus around Mercury’s relationship with Mary Austin is prominent among the rest of Mercury’s several romantic partnerships, men and women alike. The real-life Austin approved the script but didn’t want to be involved in interviews or in any promotion of the film whatsoever.

The Music

While some biopics avoid playing the hits of their subject due to expensive or inaccessible music rights, many rely on their iconic soundtracks as a huge selling point for the film. Queen’s hits are numerous, catchy, and famous, so of course Bohemian Rhapsody includes as many as it can. Indeed, much of the film is shot as if it were concert footage to mimic what it was like to be at an actual Queen show.

Lookalike Stars

Hollywood has no shortage of talented stars, so often casting a biopic depends heavily on physical looks–to help sell the idea that audiences are watching true events unfold. Rami Malek not only physically transforms into Freddie Mercury, but is a strong talented actor–it’s no surprise he’s nominated for Best Lead Actor at this year’s Academy Awards, especially after winning the Golden GLobe for his performance.

The Title

Most biopics avoid naming themselves after their subject–that would be too on the nose. Instead, most go with a song title from the artist, often one of their bigger hits. This includes Beyond the Sea, Walk the Line, What’s Love Got to Do With It?, Get on Up, Coal Miner’s Daughter, and of course, Bohemian Rhapsody.

So what’s next for the Hollywood biopic? Well for one, later this year in theaters we’ll see an Elton John biopic titled, naturally, Rocketman. In the meantime, we’ll find out soon if Bohemian Rhapsody is not only a hit biopic, but also this year’s Best Picture!

Ludovic Coutaud is a NYFA alum and writer. For more information, click here

2019 Academy Awards: The Best Picture Nominees

2019 Best Picture nominees
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences have announced the nominees for the 91st annual Academy Awards, to be given out during ABC’s televised ceremony on Sunday, February 24. The Oscars will cap off a months-long awards season featuring industry veterans, newcomers, and as always, endless debates about who deserves to go home with the golden statue.

The final award of the night, Best Motion Picture of the Year, is handed out to the eligible producers of the film. Since 2009, the number of nominations has increased from five to a maximum of ten, based on a more complicated voting system that uses a modified preferential ranking process.

New York Film Academy (NYFA) takes a closer look at this year’s Academy Award nominees for Best Picture:

Black Panther

Black Panther is the first superhero film to receive a Best Picture nomination and is notable for its themes of race and diverse cast and role models for children of color used to typically seeing white male heroes in Hollywood blockbusters. It was directed and co-written by Ryan Coogler, while the sole producer eligible for the Best Picture Oscar is Kevin Feige, president of Marvel Studios and mastermind of the groundbreaking Marvel Cinematic Universe. Black Panther is up for seven Academy Awards total.

BlacKkKlansman

BlacKkKlansman is the latest film from Spike Lee and earned him his first Academy Award nomination for Best Directing. Based on true events, the film tells the story of an African American detective who infiltrates the Ku Klux Klan in the 1970s. Lee is also one of the five producers eligible for the Best Picture Oscar, including Sean McKittrick, Jason Blum, Raymond Mansfield, and Jordan Peele, who won a Best Screenplay Oscar last year for 2018 Best Picture nominee Get Out. BlacKkKlansman is up for six Academy Awards total.

Bohemian Rhapsody

Bohemian Rhapsody is the latest Hollywood musical biopic to gain a groundswell of awards season buzz, focusing on legendary rock group Queen, with Rami Malek giving an Oscar-nominated turn as iconic frontman Freddie Mercury. The sole producer eligible for Best Picture is Graham King, who previously won the award for Martin Scorsese’s 2006 film, The Departed, and was nominated in the category for two additional Scorsese films, Hugo and The Aviator. Bohemian Rhapsody is up for five Academy Awards total.

The Favourite

The Favourite is the latest critically-acclaimed art house film from Greek writer and director Yorgos Lanthimos (The Lobster, The Killing of a Sacred Deer). The period dramedy depicts the rivalry between two cousins vying for the favor of 18th century British Queen Anne. Lanthimos is one of four producers eligible for the Academy Award, along with Ceci Dempsey, Ed Guiney, and Lee Magiday. This is the first Oscar nomination for Dempsey and Magiday, while Guiney was previously nominated in the category for Room in 2015. The Favourite is up for ten Academy Awards total.

Green Book

Green Book is a dramedy set in the 1950s Deep South, based on a real life concert tour of African American pianist Don Shirley and his white driver and bodyguard, Tony Vallelonga. Five producers are eligible in the category, including director and co-writer Peter Farrelly, who made a name with his brother for slapstick comedies like Dumb and Dumber and There’s Something About Mary. He shares the nomination with Jim Burke, Charles B. Wessler, Brian Hayes Currie, and Vallelonga’s son, Nick Vallelonga, who is also co-nominated for Best Original Screenplay. Green Book is up for five Academy Awards total.

Roma

Roma is a deeply personal, semi-autobiographical film by Alfonso Cuarón set in Mexico City in the early 1970s and shot beautifully in black-and-white. In addition to sharing the Best Picture nomination with Gabriela Rodriguez, Cuarón also wrote, shot, and directed the film, for which he received additional Oscar nods. This is the first nomination for Rodriguez, and the first nomination in the category ever for a Latinx woman. Along with the The Favourite, Roma has the most Academy Award nominations this year, with a total of ten.

A Star is Born

A Star is Born is the third remake of the original 1937 film, updated by director and star Bradley Cooper after years of development hell with several filmmakers attached. Cooper shares the Best Picture nod with Bill Gerber and Lynette Howell Taylor. This is Cooper’s second nomination in the category (the first was for American Sniper) and seventh overall; it’s the first nomination for both Gerber and Taylor. A Star is Born is up for eight Academy Awards total.

Vice

Vice is a dramedy biopic of former Vice President Dick Cheney, starring Christian Bale in heavy, lifelike prosthetics. The film is writer and director Adam McKay’s follow-up to The Big Short, which similarly took a quasi-comedic look at the lead-up to the 2008 Great Recession, and which earned him an Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay. McKay is eligible for Best Picture along with Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner, and Kevin J. Messick. Gardner has been nominated for Best Picture six times in the last seven years, winning twice, for 12 Years a Slave and Moonlight; Kleiner has been nominated five times, sharing both Oscars with Gardner. This is the first nomination for Messick. Vice is up for eight Academy Awards total.

Check out the New York Film Academy Blog after this year’s ceremony for a full list of the 2019 Oscar winners and losers!

Ten Iconic Films Written by Screenwriting Legend William Goldman 

William Goldman, one of Hollywood’s most influential screenwriters for several decades, passed away early November 16, at the age of 87. 

In addition to writing several famous (and infamous) major motion pictures across a wide variety of genres, Goldman cemented himself as an authority of Hollywood screenwriting when he published Adventures in the Screen Trade in 1983. In the book, Goldman not only shared with readers his mastery of all things writing — story, dialogue, character — but his incisive, honest look at Hollywood’s modern studio system in the 60s and 70s, and what it would eventually evolve into over the next few decades. 

His rounded, honest view of the system that gave him great success was both cynical and appreciative, from the ground level as well as a bird’s eye view from the top, where he laid out and accepted both the good and the bad of the massive and powerful industry that produced an artistic medium he very much loved. 

Here are just some of the films he contributed to the Hollywood canon:

Misery

Director Rob Reiner and producers of the 1990 adaptation of Stephen King’s novel Misery, in which a psychotic fan ties her favorite author to her bed and forces him to keep writing, felt like they needed to dial back the horror of the book to make the film more palatable for mainstream audiences. In the novel, the character played by Kathy Bates severs the foot of the author played by James Caan, rendering him unable to escape.

