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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 Randall Emmett

At a time when independent cinema is struggling to survive more than ever, one independent film producer is at the top of his game, currently taking over Hollywood and the world. Prolific powerhouse producer Randall Emmett has produced over 77 films during his career and he is just getting started. There are few places in the world that have escaped the saturation of P&A for his latest film 2 GUNS (2013) by acclaimed Icelandic director Baltasar Kormákur (CONTRABAND, 2012; THE DEEP, 2012). Emmett has completed six films in 2013 so far: BROKEN CITY, EMPIRE STATE, THE FROZEN GROUND, ESCAPE PLAN, 2 GUNS and LONE SURVIVOR.

Recently I interviewed Emmett at the 4th annual Aruba International Film Festival with his film EMPIRE STATE. Here is what he had to say:

 

ME: Can you speak a little about your film EMPIRE STATE?

RANDALL: I’ve always been a fan of Dito Montiel because he’s such an actor’s director. So, they told me about this movie and I thought it was a good heist film but wondered how the story could be true; the craziness, the antics, the stupidity and all the things that went on in this story. So, I went to NY and they put me in a room with the guy that the story is based on. I stayed there for 4 ½ hours because I couldn’t believe that they had pulled this off. What I found through meeting the guy the story was based on, was that these were just a bunch of kids that wanted out of the life they had. We all make dumb decisions but they made a really big dumb decision. It’s all circumstance. Everyone wants a better life than what they came from. I grew up in Miami in a middle class family. I had a lot of love in my family and I’m close to them but I dreamt of the big house and the nice cars and all that. Some people just take different roads to do that. So, that’s what kind of inspired me. When I was sitting with the guy, I decided I would do whatever it takes to make this movie. Everyone we went to because of Dito said ‘yes’.

ME: There are a lot of festivals worldwide. What do you think makes the Aruba International Film Festival so special?

RANDALL: Well, first of all it’s Aruba. Let’s start there. But that’s the beginning of it. I think a good festival starts with the director and I think Jonathan Vieira is a guy who had a vision for the Caribbean for this part of the world to do something that is not so socially accepted. You know, it’s not the norm. We’re in a destination vacation spot here so when I first heard about Aruba three years ago, I suggested that Curtis ’50 Cent’ Jackson go with his film. ’50 Cent’ had been so inspired by the community here. He loved it and I thought that if Aruba could handle him, he could handle me and WME agent Rich Cook. So, we are already talking about having some big movies and big stars here next year. We have big mouths so all it takes is two or three people who care to put themselves on the line. Besides being paradise, it’s also inspiring that a place like this is saying, ‘you know, we’re serious about this stuff’. I’m here enjoying the island but at the same time I want to enjoy the festival because it’s not just vacation for me. I take it quite seriously.

ME: That leads to my next question. Do you think a festival like this still needs small movies and do you think that the big ones help the smaller movies?

RANDALL: Yeah, I think you need big movies because I think big films lift little films up to a profile that they necessarily would not get. You need all kinds of films. I don’t want to say big or little, but let’s say the higher profile titles, I think the festival needs because it just gives the festival a higher profile. I hope next year I can at least be part of pushing for that.

ME: You are quite a prolific producer at the moment, one of the most active in the industry. What is your secret?

RANDALL: Well, first of all there is obviously an obsession and a passion. When the economy fell apart I went out and started raising a lot of money, in a way that probably a lot of people were not doing. My way is I want to be independent but I also want to be partners with the studios to release our films, and be their partner creatively and financially. But I think we have a model that works. We do genres that sell to a certain degree so we offset the foreign, we shoot in tax-based incentive places which I think is a necessity and a responsibility to any investor. No matter where in the world you shoot it helps to have a tax incentive. But I think I’m able to raise a certain amount of equity that I was lucky to raise. So, right time and right place and also the persistence of fifteen years in the business, and I’ve failed really well.

ME: Well, you’ve paid your dues.

RANDALL: Oh yeah, I’m still paying my dues every day. I think it’s an ongoing thing. It’s this evolution that never ends. You know, you’re evolving. I think where I am today is the best I’ve probably ever felt about my career, in this moment. If you ask me a year from now, I’ll probably say, ‘I’ve got more to learn and I screwed up’. You know, there are big waves, hills and valleys. Sometimes you are at the top of the hill and you feel good about yourself and other times you hit the bottom and you’re like ‘ok, shit, how are we going to fix it.’

ME: It’s an incredibly insecure industry isn’t it?

RANDALL: Of course! No matter what. But I think insecurity, healthy insecurity, becomes almost an obsession to succeed. For me, my insecurity is despite making 77 films. The first 35 were small movies and some of them didn’t succeed. But at least you get to a point where you know what you’re good at. So, I realize, ‘ok I’m really good at making this kind of film, so I’ll stick with that. And once in a while I will try to make another kind of film but I’ll trust other people to be good’. I have definitely learned to partner with great producers that can do things that maybe I can’t do, or be their producing partner and even learn from them. So, I’m still learning. Just in the last two years I’ve worked with producers who are prolific on a creative level and they’re studio based producers who have been nominated for Oscars or won Oscars and they’re learning from me in how the independent arena works, that you can still make really high quality budget films in an independent market place. So there is a lot of learning going on today. I think people are much more open-minded too.

ME: Amen to that! Do you think you’ll ever make a movie in Aruba?

RANDALL: I do. You know, what I’ve got to do now is find out what it costs me to bring everything to Aruba. It’s not hard to get here but it’ll be good to know what’s the best time to shoot, what’s the hard cost to bring everyone in, etc., because if I would shoot here I wouldn’t want to shoot it as a location but as the whole movie. Otherwise, why come here? I want to bring everyone here and shoot here. I think that would be awesome. If the cost is reasonable then I’m going to do it because then it would really help what I’m trying to support for the film festival, the community and to the Caribbean. People will say, ‘wow! They have a film festival and people are shooting here!’ So, then people will really start to take notice. I know this is a big vacation destination but the Caribbean also has films that shoot all over. But I feel like with Aruba, it’s still this untouched spot and I want to be one of those people that gets to touch it.

Interview by Vanessa McMahon

 

 

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