Do you want a career in the film industry? Do you ever wonder what life is like for a successful film producer in Hollywood? Do you want to know what it takes to make it? These and many more questions were answered by film producer, Mark Gill, on a Friday afternoon in the Byre Studio Room. It was the first time I have seen such a crowd in this relatively small room.
Mark Gill has been living and working in Hollywood, California for the past thirty years. He is the former president of Miramax, Warner independent Pictures and Millennium Films. He was invited to St Andrews in a collaboration with the film department led by Dr. Lucy Donaldson.
The talk started at about 4pm and lasted one hour and a half. During the first half hour Mr Gill talked about his professional life and the personal choices that led him to realise and embrace the life of a producer. One of the things he talked about was the difference between cinema and television. He specifically said that “Half of the chairs that disappear from a film set, appear in a television studio,” encouraging students to think beyond film and broaden their area of expertise. He stressed the fact that anyone interested in pursuing a career in the film and television industry needs to read a lot and they need to do it now. He said “Don’t wait until you get a job. It’s going to be too late then.” Finally, he talked about the secret of success. “Work. You will be surprised to know that there are so many people who don’t do it.”
The Q&A that followed lasted for an hour during which Mr Gill answered questions ranging from gender inequality in Hollywood to dealing with failure in the workplace. He seemed very confident that things have taken a turn for the best in terms of gender equality and he is hoping that it will become more evident in the near future. When asked about the hardship of finding a job, he was very keen is reassuring the crowd that getting fired is something that will happen more than once no matter how good someone is on what they do.
The talk was followed by an hourly seminar to which attendance had been secured prior to the event since only a certain number of seats were available. During the seminar, he gave very specific advice on how to pursue a career in the film industry, how to think, what to do and why it is important to bear all that in mind. I will attempt to sum up the main points that he made into a list of short statements.
- Storytelling is a competition of leisure time.
- You have to come up with a good economic plan.
- You have to be able to describe your film in 2 or 3 sentences.
- You have to remember that every film is statically imbalanced.
- Being emotionally involved with you work is required of you to keep going.
- Trust your gut more than anything else.
In a way, all of these things are established facts for people who have been actively thinking about a career in the film industry. But it is always good to hear them come out of the mouth of a person who has been through it and who knows by experience that it is going to be hard. It is encouraging, and encouragement is key.
Mr Gill has recently begun his own venture in becoming an independent producer. He has launched, along with Andrew Gunn, Guy Botham and Vincent Bruzzese, a new production company under the name Solstice Studios. He seems confident that they will manage to create a work environment where people will be allowed to make mistakes.