What screenwriter William Goldman came up with as a solution was perfect, and became an iconic Hollywood moment. Rather than sever his foot, Goldman had Bates smash Caan’s ankles with a sledgehammer – less bloody and less gory, but somehow in its specificity, even more brutal to watch. Goldman was proving a valuable lesson in screenwriting: sometimes less is more.

Harper

Goldman had already finished the script to the hardboiled detective movie Harper, starring Paul Newman, but producers needed a scene to play over the opening credits. Goldman quickly came up with a simple, but poignant moment — the disgruntled PI getting ready in the morning, realizing he was out of coffee, and reusing an old filter from the trashcan. In one quick dialogue-less moment, Goldman established the get-it-done character of his protagonist before the opening credits had even finished rolling.

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

Goldman won the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay for his work on this seminal western that paired together two of Hollywood’s most charismatic and popular leading men — Paul Newman and Robert Redford. The film highlights the genre-bending abilities Goldman seemingly wielded without breaking a sweat, going from comedy to thriller to drama to even musical from scene to scene without ever missing a beat. 

Chaplin

Chaplin was a star-studded biopic in 1992 that portrayed the life and career of silent film megastar Charlie Chaplin, and was one of that year’s most prestigious films, with a talented cast, incredibly high production values, and direction by Richard Attenborough. While it received mixed reviews, it was one of the first major dramatic roles for the young comic actor Robert Downey, Jr., who was nominated for his first Academy Award for his work.

A Bridge Too Far

A Bridge Too Far was also directed by Richard Attenborough, and was an epic World War II film with a large-for-its-time budget and loaded cast that featured stars from other Goldman films like James Caan and Robert Redford. In a genre overstuffed with classics, A Bridge Too Far managed to make a name for itself for its wide scope and intense battle sequences, especially since, unlike many of its brethren, it focused on a major historical loss for the Allied Forces.

Marathon Man

Marathon Man, like some of Goldman’s other screenplays, was adapted from a novel he wrote himself. As a book, and later as a film, it attracted the attention of producers and critics alike for its stark violence and themes of Nazi war criminals still existing in society decades after the end of World War II. A major casting coup for the gritty thriller was Sir Laurence Olivier as the antagonist, who earned an Oscar nomination for his efforts.

Maverick

On the opposite end of the spectrum from Marathon Man is Maverick, a big-budget western comedy adapted from the 50s television series of the same name. The film reunites Lethal Weapon’s director Richard Donner and star Mel Gibson (and a cameo from Danny Glover) at the height of their Hollywood powers and proved to be a definitive audience-pleasing popcorn movie in a year full of tough competition. 

The Stepford Wives

The science-fiction horror film The Stepford Wives challenged the norms of gender dynamics between husbands and wives and, when it was released in 1975, received only moderate success. It has however gained a solid cult status over the decades, and was even eventually given a big budget remake starring Nicole Kidman in 2004. The term “Stepford Wife” itself has now become slang for the type of doting, robotic homemaker featured in Goldman’s script.

The Princess Bride

“Anybody want a peanut?” 

That’s just one line out of dozens from the eminently quotable screenplay Goldman wrote for The Princess Bride, itself an adaptation of a novel he wrote with the same name. Ostensibly a comedy, the film also plays with genre, and has firmly rooted itself in the hearts of multiple generations of film and adventure lovers. Can you imagine a world without the line, “My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.”??? 

Of course you can’t… it’s “”inconceivable!!!”

All the President’s Men

Goldman won his second Academy Award for the screenplay adapted from the book All the President’s Men, written by the journalists who uncovered the Watergate scandal. The film, which is still regarded by many as one of the greatest of all time, takes the real-life investigation of newspaper journalists Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein as they run up directly against a Nixon administration fighting to stay in power. Who would’ve thought its themes and even plot points of cover-ups and political corruption would be more resonant than ever forty years later? 

There are several other fantastic films written by William Goldman in his decades-spanning career, too many to list. Watching them all would not only be a great source of entertainment, but a Master Class in screenwriting from the man himself. 

RIP William Goldman – your contributions to cinema will not be forgotten.

 

7 Awesome Women in Film You Should Be Following Now

From directing to cinematography, writing to producing, women in Hollywood are working hard to have an equal voice and share of power in the movies being made … but we have a long way to go. According to the Annual Celluloid Ceiling Report, “In 2017, women comprised 18% of all directors, writers, producers, executive producers, editors, and cinematographers working on the top 250 domestic grossing films.”

Here, we present seven women who defy those numbers and stand as role models for generations of women to come. We couldn’t possibly decide which one of these women was more awesome than the next, so we put them in alphabetical order.

Ava DuVernay

  1. Ava DuVernay was the first African-American woman to win the Best Director Prize at Sundance Film Festival for Middle of Nowhere, and the first to be nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Selma. Recently, she became the first woman of color to direct a live-action film with a budget of over $100 million — a staggering sum for any director — for Disney’s upcoming A Wrinkle in Time.

Nina Jacobson

  1. Nina Jacobson is a producer who, in her time heading up Disney, brought such films as The Chronicles of Narnia, The Sixth Sense, and the Pirates of the Caribbean to life. After being fired from Disney, she created her own production company, Color Force, which produced the wildly successful Hunger Games movies. She is also openly gay, and has helped to create a more inclusive environment for the LGBTQ+ community in Hollywood by creating Out There with fellow producer Bruce Cohen.

Patty Jenkins

  1. Patty Jenkins directed Wonder Woman, the third highest grossing film of 2017. It gave her the biggest domestic opening for any female director. Before that, Jenkins wrote and directed Monster, another, darker, woman-centric film that garnered critical acclaim and the academy award for its star, Charlize Theron, whom we will meet below…

Kathleen Kennedy

  1. Kathleen Kennedy started out her career as Spielberg’s secretary and, as we mentioned in this article celebrating women film producers, rose to become one of the most powerful people in Hollywood. She heads up Lucasfilm, and is hence responsible for the Star Wars franchise and the highest grossing movies of the past few years, including The Last Jedi.

Reed Morano

  1. Reed Morano is a cinematographer, known for Frozen River, Kill Your Darlings” and The Skeleton Twins. More recently, she picked up critical acclaim for directing the first three episodes of The Handmaid’s Tale. In 2013, she became the youngest member of the American Society of Cinematographers, and, according to Wikipedia, is one of only 14 women in this prestigious organization of approximately 345 active members.

Mina Shum

  1. Mina Shum is a Chinese-Canadian filmmaker who prefers to be known simply as an independent filmmaker. Her feature films, Double Happiness and Long Life, Happiness and Prosperity, premiered at Sundance. Her most recent film, Meditation Park, starring Grey’s Anatomy’s Sandra Oh, will hit theaters March 2018.

Charlize Theron

  1. Charlize Theron is a South African-American who has established her career beyond her acting talent and beauty by founding her own production company, Denver and Delilah, named for her two dogs. Its first production was Monster, and its latest was Atomic Blonde.

For more on the usefulness of turning actor cred into producer cred, check out this article on why so many actors turn to producing, where you’ll find more awesome women like Viola Davis, Salma Hayek and Drew Barrymore, who all started production companies of their own.

 

 

 

Pilot Season 2017 Part 2: Here's What's Coming Your Way

Pilot season is a secret peek into TV’s future, when broadcast network execs decide which pilots go to series and which get scrapped. That trend may be changing with Amazon asking viewers to vote on their choices. Four Amazon shows already have the green light, but for the others, we’ll have to wait and see.

What follows are some trends in pilot season and some examples of shows that may be coming your way in the 2017-2018 season.

Enter Pilot Season Politics

Family dramas, comedies and police procedurals are joined this year by what the Hollywood Reporter calls the broadcast networks’ “efforts to appeal to Trump America.” NBC’s offering is a military hero drama ”For God and Country,” and CBS picked up a Navy SEALs drama, which, according to Variety’s Development Scorecard, “Follows the lives of the elite Navy SEALs as they train, plan, and execute the most dangerous, high stakes missions our country can ask.”

