Highlights from the ‘Produced By New York 2015′ Conference

Selling a screenplay is not for the faint of heart.  It takes a brilliant and well-crafted screenplay, as well as perseverance, moxie, and sometimes just good old-fashioned luck to get your work read and considered for production. While the odds of getting a script made are indeed staggering, knowing how the film industry works will give you an edge over the competition.

Here are some highlights and insights from the ‘Produced By NY’ Conference held on October 24, 2015 at the Time Warner Center in New York.

The Panel: The Changemakers: Tactics for Equality and Diversity in Film and Television

What Producers Are Really Thinking and Talking About by Susan Kouguell | Script Magazine

Mynette Louie offered this advice: “Learn the marketplace and learn the statistics. Read ‘The Ms. Factor: The Power of Female Driven Content Toolkit.’ It puts all the statistics together about women-driven films. It will help you pitch your projects. It shows all the numbers that are in support of women driven films.  Be armed with this.  If you’re armed with this, you have a better chance of getting your film made.”

In response to an audience member’s question about the viability of making films in Boston Charles D. King stated: 

“You don’t have to necessarily live in Los Angeles or New York, there are productions happening in various cities, like Atlanta. There are those times you go to those places like New York and Los Angeles for meetings.  Get incentives where people are learning production. You can be that person, build that infrastructure. Be where you can be as creative as you can be.  Cultivate and build relationships.”

Moderator Michael Skolnik asked How to Get Away with Murder creator, producer, and writer Pete Nowalk: When Viola Davis takes off her wig what did you hear on social media, from your friends, and how does that affect you as an artist?

Pete Nowalk: “I’m a white guy. I didn’t know what it would mean or represent.  There is something about the open-heartedness of collaboration and listening to a person of color and a woman, and it helps us.  It’s partly Viola’s performance. She knew and I didn’t know what taking off the wig meant.  I didn’t know how personal that is.”

Effie T. Brown jumped in: “It showed Anneliese taking off the armor, it meant being a strong woman and vulnerable.  That’s me reflected. It meant the world to me.”

Nowalk: “I didn’t know she was wearing fake eyelashes. I didn’t know.”

Brown: “Black women knew.”

Nowalk: “I’m proud of lead actress Viola Davis. We created the role together of Annalise Keating.  The character is not perfect. The same is true for the gay character, who is also not perfectly perfect. That’s not real or interesting.  Viola plays the anti-hero – a character which men always do.    She’s a character people love to hate. It’s so nice not to write perfect boring people.”

Lindsay Taylor Wood: “It’s important to know how to create a character responsibly.  With Pete (Nowalk) it’s ability to ask for input.  Those types of conversations are necessary to make sure you’re honoring the character you want to write, and also writing responsibility and engaging people responsibly.”

The Panel: The State of Producing

NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 24: Gary Lucchesi speaks with producers Meryl Poster, Donna Gigliotti, Michael Travers and Paula Weinstein during the PGA Produced By: New York Conference at Time Warner Center on October 24, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Brad Barket/Getty Images for Producers Guild of America)

Moderator Lucchesi asked: What inspires your creations?

Donna Gigliotti: “I think about strong women all the time.  As a producer I ask myself: What am I interested in and is there a market?  Men who run studios don’t think there’s a market for women-driven projects but that’s not true.”

Meryl Poster: “For ‘Girlfriends Guide to Divorce’ – yes, I’m happily divorced and have two beautiful children — I did draw from some personal experience; the good side of divorce, dating and sex. I’m working now on a project that takes place in the 1970s garment industry, which my father worked in and my mother was a showroom model.  I think about life experiences and read a lot of magazines and newspapers.”

Paula Weinstein: “It’s hard for me to fall in love with a script until I find that social component that drives the characters; the moral center of it. I love a good love story but it’s nice when it has a conflict, a reason behind it. It takes a long time to get a movie made. It’s taken 14 years to get Heart of the Sea made. You have to find something that drives you to obsess about it, long after your first encounter with that idea.”

“Here’s the thing about producing – you have to start at square one with every director and gain his or her trust, and you have to earn the right to be in the cutting room in the end and have some say.”

“You better love this (producing) it’s your only source of your ego gratification because it ain’t coming from anywhere else.”

The panel: Startups for Producers: Building Your Media Empire from VC Funding to Achieve Your Vision

NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 24: Karol Martesko-Fenster speaks during the PGA Produced By: New York Conference at Time Warner Center on October 24, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Brad Barket/Getty Images for Producers Guild of America)

The speakers agreed on the vital importance of knowing the landscape and learning how to reach different audiences.

Karol Martesko-Fenster: “Apart from building audience, it helps content creators to fine tune what they’re doing. If you can’t articulate what you’re doing in the short format that you have on Indiegogo or Kickstarter, for example, and not present something visually compelling, it’s not going to resonate.