As Producers, Effie Brown, Scott Macaulay and Anish Savjani have stayed committed to adventurous filmmaking in spite of the challenges and sacrifices it has demanded of them.
After selecting them as recipients of the annual Cinereach Producer Award—which acknowledges and helps sustain producers whose work is so essential it’s at risk of being taken for granted—Cinereach asked Effie, Scott and Anish to describe one resource or practice that has been indispensable in their careers.
What keeps Effie going is to keep an eye on her big picture goals, both for the work she wants to make and for her career trajectory. She continues to push the envelope on both fronts, while also striving to improve the field for peers and newer producers. Effie says:
“My passion, and what I think I’m put on earth for, is to amplify voices. Humanizing stories in an entertaining way so people don’t hate each other and we can all get through life easier. We all feel like the ‘other’ in some ways, but we’re all in this together.
I’m also a strategy person. I think of my career in phases to advance through. During ‘phase one,’ my goal was just getting people to believe that I could do the job. Jobs I took at first were ones nobody else wanted because there wasn’t enough money or they were controversial. That’s how I created opportunities to get noticed for my work. In ‘phase two’ I was the go-to person for those projects with big challenges and small resources, who could make a meal out of crumbs. In ‘phase three’ …well I’m in that phase now. I’m breaking free of that limiting box. It was becoming demoralizing and disheartening to continue to stay there, with each project requiring everyone to ride or die to get it done. And, once it’s done and successful, we (me and crew included) don’t get to share in the financial success and ancillary revenue streams.
I’ve proven what I can do and I deserve the resources to execute bigger visions and the opportunity to amplify more voices. I have to say ‘no’ more, and not accept crumbs but reach for the cake. I’m assuming the position and stepping into it by setting up a content fund for genre films for and by people of color, women and LGBTQ individuals. If I demand more resources for worthy projects, I hope those coming up with me and after me won’t have to work with crumbs as much either. Then we are off to ‘phase four’ (Um… how many phases are there?).”
It may sound counter-intuitive at first, but Scott says offering himself as a sounding board and resource to other filmmakers has served his own producing work, too. Scott says:
“When asked to answer this question, I actually flashed immediately to something referenced by Cinereach in their award letter to me: my mentoring younger producers and filmmakers. Oftentimes, this mentorship is deceptively casual — conversations with colleagues in coffee shops or during late-night calls while I’m out walking my dog about how much to budget for delivery expenses, which financiers are for real, or the best strategy to option a book when you have little money. Sometimes these conversations fall into what we call ‘producer therapy.’ Talks that involve listening to another producer’s brain dump of all that’s overwhelming and waiting for the moment to drop in with ‘Well, when I was in a similar situation….’
But these mentoring experiences are actually for me their own indispensable resource. To stay alive as an independent producer means finding new ways to regenerate and renew one’s producing practice, to adapt to new business realities, new crews, the creative needs of new generations of talent, new distribution models. When I think back to the first film Robin O’Hara and I produced years ago, Tom Noonan’s What Happened Was…, I marvel on how little we knew going into it, how much we had to learn and improvise, and how great that was. So, while I try hard to impart some constructive advice to my younger friends and colleagues, I also tap into their fresh enthusiasms, creative problem-solving skills, and unjaded tastes. So, I say to others, stay connected to the people coming up in the business, mentor them, but make that dialogue a two-way one.”
Anish attributes his success and sustainability largely to his partnership with fellow producers Vincent Savino and Neil Kopp, his best friends and filmscience colleagues. Anish says:
“We’ve worked together for 12 years. We live in different cities now, but we talk several times a day and meet every couple of months in person. What helps most in our partnership is that we share accountability for all major decisions. I don’t worry that it’s all on me and that I can’t make a mistake (which I do often). And if I feel overwhelmed or am stuck and need to take a step away for a bit, I know I’m covered. Or I talk things through with them and get opinions I trust. We all have similar taste, but we each come at things from our on point of view, which is nice because it feels like we’re able to see things from multiple angles–whether it’s a script or a cut or a deal or a problem. While we don’t always agree, we discuss everything and are able to work it out.
Between us, we divide and conquer too. We all have strengths we gravitate toward, but we’ll all grab anything big or small that needs to be done. Projects overlap all the time and we constantly have to reallocate resources. One of Vincent’s biggest strengths is his ability to remain objective and cool-headed, especially with interpersonal dynamics. He can be relied on to think things all the way through and keeps everything moving on the legal and financial end. Neil is constantly working to effectively move the production forward. He fully understands the practicality of filmmaking and is a great communicator and coordinator. For my part, I try to be a cohesive presence throughout the life of a film.”
For more on these producers and the Cinereach Producer Award, see our brief press announcement here.