NYWIFT’s Power Player Breakfast with Leslie Holleran
This week, I had the pleasure of attending New York Women in Film & Television’s Power Player Breakfast with Leslie Holleran. Ms. Holleran has been the producing partner of director Lasse Hallström on six films over the past eight years, including the acclaimed Cider House Rules, along with Chocolat, Casanova, The Hoax and others.
Holleran was an excellent speaker with a candid personality, and she spoke very frankly about the difficulties and pleasures of being a female producer, particularly noting her audience of women in the industry.
She noted that several things shaped her life: Marriage to film editor Andrew Mondshein, having children, deciding to stay in NY instead of moving out to LA, and meeting Hallström (while her husband was editing What's Eating Gilbert Grape?).
According to Holleran, staying in NY was critical because it allowed the couple to engage with many different kinds of people besides industry folks. They could therefore rejuvanate and revitalize, which is essential to telling stories.
Her first project with Hallström was Cider House Rules, which came after years of her reading scripts and bringing him material that he wasn't interested in. The big challenge with that adaptation was distilling 40 years of a story into one movie. The key to producing any story is to find the simple human idea--what is the story really about? In the case of CHR, they had to cut some of her favorite characters from the book in order to distill the movie down to its basic story about a father-son relationship.
Here are some of Holleran's other pearls of wisdom:
--The film industry has no interest in pragmatism. It's about being a trooper and making connections with people--both industry people to get the movies made, and audiences to get them seen.
--Being a female independent producer is a very, very hard road. It's the impossible task, because even when you find a piece of material to work with, it's never perfect, so you're already starting at a loss. You are living in a world of uncertainty. Once you're on set, its like tracking a huge family tree and keeping all of the pieces together.
--Producers should embrace TV. It is the coming way to tell stories. On a personal level, its closer to a regular job where you can actually set your calendar. She and Hallström are currently pitching a TV crime drama.
--The difference between people who accomplish something and people who don't is the DOING.