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Vanessa McMahon


Vanessa is a novel writer, screenwriter, rep and a film producer. She shares her discoveries and film surprises. :-)

 


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Interview with Acclaimed "Catch Me If You Can" (2002) Producer Michel Shane @ Producers Without Borders Panel, AFM 2022

Interview with Acclaimed "Catch Me If You Can" (2002) Producer Michel Shane @ Post Producers Without Borders Panel, AFM 2022

Michel Shane has spent the last three decades of his distinguished career as a venerable entrepreneur, with the intuition and foresight to perceptively spot trends before they go mainstream in the film and consumer spheres. At the helm of Shane Gang Pictures, which has developed, created, and executive produced major blockbuster motion pictures, including “Catch Me If You Can” (2002) and “I, Robot” (2004), he has driven the process from thought generation to implementation. Michel also completed a documentary about the horrors of the Pacific Coast Highway, titled “21 Miles Malibu,” which is set to be released soon.

He is Chair of The Emily Shane Foundation, an organization which he co-founded. The non-profit was created to honor the legacy and memory of his daughter Emily by providing intensive mentoring and individualized tutoring support to struggling middle school students through its Successful Educational Achievement (SEA) program.

Michel received a Lifelong Achievement Award in 2015 from President Barack Obama. He taught Film Finance and Production at UCLA Extension from 2004 to 2008 and was on the program Advisory Board. Michel earned his Bachelor of Communications and Marketing from McGill University in Montreal, Canada. He resides in Southern California. 

 

You have had an illustrious career as a producer. When did you know your path would be in film? 

SHANE: I am a rare breed. All I do is produce. My extent of writing is notes. I'm much better at discussing because when there is an interaction, sharing ideas and new thoughts are created, allowing for growth. Since I was about 13 years old, I have known that I wanted to be in entertainment. I knew I didn't want to be an actor. I'm too controlling to have someone tell me what to do or behave for an extended period of time. I loved the idea of creating realities and telling stories, so I guess I was made for this business.

 

Can you tell us about Shane Gang Pictures? How did you choose what films to work on?

SHANE: I chose the name Shane Gang, obviously because part of it was my name, but the other part was twofold; one, it takes a gang to do a project; two it is a play on words, chain gang, shane gang, we are connected. I like true stories. If they aren't true, there has to be a message you are trying to convey more than a great story. At the end of the day, it's the material. I have to love it and know that if I want to help get it made. That feeling needs to stay with me even if we are five years out because, at least in experience, everything takes a long time to get made.

 

Do you have a film you have worked on that you are most proud of?

SHANE: That is a tricky question because we love everything we create or can bring to life. As a parent, do you have a favorite child? I think that each has its place on equal footing. I will say that I am most hopeful and excited about my new project, “21 Miles in Malibu”. It's a small film with big aspirations. For once, it's not about money or success but rather an awareness and a hope to create change. I put myself out and tell my story, hoping people will want to create a new reality and institute change.

 

Can you tell us about working on "Catch Me if You Can" and why you think films about an anti-hero resonate so much with audiences?

SHANE: It is funny that you ask that question because that was one of the big negatives of this book when I bought it in 1990. Why would anyone want to go see a movie about an anti- hero? When I first pitched this story, that was the big negative about the story. Imagine it was a different time and place. The story was always about one person looking for love and belonging, which I saw in the story. It would have had no value if the story was about a kid that impersonated people to kite checks and get laid. The book was always under option from the very beginning. It was at Hollywood Pictures (Disney), Tristar (Sony), and so on, until it landed at Dreamworks. That's when the project was really developed because Jeff Nathanson understood from the first meeting. He knew what the film needed to be and how to develop it. He said that the film was “Amadeus”. The relationship between Salieri and Amadeus - that's what needed to be formed. That was seven years into the development of that film. It would take another four to make it to the screen.

 

You also have a documentary, "21 Miles in Malibu" about the PCH (Pacific Coast Highway). Is it harder to make documentaries than features? Why do you feel they are so important?

