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Vanessa McMahon

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



Interview with Producer Valerie Steinberg @ Sonoma International Film Festival (SIFF) 2023

 Interview with Producer Valerie Steinberg @ Sonoma International Film Festival (SIFF) 2023

Named one of Variety's "10 Producers to Watch" in 2023, Valerie Steinberg is a producer based in LA, whose recent credits include Executive Producer of A24's “The Inspection” (TIFF '22, Golden Globe nominee, three-time Indie Spirit and Gotham Award nominee), as well as EP of Riley Keough and Gina Gammell's directorial debut “War Pony”, which won the Caméra D'Or at the Cannes Film Festival '22. She is the lead producer of “Karmalink”, a Cambodian Buddhist sci-fi feature that was the opening night film of Venice Film Critics' Week '21, sold by XYZ Films, and released theatrically in the US and abroad. Valerie's other producing titles include “Rise Again” directed by Josephine Decker (Shirley, Madeline's Madeline) and Hulu series “Bite Size Halloween”.

Further, Valerie has produced multiple award-winning short films including: the Sundance award-winning “Hair Wolf”; Sundance selection “Blocks”; SXSW and Tribeca award-winning “Fry Day”; Tribeca selection “Coffee Shop Names; SXSW selection “Collective: Unconscious”; and “Everybody Dies!”, which is part of HBO's “Random Acts of Flyness”. She recently produced a short film that premiered at SXSW '23 called “The Breakthrough” starring Greta Lee (Past Lives, Russian Doll) and Ben Sinclair (High Maintenance), which also screened at the 26th annual Sonoma Film Festival (SIFF). Valerie graduated from Yale University with a degree in Philosophy and Chinese. 


In a recent interview with Valerie, here is what she had to say:

You've had an illustrious producing career thus far. Do you have a project you have worked on that you are most proud of? 

VALERIE: I love all my projects! It's truly necessary to be fully invested to go through all the trials and tribulations production can entail. Still, if I must call out one, I'd say that “Fry Day” (directed by Laura Moss) has been very impactful in terms of how rewarding the entire creative process was, and in terms of how its success on the festival circuit propelled me to the next place in my career.


What has been one of the biggest challenges in your producing career?

VALERIE: As an independent producer, I am constantly battling challenges on all fronts, but financing is always a struggle. With the constantly shapeshifting industry trends in distribution and how audiences watch films, it's increasingly challenging to figure out how to champion new voices and get their projects made. 


You produce short films and features. What can you do with short films that cannot be done with features?

VALERIE: I love producing shorts for many reasons, but especially to experiment creatively and to try on new collaborations with a shorter commitment than a feature film.


You were named a "Producer to Watch" in 2023 Variety. Can you tell us about that?

VALERIE: I just got back from the Sun Valley Film Festival, where Variety's 10 Producers to Watch were hosted.  It was so much fun to bond with our cohort, and such an honor to be recognized by Variety for this milestone.


You were an EP on films “The Inspection” and “War Pony”. Can you tell us about working on those? And for the layman, what function does an EP do? 

VALERIE: Sometimes my involvement as an EP is financial, or sometimes it means I was involved early in the development of a project.


You produced a short film called “The Breakthrough”, directed by Daniel Sinclair. As a dark comedy, what attracted you to this story? 

VALERIE: The script was so hilarious, and the team is one I've worked with before, on Bridget Moloney's “Blocks”, which premiered at Sundance in 2020.  Several members of the producing team reconvened for Dan's debut short film, which premiered at SXSW and we are currently on the festival circuit.  Between the team and the story, I knew this was a story I wanted to help tell.


Do you think audiences have become desensitized to violence today and almost crave it?

VALERIE: That's an interesting question. Most of the projects I work on don't center on violence, but certainly genre elements can be a fascinating lens through which to tell stories that offer social commentary. I think audiences sometimes need to be jolted out of their comfort zone to think about others' points of view.


You showed the film at the Sonoma Film Festival. How was that experience?

VALERIE: This was my first time at the Sonoma Film Festival, and it was a blast.  A film festival with a culinary arts and wine focus is truly a dream, and the local community really came out to support.


In your opinion, why is it so important for films to screen at film festivals?

VALERIE: Film festivals have been paramount to my career. I have met so many friends and collaborators at festivals, and that's really the place I meet – either directly or indirectly – most of the filmmakers I end up working with.  They are also a great place to connect with industry, and as a producer, I view it as my responsibility to be the connector between filmmakers and industry – so it's really my favorite environment to be in.


What are you working on next?

VALERIE: I have a slate of feature films at various stages of script development, packaging, casting, and financing.  Next week, I'm producing a proof-of-concept for a feature film in development directed by Kestrin Pantera, shooting here in LA. Kestrin has been a friend for a long time and it's exciting to get to work with her. I'm also really looking forward to being on set again!


Interview with Producer Valerie Steinberg @ Sonoma International Film Festival (SIFF) 2023

Interview with Producer Valerie Steinberg @ Sonoma International Film Festival (SIFF) 2023


Interview by Vanessa McMahon


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