On the other hand, ABC’s “Red Blooded,” starring Reba McEntire as a “Red State” sheriff, will have her views challenged by a Muslim FBI agent. Speaking of ripped-from-the-headlines dramas, CBS has “Perfect Citizen,” about an Edward Snowden-like character. If you prefer your politics wrapped in allegory, ABC”s “The Crossing,” where the ill-fated refugees are Americans, is for you.

Seeking Out New Stories in New Frontiers

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Another trend moves us off this troubled planet with CBS’s astronaut drama called “Mission Control,” and NBC’s comedy “Spaced Out.”

Netflix and Amazon are also in the space-race, with the reboot of beloved ’60s sci-fi classic “Lost in Space” and futuristic “Oasis,” which Rolling Stone calls a “space-madness headscratcher.”

FOX has Orville, a comedy drama set 300 years in the future, as well as the apocalyptic “Passage,” based on Justin Cronin’s best-selling mixed-genre trilogy.

Marvel Comics teamed up with FOX to create the latest from the X-Men universe. The logline for “Gifted” runs: “After discovering their children possess mutant powers, two ordinary parents and their kids are forced to go on the run from a hostile government, eventually joining up with an underground network of mutants.”

Under the Influence

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CBS picked up the idea for “Living Biblically,” about a middle-aged man who decides to follow the Bible to the letter with hilarious results, from a book by AJ Jacobs.

Fox has loosely based its office comedy “Type A” on “*ssholes: A Theory” by Aaron James.

In Netflix’s “Disjointed,” Kathy Bates heads up a ragtag and mostly stoned bunch in the legal cannabis business.

Amazon is also into the pot game with “Budding Prospects,” a show about marijuana farmers in 1980s California. That show, along with “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” about a perfect wife turned queen of comedy in 1950s New York, were given the green light to go to series by Amazon viewers.

What new shows are you watching this season? Let us know in the comments below! And if you’re ready to learn more about film and television production, check out our producing programs at New York Film Academy!

Projects That Made the Most of Their Monstrous Production Budget

The amount of new movies hitting the market continues to grow every day, and each new film uses more exotic filming locations, special effects and well-known actors and actresses. Blockbuster movies make use of their big production budgets in hopes of creating successful and unforgettable entertainment. While many aspiring filmmakers yearn for larger budgets, wisely allocating and managing a large film budget is an artform in and of itself. Below, we have compiled a list of movies from the last two decades with monstrous production budgets that were, arguably, used to great effect.

“The Amazing Spider-Man 2”

Andrew Garfield took to the building tops of New York City in 2014 once again as Peter Parker in “The Amazing Spider-Man 2.” A reported $500 million was spent to reboot the classic superhero series, which only featured two movies. The sequel to “The Amazing Spider-Man” was shot exclusively on 35mm film and entirely in New York.

The production budget for “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” was an estimated $255 million and performed well in the box office. However, Sony Pictures decided to cancel the series and has partnered with Marvel Studios to include Spider-Man in upcoming films. Tom Holland portrayed Spider-Man in the newest Captain America movie.

“Avatar”

James Cameron’s “Avatar,” which hit the big screens in 2009, was at the forefront of film technology and motion capture animation. It took Cameron’s team over a year to develop new technology and software for the film’s motion capture. He also employed over 900 people at Weta Digital to work on digital after effects.

Reports speculated that the budget for “Avatar” had cost $280 to $500 million due to all of the visuals. However, Fox officially released production cost and the movie’s budget was only $237 million. Cameron’s “Avatar” was the first film to make more than $200 billion worldwide and remains one of the highest grossing films.

“Avengers: Age of Ultron”

Joss Whedon’s “Avengers: Age of Ultron,” is the follow-up movie to his first successful “Avengers” movie. The second blockbuster featured big-name actors and actresses including Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson, and Chris Evans. The film was shot in multiple locations such as England, Bangladesh, Italy, New York City, and South Korea. In addition to a large cast and multiple filming locations, post-production special effects made the move’ budget quite high. The tax rebate from the United Kingdom confirmed the cost of the film was $330.6 million.

“Avengers: Age of Ultron” made $1.403 billion worldwide in the box office, making the movie the sixth highest-grossing movie of all time. The sequel though, did not out-perform “Avengers” in the box office. There is a rumor that the third film in the series, “Avengers: Infinity Wars, Part 1,” and the fourth, “Avengers: Infinity Wars, Part 2” will be even more expensive.

“Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince”

Harry Potter has been a cultural phenomenon that has dominated the last two decades. “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince,” the sixth installment of the series, had the largest production budget out of all the movies, which was an estimated $250 million.

The seventh and eighth installment of the movie series, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” had a budget similar to “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince,” but because the movie was filmed simultaneously, production costs were cut in half. “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” brought in $934.4 billion worldwide.   

The Hobbit: “An Unexpected Journey,” “Desolation of Smaug,” and “The Battle of Five Armies”

The three-part installment of “The Hobbit” had a whopping production budget of $745 million. It is hard to determine the budget for each individual film due to the fact that the three films were created simultaneously. Even if the films’ budget could be divided, the films would still be one of the most expensive – both films were filmed in 3D and in 45 frames per second.

The budget for the original “Lord of the Rings” trilogy was $281 million and made $2.917 billion worldwide. The monstrous budget for “The Hobbit” trilogy paid off because the trilogy made $2.932 billion worldwide.

“Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest,” “At World’s End,” and “On Stranger Tides”

“Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest” and “At World’s End” were filmed simultaneously, so it’s hard to determine the exact cost for each film. However, the cost for Disney to film both movies in tandem was an estimated $500 million. A-list actors such as Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightly coupled with exotic filming locations and special effects led to the increase in productions costs.    

The fourth movie of the installment, “On Stranger Tides,” is the first movie in the series to cost more than $400 million. The production team used 1,200 generated sequences, similar to the 3D technology that was used in “Avatar,” for special effects. It was confirmed that the total for the production’s budget was $410.6 million.    

“Spider-Man 3”

“Spider-Man 3,” not to be confused with “The Amazing Spider-Man,” featured Tobey Maguire as the web-slinging hero of New York City. In the third installment of the series, Spider-Man faces three villains: Sandman, Venom, and Harry Osborne, also known as New Goblin. The movie was filmed in Los Angeles, Cleveland, and New York City. Multiple filming locations could have attributed to a higher budget.  

Sony Productions confirmed that the movie’s production budget was $258 million, and the movie grossed $890.9, leading “Spider-Man 3” to be the most successful movie out of the three-movie installment from a financial standpoint. But Sony Pictures and the movie’s director, Sam Raimi, had a falling out and Sony cut ties. The falling out with Raimi led Sony to reboot the series five years later using Andrew Garfield as the leading man.

“Tangled”

Who doesn’t love a good animated film? Disney’s 2010 musical comedy featured the first princess to be rendered in 3D, not 2D (Rapunzel). It is estimated that the movie production budget was around $260 million, making “Tangled” one of the most expensive animated films to date.

Two reasons as to why the budget was so high: 1) the movie was in production for six years, and 2) the production team developed a state-of-the-art program to code how Rapunzel’s hair should move and behave in water.

The animated film made $591.8 million worldwide; it was also nominated for two Golden Globes, an Oscar and won a Grammy for “I See the Light.”

What are your favorite monster-budget blockbuster films? Let us know in the comments below! And apply to NYFA’s producing programs to learn more about how to maximize a production budget.

 

 

 

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Celebrating Women Film Producers

With this year’s Best Picture going to producer Dede Gardner for “Moonlight” and the top-grossing “Rogue One” produced by Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy, you’d think the “celluloid ceiling” had been thoroughly busted — but sadly, the numbers tell another story. For Women’s History Month, we at NYFA think it’s important to honor the milestones in pursuing gender equality, while being realistic about the continuing, painful disparities.