SHANE: It's an interesting question in that documentaries are an opinion you are trying to express. Trying to convince the viewer that what you are presenting is fact and convince them of that story. Whether you show all sides or one. They are different from a feature because a doc is recreating or offering a reality, the supposed truth. I am not a documentary filmmaker. I have made two; one at the beginning of my career and this one. This was a tough one to make because of its personal nature. It is partly my story. It is about the community I live in. I made “21 Miles in Malibu”, because of the highway as the main thoroughfare. I wanted to show what happened to me could happen to anyone. That there had to be a change is why I made this, and the only way to bring that change was to change opinion. Film is an excellent vehicle for that.

Interview with Acclaimed "Catch Me If You Can" (2002) Producer Michel Shane @ Post Producers Without Borders Panel, AFM 2022

 

You have taught film finance at UCLA. What do you love about teaching in person that teaching through film and TV doesn't achieve?

SHANE: I really enjoyed teaching. In the recent past, you assembled a film with pre-sales, gap, a tax play, and a little equity, easier times. You kind of controlled your destiny rather than giving it all to a streamer. Having grown up in Montreal and in the business when tax shelter financing was starting, I learned how to assemble films this way. We never had enough money to make a film. We always had to have partners. This taught you at a young age to work well with others with the same common goal. I thought this was valuable knowledge, and I wanted to impart this to new filmmakers, so they could learn without making the same mistakes I had made. It was fun, the classes were well received, and I wanted to ensure I was never a teacher who bored his students and didn't. Teaching for me was all about interaction, the Socratic method, questioning, answering, discussing. You can't do that unless you are in person or on an interactive call, like Zoom.

 

You were awarded a Lifelong Achievement Award in 2015 by Obama. Can you tell us about that experience? 

SHANE: This was a very surreal moment. We had started our foundation, “The Emily Shane Foundation” three years earlier. We had no experience running a non-profit. We knew we wanted to do this and give back. We never applied and didn't even know about it until we received the letter informing us that we had been given this award. It was a complete shock and a great honor. A very proud moment to be recognized for giving back. We later learned it was at least a year of vetting. A friend of ours was the person that nominated us. It is really amazing and humbling.

 

Can you tell us about the Emily Shane Foundation?

SHANE: This is our giving back. In 2010, my youngest daughter was murdered by an enraged driver. This destroyed us, and I will never be the same. But you make a choice in life. You can go into the darkness and never emerge or move towards the light and figure out how to go on. We chose the light. My wife Ellen runs the foundation. It is her creation and her passion that drives it. I help behind the scenes. The main focus of the Emily Shane Foundation is our Successful Educational Achievement (SEA) Program, which services disadvantaged middle schoolers in the mainstream classroom and at risk of academic failure. We provide academic tutoring and mentorship, focusing on critical organizational and study skills. Only those who could not otherwise afford this essential support, which is not available within the educational system, are identified to participate. The SEA Program operates as an after-school program. The SEA Program's mentors/tutors work very closely with their students. It is the bond and rapport that develops that is the key factor in driving results. They work closely with their students to assist with all schoolwork, paying specific attention to classes with failing and poor grades. An emphasis is placed on helping students to acquire effective organization and study skills. All our mentors/tutors are vetted and trained in our specific and unique approach. The SEA Program extends far beyond basic tutoring or a homework help program. We request that every student in the program perform one good deed or act of kindness per session. We have helped over 1,000 students to date.

 

You recently spoke on a panel, “Producers Without Borders” during the AFM. How was that experience and what was most rewarding about this eclectic conversation?  

SHANE: I love doing panels and discussing the film, opinions, and change. I used to do them a lot, and I always wanted them to be exciting and dynamic. In the past, I would often tell my fellow panelists that I would be controversial to stimulate thought and discussion. It is all about imparting knowledge and sharing. Having the audience participate and if they aren't, have them leave with something to think about. This panel was great because we had such a diverse panel, with a different frame of references. This created an easy-flowing discussion, and the moderator was very knowledgeable and knew where he wanted to take the discussion.

Interview with Acclaimed "Catch Me If You Can" (2002) Producer Michel Shane @ Post Producers Without Borders Panel, AFM 2022

 

What will you be working on next?

SHANE: I took several years off from the film business, but it is a unique business, and once in, you are always in. There is no other business like it. A couple of years ago, I started to develop some projects, and these are my focus, I am working on some true stories I can't disclose yet and a couple of scripts. I will be sharing them as they develop. Right now, I am focussed on getting the story and the film “21 Miles in Malibu” out and seen. When that is done, I will move on to my next project and share it.

 

Interview by Vanessa McMahon

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