By Andreas Kessaris for Curtains Up!
“I often say to students and audiences that indie producing is a horrible job, but a wonderful life.”
Ted Hope has spent more than a quarter century producing some of the most acclaimed movies of our times, with titles like In the Bedroom, American Splendor, The Ice Storm and 21 Grams to his credit. His films have garnered numerous Academy Award nominations, and have won numerous festival prizes. He has, through his production companies Good Machine and This is That Corporation, launched the careers of directors like Ang Lee and Michel Gondry. So why is his name not familiar to most, like say, Darryl F. Zanuck, Kathleen Kennedy, Samuel Goldwyn, or Jerry Bruckheimer? Because he works in a realm outside the Hollywood system. The aforementioned Mr. Hope is an independent film producer. And in Hope for Film, his book about the industry (co-authored with film journalist Anthony Kaufman), he explains how the business works, what is wrong, how it went so wrong, and how it can be fixed.
I know what you’re thinking. I was thinking the same thing: “Not another book about what’s destroying the movie business!” But I am glad to say I was pleasantly surprised with what I read.
Hope for Film is in fact two books; the first section contains 10 chapters that each cover a different aspect of indie film production, with excellent real-world examples of how things work in the industry, as well as how they don’t. It discusses the creative, legal, and financial aspects of being a maverick who works outside the big studio system directly and intelligently. The second section is from Hope’s blog (also called Hope for Film), and contains 141 problems facing the independent film community, and includes some interesting, insightful, and practical suggestions on how to solve them.
Forgive me for being so bold, but I must say Hope for Film is without a doubt the best “how-to make it in indie films” book I have ever ready (with all due respect to How I Made a Hundred Movies in Hollywood and Never Lost a Dime by Roger Corman with Jim Jerome and If Chins Could Kill: Confessions of a B Movie Actor by Bruce Campbell). The book is expertly written and organized. There is not a wasted word, poorly structured sentence, or boring section. (In fact, there were innumerable quotable, memorable passages.) And I believe Hope for Film would make an exceptional textbook for film production classes.
As I read the pages I could tell that the author really loves what he does, and the cinema itself. It is refreshing to know that there remains someone out there who appreciates the experience of going to the movies. This book will make you believe that a business that has become stagnant and obsessed with films based on comic books and board games (board games!) can still create some magical moments; and redemption will come from people like the appropriately named Ted Hope. (Although I still believe that the percentage of fare that is sub-par is just as high on the indie side of things as it is in commercial Hollywood.)