According to research reported at The Center for The Study of Women in Television and Film, the numbers for women behind the scenes actually dropped last year: “In 2016, women comprised 17% of all directors, writers, producers, executive producers, editors, and cinematographers working on the top 250 domestic grossing films. This represents a decline of 2 percentage points from last year and is even with the percentage achieved in 1998.” According to the study women accounted for 17 percent of executive producers and 24 percent of producers.

At NYFA, we encourage women to make careers for themselves in the biz not only in front of the camera but also behind the scenes, where diverse perspectives have the power to shake the industry. This is only one of the reasons why, for five years, our producing programs have attracted a majority-female student community.

Finding Academy Award-winning Adventures

This year Dede Gardner took home a Best Picture Oscar for the (surprise) winner “Moonlight.” She and Jeremy Kleiner head up Brad Pitt’s Plan B, which has become a reliable source for quality films — for example, the 2012 Best Picture winner “12 Years a Slave.” Regarding their process at Plan B, Gardner, quoted in an IndieWire article said, “We spend a lot of time reading, a lot of time watching movies in small corners of libraries and hotel rooms. It’s probably our favorite thing to do. We fall in love with a movie and we reach out. We ask to meet, see more work and listen to what they’re interested in, what world they want to live in, what stories they want to tell. Time and time again, those conversations can result in movies. They just need to be had in an honest space. The only intentions will ever be to continue the conversation, and not think about these things as products, but adventures that we might embark on together.”

What many people may not know, however, is that Plan B was not the only (or the first) productive force behind “Moonlight.” Adele Romanski was one of three Florida State University friends who brought the project to life long before Plan B entered the picture. Romanski set up weekly Google chats to help motivate her friend, writer/director Barry Jenkins, to start another feature film project after an eight-year hiatus. As Romanski explained to Vulture last December: “… I came to the realization that I wanted to work with good people who I knew, who I could trust or who I did trust, and [do] good work together. And so the top of the list obviously was going to be Barry. And there was a lot of noise, it was becoming sort of a louder and louder conversation about where’s Barry’s next movie? Why hasn’t Barry made a movie? We would be at festivals or other industry functions, and people were coming up to us like, Why hasn’t Barry made a movie? And I would say, I don’t know, why don’t you ask him? But also, like, why are you asking me? You’re coming to me? So anyway, I just called him and said, You’ve got to make a movie. I’m gonna make you, I’m gonna help you, we’re gonna make it, make you make a movie.” And she did — a movie that went on to win the Oscar for Best Picture. In her acceptance speech at the Academy Awards, Romanski said: “And I think, I hope even more than that it’s inspiring to people, little black boys and brown girls and other folks watching at home who feel marginalized and who take some inspiration from seeing this beautiful group of artists held by this amazing talent, Barry Jenkins, accepting this top honor. Thank you.”

From Secretary to President

Kathleen Kennedy started out as Steven Spielberg’s secretary, but quickly proved herself. An Entertainment weekly article celebrating women producers describes her early rise: “Spielberg tells EW that her ‘creative intuition’ while working as his assistant on 1981’s ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark,’ especially ‘in the crowded streets in Kairouan, Tunisia…gaining the cooperation and participation of the people living there,’ inspired him to hire her as a producer on “E.T.” Now Kennedy heads Lucasfilm and is responsible for the Star Wars franchise, whose last two releases, “The Force Awakens” and “Rogue One,” were the box office winners of 2015 and 2016, respectively.

Taking Control Behind the Scenes

Kathryn Bigelow was the first (and still the only) woman to ever win Best Director for “The Hurt Locker,” for which she, as producer, also won for Best Picture. Bigelow started her career as a painter and then went to film school. She has made a name for herself directing action and thriller films that belie any notions about typical female-run projects, such as “Strange Days” and “Point Break.” A Guardian article quotes her as saying, “I suppose I like to think of myself as a filmmaker” (not a female filmmaker). In other words, she seems to attach less significance to her gender than the media and the industry does.

Fun fact: NYFA New York Producing Chair Neal Weisman worked with Kathryn Bigelow on her film “Blue Steel,” starring Jamie Curtis during his time as vice president of Edward Pressman Film Corporation.

Telling Untold Stories

The producing team of Amanda Posey and Finola Dwyer, do tend towards stories that feature female perspectives, such as “An Education” and “Brooklyn,” both of which were nominated for Best Picture. In a Guardian article Posey was quoted as saying, “We are always looking to tell something from a fresh perspective and with a fresh insight and it just so happens that, because of the way history is told, a lot of the untold stories are female. We are drawn to it from a storytelling point of view rather than specifically because it is based around women.”

Happy Women’s History Month! Do you have a favorite female producer? Or do you aspire to be the next female powerhouse behind the scenes? Let us know in the comments below, and check out our producing programs at New York Film Academy.

The Biggest Writers Guild of America Award Winners

February is an exciting time to be a fan of film and television. The BAFTAs arrive early in the month to honor the top British and international contributions to the industry. At the end of the month we of course have arguably the biggest film celebration of them all — the Academy Awards.

But right in between those two red carpet events, we get to recognize the best writing achievements of the past year. Below are some of the most notable winners from the 69th Writers Guild of America Awards, which took place Sunday Feb. 19, 2017.

“Moonlight” Takes Home Best Original Screenplay

The award for best original screenplay has always served as one of the top honors of the awards show, and this year it went to “Moonlight.” This coming-of-age story by an independent team has been racking up an impressive collection of trophies and is nominated for eight awards at the Oscars next week.

Winning this award meant defeating many other films that have been earning their own trove of awards this season, including big favorite “La La Land” as well as “Loving,” “Manchester by the Sea,” and “Hell or High Water.”

“Arrival” Bounces Back from Golden Globes

Fans of the sci-fi movie were no doubt bummed by the results at the Golden Globes. “Arrival” was nominated for best performance by an actress (Amy Adams) along with best original score, but won neither. But at the WGAs, “Arrival” earned one of the biggest awards of the night: best adapted screenplay.

Things could get even better, as “Arrival” enters the Academy Awards with eight different nominations. Among those categories include best picture, best director, best adapted screenplay, and best cinematography.

The Best in Interactive Storytelling

No one can deny the growth and influence of video games in the last few decades. As computer technology advances at a quick pace, so too does the ability for games to absorb us into virtual worlds. Now, video games are considered one of the best forms of storytelling since only they can offer choices, nonlinear narratives, and more.

The big winner at the WGAs was Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End, an action-adventure game that follows a treasure hunter named Nathan Drake around the world. To many of us this win is no surprise, considering Naughty Dog’s reputation for providing some of the best story-driven games of all time. Other nominees were MR. ROBOT 1.51exfiltratiOn, Far Cry Primal, and Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare.

FX Goes Home Happy

The 21st Century Fox channel has once again proven itself one of the best producers of excellent TV shows. Three of their latest series left the WGAs with some of the best awards the night has to offer.

While “The People vs. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story” took home the adapted long form award, “Atlanta” won both best new series and best new comedy. “The Americans” also beat strong contenders like “Game of Thrones,” “Stranger Things,” “Better Call Saul,” and “Westworld” to win best drama series.

What did you think of this year’s WGA winners? Let us know in the comments below! Interested in screenwriting? Learn more about the craft at NYFA’s Screenwriting School.

4 Films That Won Both The PGA and The Oscar

It’s mid-January and the award-season excitement is palpable. Which is exactly why you must tune in to your television on Saturday Jan. 28 to watch the Producers Guild of America (PGA) Awards. Not only do these awards accurately predict the Oscars much of the time, but every film that has won a PGA has also received a Best Picture nomination for the Academy Award.

Here we’ve rounded up a few films that have won both the awards, for your re-viewing pleasure. What better way to get you started in the award season mood?

1. “Birdman” (2014)

 Also known as “The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance,” this is a black-comedy drama film that appears to have been filmed in one long single shot. The story focuses on Riggan Thomson, a fading actor who was once a huge name for playing the Birdman superhero and is now trying to reinvent himself as well as his career by directing and acting in a Broadway adaptation of a Raymond Carver short story that eerily reflects his dysfunctional life and relationships as well. With elements of meta-narrative and magic realism blended in, this makes for an intoxicating watch.

2. “Frozen” (2013)

A musical fantasy animated film, this Disney delight blends the old Snow Queen tale in a beautiful story about sibling bonding. Princess Ella has always suppressed her magic after a childhood accident with her sister Anna until the day of her coronation, when she sets off her powers before everyone, without meaning to. Ashamed and fearful of herself, she flees the castle to live a solitary life in an ice palace hidden deep in the mountainous woods. Anna takes it upon herself to rescue her estranged sister. This film also won an Academy Award for the Best Original Song “Let It Go.”

3. “Slumdog Millionaire” (2008)

A drama film set in India, this movie has an extremely interesting plot. Slum-dweller and Muslim, Jamal Malik is a quiz show contestant who is detained and tortured by the sceptical police who refuse to believe how an impoverished boy knew so much to get a place in the show. In a series of flashbacks, each linked to a question that Jamal correctly answers, we come to know the heartbreaking story of his life.

4. “Up” (2009)

A beautiful animated family film, “Up” centres on the adventures of the ageing widower Carl and a young adventurer Russell who set out to explore the wilderness of South America. Using helium balloons, Carl manages to levitate his house and turn it into an airship and meets a variety of creatures that help him along the way and join in their adventures. Packed with humour and warmth, this is one delightful film that is also the second animated film in history to receive a Best Picture Oscar nomination (after “Beauty and the Beast” in 1991).

Which is your favourite film to win both the coveted awards? Which films are you rooting for, this time? Let us know in the comments below!

5 Brilliant Screenplays That Were Rejected … Repeatedly

In an industry dominated with rejection, sometimes a single “yes” is all it takes to change the face of cinema forever. Here are five truly groundbreaking movies that, for some studios, were a little too groundbreaking…

1. “Pulp Fiction” (1994)

Despite being a quickly rising star in Hollywood at the time, Quentin Tarrantino had a lengthy battle in trying to get any studio interested in his follow up to “Reservoir Dogs.”

Why “Pulp Fiction” was Rejected: According to Columbia TriStar executive Mike Medavoy, the script was “too demented.” TriStar initially optioned the film and was even in talks to produce it, but then did a 180 by declaring, “This is the worst thing ever written. It makes no sense. Someone’s dead and then they’re alive. It’s too long, violent, and unfilmable.”

Very few studios were willing to touch a movie featuring heavy heroin use, and the search for a new backer was extensive before Miramax picked it up.

2. “Raiders of the Lost Ark” (1981)

Initially dubbed “The Adventures of Indiana Smith,” even the attachment of industry superstars George Lucas and Steven Spielberg wasn’t enough to garner significant studio interest.

Why Indiana Jones was Rejected: It wasn’t actually Lucas’ screenplay that lead to it being rejected by every single studio in Hollywood, but more the fact that he was asking $20 million to make it. Paramount ended up footing the bill and Lucas shrewdly negotiated a five-film contract; it ended up grossing nearly $400 million at gross and is frequently heralded as the best action-adventure movie of all time.

3. “Back to the Future” (1985)

Another ‘80s classic that nearly got passed up entirely (incidentally, “Back to the Future” ended up sharing the same budget and box office gross as “Raiders of the Lost Ark”).

Why “Back to the Future” was Rejected: It was either too family-friendly or not family-friendly enough, depending on who you asked. Pretty much every major studio rejected the screenplay, with Disney advising that a film alluding to mother-son incest was not “appropriate under the Disney banner,” while Columbia thought it was a “really nice, cute, warm film, but not sexual enough.”

The great Steven Spielberg always loved the script, however, and committed it to Amblin Entertainment as soon as he was able. The rest, as they say, is history — but it nearly got titled “Spaceman from Pluto.”

Naturally, Spielberg replied to the memo and told Sid Sheinberg that he had to be joking. The suggestion was never mentioned again.

4. “The Usual Suspects” (1995)

Now listed by the Writer’s Guild of America as the 35th greatest screenplay of all time, the ultimate mystery crime thriller nearly became as elusive as Keyser Söze.

Why “The Usual Suspects” was Rejected: Much like “Pulp Fiction,” the non-linear plotline of this screenplay completely baffled studios. After numerous rejections (and nine different drafts), the only company who would touch it was a European financing company. Somewhat surprisingly, director Bryan Singer managed to make the movie a masterpiece despite only having a $6 million budget.

5. “Casablanca” (1943)

The curious case of “Casablanca”: a screenplay rejected by numerous agencies 30 years after it had already become one of the world’s finest movies.

Why “Casablanca” was Rejected: It wasn’t rejected the first time around. But in 1982, freelance writer Chuck Ross wanted to see whether movie agents would recognize the screenplay if he sent it out again … and if not, would they recognize its greatness?

It was a clever experiment. Ross retitled the script “Everybody Comes to Rick’s” (the title of the original play on which “Casablanca” was based) and sent it out to 217 different Hollywood agencies.

The results?

  • 90 returned the screenplay because they weren’t looking for submissions.
  • 33 agents recognized the script immediately.
  • 8 spotted a similarity with the 1943 classic, but didn’t spot that it was exactly the same.

However, 38 of the 217 read and rejected the classic script. Among the feedback Ross received, agents claimed there was “too much dialogue” and that the storyline was “too weak.” One even suggested it needed “a professional polish.”

But funnier still is that three agencies loved it and wanted to turn it into a movie.

It just goes to show: even the best screenplays on the planet get rejected. All it takes is just one “yes.”

Do you have an interesting experience of taking a project through many rejections to find success? Let us know in the comments below!

5 Actresses Who Became Successful Producers

Patricia Arquette’s call for wage equality during her Oscar acceptance speech earlier this year; Emma Watson being appointed by the UN as a Goodwilll Ambassador, heading the gender equality initiative, He For She; Amy Schumer being the first female comedian to headline a show at Madison Square Garden (scheduled for 2016)… with all of these women making big moves on an international stage, it seems feminism in the entertainment industry is well and truly alive. That said, it’s not news to say that women have been long overshadowed by their male counterparts in show-business. I mean, when considering nearly 70% of characters in speaking roles were male among the top 100 films between 2007 and 2014, it’s safe to say the industry hasn’t quite overcome gender imbalance as yet.

Nevertheless, females are taking a stance and continue to make headway, particularly behind the camera—a place where the imbalance is most evident. With women being so grossly underrepresented, it’s no wonder many actresses are making the transition and taking part in the production of their creative platforms. Here are a few of the women who have dared to challenge the status quo and transitioned from acting in front of the camera, to producing behind it.

Drew Barrymore

Quite literally growing up in the public eye after she shot to stardom with her adorable, blonde pigtails and lisp in Spielberg’s E.T. (1982) at the age of six, Barrymore famously experienced a tumultuous adolescence and early adulthood but came out on-top with a prosperous acting career. What is lesser known about the talented actress is her extremely successful career as a producer and founder of her own production company Flower Films in 1995. Knowing longevity wasn’t always synonymous with a woman’s career in Hollywood, she embarked on the project with long-time friend, Nancy Juvonen. “Doesn’t matter how far or high I go; if I can keep working, that is the most profound amount of success I in my personal life can ever find,” says Barrymore. Her self-initiated enterprise earned her the role of Executive Producer for the company’s debut film, Never Been Kissed in 1999. Since then, she’s consistently produced big, money-making films that have received several accolades and critical acclaim—many of which she also starred in. Along with the Charlie’s Angels films (2000, 2003) and the TV show in 2011, she’s also produced instant cult classics like Donnie Darko (2001) and Whip It (2009), followed by a string of romantic comedies like 50 First Dates (2004), Fever Pitch (2005), and He’s Just Not That Into You (2009).

Reese Witherspoon

Beginning her acting career from the age of fourteen in The Man in the Moon (1991), Witherspoon’s resume went from strength to strength, starring in classic hits like Election (1999), Cruel Intentions (1999), and box-office successes, Legally Blonde (2001) and Legally Blonde 2 (2003)—the latter which she produced and from which she earned $15 million, fifteen-times the amount she got for the original. Becoming increasingly frustrated with the lack of lead female roles and the majority of scripts sharing the common theme of women needing to be saved by men, she decided to establish her own production company. “I think it was literally one studio that had a project for a female lead over 30,” she said, “and I thought to myself, ‘I’ve got to get busy.’” Using much of her own funds, she launched Pacific Standard with Australian producer Bruna Papandrea in 2012. The production company released its first two films just weeks within each other—the first was an adaptation of the blockbuster novel by Gillian Flynn, Gone Girl, and the second was based on the bestselling memoir of Cheryl Strayed, Wild. Both films were a huge success and the latter earned Witherspoon nominations at the Oscars, Golden Globes and SAG Awards for her part as Cheryl.

Elizabeth Banks

Having taken on 70 roles in front of the camera so far, including those in major hits like The 40-Year-Old Virgin (2005), Spider-Man 2 and 3 (2004, 2007), and The Hunger Games franchise, Banks has certainly accrued some Hollywood brownie points through the years. Using those points and knowing the difficulties faced by actresses in Hollywood after a certain age, Banks took a pragmatic turn to production in 2009, creating Brownstone Productions with husband, Max Handelman. “There was a group of us girls coming up … a lot of us surviving, some of us not,” recalling her days at auditions with Tara Reid, “We’re not all still here.” The company earned Universal $113 million at the box office on a $17 million budget, and another $103 million in home video sales for its surprising hit Pitch Perfect in 2012, which she also starred in. She also jumped into the director’s chair for the sequel Pitch Perfect 2, released this year in May, which snagged a $69 million debut weekend.

Sandra Bullock

Boasting an illustrious acting career that began with the motion picture Hangman in 1987, Bullock has continued to capture audience’s hearts with her girl-next-door persona. Her big breakthrough came when she starred alongside Keanu Reeves in the famous thriller, Speed (1994), shortly followed by romantic comedy, While You Were Sleeping (1996), which earned her a nomination for a Golden Globe. It was in this genre she really soared, founding the production company Fortis Films in 1998, which went on to produce a string of well-received romantic comedies and dramas she also starred in. Some of them include Hope Floats (1998), Miss Congeniality 1 and 2 (2000, 2005), Two Weeks Notice (2002) and The Proposal (2009).

Margot Robbie

A newcomer to the producing scene, this 25 year-old Australian is trying out her hand at the creative process behind the camera, after bursting onto the Hollywood scene two years ago with her life-changing role in Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street. Since her big break, the young actress has scored major roles beside Will Smith in Focus (2015) and again (alongside many other big names) in DC Comics’ antihero film, Suicide Squad—due for release in August next year. Robbie recently revealed that she’s been working on two projects that she’s producing, focusing mainly on one called Terminal in London, a “thriller-noir flick” comparable to Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction (1994) and Sin City (2005). Admitting that she’s really enjoying being behind the lens, the young star says her focus for the next year will solely be on producing, despite the media frenzy that’s likely to follow the Suicide Squad release. “The experience has really opened my eyes to the world of indie film producing,” she said. “It’s such a hustle—extremely difficult but very rewarding.”

Learn more about the School of Producing at the New York Film Academy by clicking here.

Producing Movies in 2015: Subcultures and Niches

As mentioned the last time we covered the role of the producer, it’s a very fluid role that is extremely hard to sum up with a two-line job description. Throw into the mix that the industry is evolving at a rapid pace—forcing the role itself to change with it—and it’s little wonder that so many people are struggling to find their feet.

Producing school will naturally put you way ahead of the game, but the question of what to produce lies squarely with you. One thing to consider as you traverse this exciting terrain is how subcultures and crowdfunding can provide a tried-and-tested path to fund and produce a great work of passion, and it’s that which we’ll be discussing today.

Crowdfunding: More Than Just The Cash

It won’t have escaped the notice of anyone reading this that crowdfunding has, at long last, come to be taken seriously as a means for funding productions (and at a scale which has really silenced the naysayers.)

Obviously, raising enough capital to do justice to your vision is a very important concern for any producer. But it has to be said that, as many have before you have found out the hard way, crowdfunding is not a big pile of cash that anyone can dip into at will.

If you look at just about any successful crowdfunding project—even outside of the realm of filmmaking—you’re likely to notice a common thread running through them: they identify a very specific demographic, then figure out how to best serve the people within it.

Movie production is no exception. Free from some of the restrictions of traditional, big studio-fuelled productions, a filmmaker in 2015 no longer has to try and appeal to the largest swathe of potential moviegoers and can instead hone in on very niche subjects.

Consider the likes of Indie Game: The Movie, which pulled in over $70,000 in crowdfunding and went on to huge critical acclaim, or the Bronies documentary which smashed its $60,000 target and ended up raising over $320,000. The success of both lies with excellent marketing to an extremely passionate (and pre-existing) audience who were happy to pay to see a film that wasn’t even released yet.

But this brings us onto the golden rule of producing a movie for a specific subculture:

You Can’t Fake Passion.

Circling back to the aforementioned message about crowdfunding not being a method of making a quick buck, trying to take advantage of a subculture you’ve got no interest in is a very quick route to failure. A producer with no passion or reverence for the subject matter will not be able to create a quality film that does it justice, and those who are passionate within the subculture can spot a fake from a thousand miles away.

And anyway, you probably already learned very early on into your career that there is barely enough time to do justice to the interests you are passionate about, never mind the ones you aren’t.

In short, pick a niche that really interests you. It’s virtually guaranteed that you’ll find a group of like-minded individuals who will happily invest in what you have to say on the topic via the medium of film.

The Importance of Branding and Subculture in Production

To further demonstrate the efficacy of keeping the potential audience in mind first and foremost when scouting for a potential production, let’s examine the trend for marketing to pre-existing audiences on a huge scale.

Studios are increasingly turning to—and snapping up—intellectual properties that come with their own inbuilt audiences. If we look at the top grossing movies of 2015 so far, you’ll notice a common theme:

1. Jurassic Worl($1.6bn)
2. Furious 7 ($1.5bn)
3. Avengers: Age of Ultron ($1.4bn)
4. Minions ($1bn)
5. Inside Out ($734m)
6. Fifty Shades of Grey ($569m)
7. Cinderella ($542m)
8. Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation ($509m)
9. San Andreas ($469m)
10. Terminator Genisys ($435m)

By and large, the above entries already come from strongly-established franchises or had a huge amount of anticipation and almost guaranteed audience attendance before release (such as Pixar’s Inside Out and Fifty Shades of Grey). The same went for 2014, a top-grossing list made up almost completely of sequels, reboots, and comic book movies with already eager audiences (namely Guardians of the Galaxy.) The only anomaly this year was San Andreas, and the only brand new intellectual property last year was Interstellar

… and obviously, directly following the success of the Dark Knight trilogy, it wouldn’t exactly be a risky gamble to predict the success of any Christopher Nolan release.

Even  this year’s Pixels movie—which performed poorly from a critical perspective—has doubled its budget at the box office, likely owing to its tapping of a strong and rising crowd of indie game enthusiasts.

The Takeaway for Indie Producers

Of course, this is all a very scaled-up example from the very top of the box office for demonstration purposes. You don’t have to compete at this scale and nor should it be deemed a failure if you don’t make millions or double your budget—remember, it’s all about making serving a subculture or niche with a strongly branded work that you can be proud of, and the principles behind this work at any level.

Go find your niche. Discover the audience that is already out there and waiting, then make sure you create something that truly speaks to them. 

Top Emerging Screenwriters Of 2015

Even some of the most talented screenwriters making great strides in the industry get very little credit or recognition for their work—in fact, notoriously so.

Today, let’s buck that trend by paying homage to some of the hottest new talent to ever emerge from screenwriting school and who look set for great things in 2015 and beyond.

Top New Emerging Screenwriters: 2015 Edition

1. Justin Simien

After a series of highly-acclaimed shorts between 2006 and 2009, Simien put out a conceptual trailer for a movie back in 2012, hoping to raise enough money to turn it into a feature via crowdfunding.The campaign was a phenomenal success, with Simien nearly doubling his target asking amount.

That trailer went on to become Dear White People, a breakout hit that not only grossed $344,000 despite being screened in only 11 theatres (on hell of an achievement) but also won the Dramatic Special Jury Award for Breakthrough Talent at last year’s Sundance.

With the movie sitting at 92 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, we’re all eagerly awaiting Justin Simien’s next career move.

2. Lucinda Coxon

Lucinda Coxon is fairly new to writing for the big screen, but by no means is she a novice writer.

Having enjoyed award-winning success as a playwright for over two decades—predominantly between England and Scotland — her prolific work in theatre eventually saw her cross over to film with 2003’s The Heart of Me. With a long stretch of time lying between the period drama and her other forays into feature film writing, it looks like 2015 is going to be her year; this November will see the release of The Danish Girl, an adaptation of the fantastic novel of the same name by David Ebershoff.

3. Tess Morris

Another British luminary whose success has been written in the stars for quite some time.

Way back in the late 90s, Morris won a prestigious short film challenge for her original screenplay and went on to work as a script editor and writer on two high-profile TV series (Hollyoaks and My Family). Jumping back over to the big screen in 2011, her romcom screenplay Man Up garnered significant interest and was eventually released this year with Simon Pegg and Lake Bell in the leading roles.

Given the success of her first feature and the background from which she comes, it’s little wonder that we’re all looking forward to seeing Morris’ next screenplay.

4. Oren Uziel

Uziel formed one third of the screenwriting team behind 2014’s 22 Jump Street, and as his debut work, it’s fair to say that he came out of the gate running.

22 was far funnier and far more tightly written than any sequel based on a movie based on a TV show should be, and it’s for this reason alone that Uziel is worthy of putting on the ‘one to watch’ list. If he can work this kind of magic and collaborate this well on a franchise title, it’ll be fascinating to see his work on original intellectual properties. We won’t have to wait long—his first solo feature, Kitchen Sink, will be out in September…

… and that’s only one of many upcoming, high-profile Uziel projects in the works, including a rumored Men In Black 4. Expect huge things.

5. Dan Sterling

Dan Sterling has long been a powerhouse comedy writer, having contributed to such national TV hits as The Sarah Silverman Program, The Office, King of the Hill, and The Daily Show.

After proving his chops as both a comedic writer and producer over the course of the last two decades, it was of little surprise that Sony Pictures entrusted him to write what was to become one of the most controversial comedy features in recent memory—The Interview.

How he’ll top that is anyone’s guess, but we’re definitely keen to find out.

Top Indie Producers Shaking Up Hollywood

To an outside observer looking in, it would appear that the film industry of late is comprised solely of gigantic corporate entities churning out endless, CGI-laden blockbusters.

And anyone would be forgiven for thinking that. Alongside the hundred-million-dollar budgets that go into such movies, an almost equal amount is spent in the run up to release making sure virtually every person on the planet knows about them.

But get away from all the noise and you’ll come across some extraordinary independent producers that are creating superb work despite being overshadowed by the massive industry players. If you’re in (or have recently graduated from) producing school and want a little inspiration from those who are going against the grain, read on!

Indie Producers Hollywood Should Be Watching

Since the term ‘indie’ can be a little blurry when it comes to movie production, for the purpose of clarity we’re going with the widely-accepted definition that an indie production company doesn’t have big distribution contracts, tends to operate with a core crew of ten people or less, and generally finances movies with budgets below the $1 million mark (though some team up with other studios to bring big projects to life).

Gilbert Films

While the Los Angeles-based Gilbert Films only has two people at its helm, those two producers—the eponymous Gary Gilbert and Jordan Horrowitz—have plenty of provenance between them. Gilbert himself had early success with the indie breakout Garden State (for which he won an Inde­pen­dent Spirit Award for Best First Feature) and Horrowitz joined him to put his decade of filmmaking experience to work as producer on the multiple award-winning The Kids Are Alright.

Gilbert Films is going from strength to strength, but the duo is clearly keen to put quality before expansion, selecting projects that are both artistic and commercially viable. If you want an example of an indie production company that started off strong and kept getting better, this is it.

Red Crown Productions

From L.A to New York, we now move to the indie powerhouse Red Crown Productions… although there is an interesting tie-in with Gilbert Films, too.

Founded in 2010 by Daniela Lundberg and Dan Crown, the former co-produced The Kids Are Alright alongside the Gilbert duo above (her first big Sundance success after numerous years at the festival.) Dan Crown was a former theatre owner who sold up the family business to partner with Lundberg—of the partnership, Crown stated that they approach productions from dramatically different perspectives, while Lundberg refers to Crown as the company’s “godfather and true partner to me.”

EFO Films

Founded by Randall Emmett and George Furla (and later merging with Oasis Ventures) way back in 1998, EFO is an indie production company that has really gone the distance. Despite its small team size and conservative budgeting, since its inception the company has gone on to create over 80 films which, collectively, have grossed a little over a billion dollars at the box office.

Having worked closely with Mark Wahlberg on many titles and produced a number of movies featuring Al Pacino and Robert De Niro (including Righteous Kill which co-starred them both), even more intriguing is that EFO has been licensed to produce the first ever movies based around the Monopoly and Hungry Hungry Hippos board games…

BCDF Pictures

As far as quirky backstories go, BCDF takes the cake.

The Dal Farra brothers originally worked in biochemistry before selling their biotech firm, hooking up with a cardiologist, then purchasing a 35-acre farm from which to operate their private equity film financing outfit. Sounds strange on paper, but in practice it has paid off—since 2010, the trio have had a string of Sundance hits including Peace, Love & Misunderstanding, Higher Ground, and Bachelorette.

Annapurna Pictures

Megan Ellison is in a unique position in the world of independent film production: money is no object to her.

The daughter of a billionaire, Ellison has been able to approach film financing with an indie heart but with none of the constraint, and it’s a killer combination that she’s leveraging to its fullest extent. How killer are we talking? Consider that in just a few years, her company has produced Her, Zero Dark Thirty, and American Hustle, three of the most daringly brilliant movies of the early 2010s.

It’s little wonder that she was listed in Time‘s Most Influential People last year, and is definitely among our own indie producers we’ll be keenly following over the next year. Know of any other great indie production powerhouses we should be checking out? Don’t hesitate to leave your hat-tip in the comments below… we’ll see you down there!

 

Diversity Programs, Initiatives & Incentives For Screenwriters

At the time of writing, Cannes 2015 is underway and it was touted by the organizers themselves as a festival that would look to redress the imbalance between the genders. As if to reinforce this promise, the official festival poster prominently features Ingrid Bergman.

Even so, Cannes has generated much inequality-related controversy so far on two counts. Firstly, there was the outrage caused by festival staff turning away any females not wearing high heels (even those with disabilities). Secondly, out of the 19 contestants shooting for the Palme D’Or this year, only two directors are women.

We’ve already discussed the woeful state of affairs regarding marginalization within the film industry, and this recent example points to the fact that positive change is slow…

…But it is coming.

While we continue to both celebrate and promote diversity in our own screenwriting school and across other programs, there are a growing number of diversity initiatives that are well worth checking out.

What Is a Diversity Program?

Much like tax incentives — in which an entity (usually a state government) offers tax relief in order to attract movie production to an area — diversity incentives offer additional benefits to those who strive to keep a balanced team in terms of gender, race, and sexuality.

In fact, some states are even making this mandatory. As such, it’s in a production company’s best interests to make sure they promote diversity, and that in turn benefits the wider community.

Below you’ll find a list of some of the main—and most enticing—diversity programs and incentives which exist for both screenwriters looking to break into the industry and producers looking to improve their own practices.

Film & TV Diversity Incentives and Programs

CBS Diversity Institute – CBS has a number of great diversity programs for screenwriters and others working both behind and in front of the camera (as well as a very good blog which explores the topic of diversity within the industry as a whole).

WriteGirl – A truly fantastic outfit that has successfully paired hundreds of high school girls—usually from underprivileged communities in LA—with female writers who have already made it in the business and are offering mentorship in writing.

HBOAccess Writing Fellowship – While HBO’s new program has closed its doors for this year, it’s certainly one to watch—in the most recent intake, eight semi-professional screenwriters were invited to a series of master classes at HBO’s Santa Monica HQ, before being paired with an executive developer for an eight month mentoring session (as well as an industry meet-and-greet held in their honor at the end). Keep an eye out for next year.

NLMC Television Writers Program – A long-running workshop group that is catered towards Latinos looking to break into professional scriptwriting, this program addresses the fact that only 2.8% of staff writers on televisions shows are Latino.

Alliance for Women in Media – Based in Washington D.C., the AWM is a nonprofit organization run by both men and women to advance the influence of women in numerous forms of media. Part of that includes a number of scholarships and fellowships, including the longstanding Gracie Awards Fellowship.

Diversity in Casting – One for producers. As the most well-known (and possibly oldest) diversity program still active for actors, the Screen Actors Guild allows producers of low-budget productions to take advantage of contractual benefits in conjunction with the guild as long as certain conditions are met.

Illinois Film Tax Credit – Another one for producers to look into. As mentioned above, some states are making diversity conditions mandatory in order to qualify for tax breaks. Illinois is one such state, and as long as you can track and prove you’ve “made good faith efforts” to achieve a racially diverse film crew, the benefits are quite substantial.

Sony Diverse Directors Program – One for directors. Introduced last year, Sony Pictures Television began their own program entitled the Diverse Directors Program. While details for this year are yet to be announced, qualifying candidates last year were invited to shadow high-level TV directors as they produced numerous acclaimed series.

Know of any more that we should be including on this list? You know what to do—drop a comment below, and let’s support those who make the entertainment industry a more fair and balanced place to work.

Most Successful Female Producers In Hollywood

The film industry is notoriously male dominated, to such an extent that only 25% of Hollywood producers are female. Other professions within Hollywood are even less balanced, as we observed when we studied gender inequality in film last year.

While things are slowly improving with a few institutions trying to redress the balance (our own producing school is actively dedicated to this), sadly there still isn’t a gigantic pool of female producers at the upper echelons to list. That said, the names below are more than worthy of mention.

We’re not going to put the following list in ranked order, nor are we going to rate their success simply in terms of either critical or commercial performance. As far as we’re concerned, the work of any female producer in this (currently) gender biased industry should be equally celebrated, but the following five have had particularly notable careers to date.

Emma Thomas

As the saying goes, behind every great man is a great woman, and arguably the same is true of great movie projects and great producers.

We’ve previously covered the cinematic powerhouse that is Christopher Nolan and Wally Pfister, but what we didn’t have space to address in that post is the woman who brings their vision to life. Given the gigantic scale of the duo’s recent outings (namely Interstellar, Inception and the Dark Knight trilogy), this is no small feat, but Nolan’s spouse, Emma Thomas, has consistently risen to the challenge.

While Thomas remains quiet about her own role in the filmmaking process (and Nolan never speaks of family life or personal relations), she has never dropped the ball when it came to commanding a budget of hundreds of millions and turning it into a return of billions. Along with the exemplary critical reception her work has garnered, there are very few producers – not just those of the female persuasion — that can be seen as having the same level of success as Thomas.

Darla K. Anderson

To date, the only Pixar animated feature created under the helm of a female director is Brave. Given that the Scottish anti-princess tale was widely applauded for its depth and positive feminist message, hopefully the studio will address the gender imbalance going forward.

To the general audience hers may not be a household name (other than the Finding Nemo character which was named after her in retaliation for a practical joke), but lurking amongst Pixar’s animation team is the very underrated female producer Darla K. Anderson, who has produced some of the most recognizable titles in the Pixar filmography: A Bug’s Life, Monsters Inc., Cars and the third instalment in the Toy Story franchise.

In fact, Anderson has the highest average movie gross in her role as a producer (of any genre) at $221 million per flick (according to Guinness World Records in 2008), and the combined gross of the four aforementioned movies stands at well over $2 billion. While this was mainly thanks to the success of Toy Story 3, given how undeniably brilliant it was, we can’t wait to see what she does next.

Megan Ellison

Ellison has only been on the producing scene since 2010, but has already chalked up numerous Golden Globe and Academy Award nominations and landed herself on Time’s 2014 list of Most Influential People in the World.

A lot of Ellison’s appeal is for her unflinching bravery when it comes to personally financing and producing projects in which lesser mortals would be afraid to invest, before turning them into multi-million grossing Oscar magnets. Her recent films include Zero Dark Thirty (2012), Her, (2013) and American Hustle (also 2013) are superb examples of this.

Next up, Ellison will be producing a film based on the life of WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange. She also managed to impressively outbid Lionsgate for the rights to the next Terminator reboot.

Nina Jacobson

There are few commodities as hot as young adult literature adaptions right now, and Jacobson was pretty much the first to both kickstart and capitalize on the trend.

Following lengthy and successful stints at Universal, Dreamworks and Disney (notably working on M. Night Shyamalan’s earlier movies before parting ways under creative differences) Jacobson went on to set up her own production company, Color Force, in 2007. Solely under her own steam, Jacobson’s career entered into a new era adapting books into huge franchises. The biggest among them is the global smash Hunger Gameswith that series soon coming to a close, all eyes are on Jacobson to see where she’ll go from such great heights.

Kathleen Kennedy

Kennedy initially started out as Steven Spielberg’s secretary, but it wasn’t destined to be her line of work — she was, by all reports, an atrocious typist.

The only reason she kept her job was thanks to the sporadic production input she gave. Spielberg saw great worth in these nuggets of inspiration, and hired her as an associate producer for Raiders of the Lost Ark.

It was a decision that went on to pay dividends for Lucas, and indeed the wider industry. Kennedy co-founded Amblin Entertainmenta production company with a filmography no one-line summary could do justiceand personally had a hand in producing some of the most famous flicks in family enterntaiment (E.T, Back to the Future, The Goonies, Jurrasic Park, Hook) as well as some major war-time heavy hitters such as Schindler’s List, War Horse, Munich, and Persepolis.

With over 120 Academy Award nominations, 25 wins and over $11 billion in gross box office takings, she’s already one of the most successful female producers in Hollywood, but her next project is perhaps the biggest job (by any measure) a producer could be tasked with.

As the president of LucasFilm, she has been entrusted to produce the next Star Wars movie…

… no pressure, Kathleen.