Erudite producer takes solo flight

How many independent producers would even know the name of the New York City Ballet’s co-founder, let alone cite him as their biggest inspiration? Very few. But then Caldecott Chubb, former limited-edition art book publisher, photographer (with several pieces in the Museum of Modern Art’s permanent collection) and Stanford grad, with a major in human biology no less, is hardly the typical indie producer.

“Lincoln Kirstein was a really knowledgeable guy, whose overriding goal was always to serve the material,” Chubb says with a knowing smile, “and to hell with imposing his own ego. He was a real team player.”

An apt description for Chubb, as most Hollywood insiders will tell you. Part of Sean Daniels and Jim Jacks’ team at Alphaville, on the Paramount lot, Cottie, as he is widely known, has built a reputation as a facilitator of new and diverse voices. His wildly diverse filmography, the majority of it made during his tenure with the equally eclectic Edward Pressman’s production company, bears that out. “The Crow,” “To Sleep With Anger,” “Good Morning Babylon,” and “Waiting for the Light” were a few of Chubb’s efforts during his four-year stint heading up Pressman’s indie company.

“Eve’s Bayou,” Chubb’s first feature outside that umbrella, stirs up inevitable questions of professional butterflies without his mentor and longtime partner.

“Ed Pressman had two important gifts, which I’ve tried to hang onto,” Chubb says quickly, as if a few steps ahead of his own thought process. “He’s incredibly brave with material; fearless, really. And he’s brilliant at getting movies made.”

Likening indie financing issues to “spherical geometry and building abstract structures in a void,” the erudite Chubb is notorious for deflecting praise for his own talents to those he’s worked with. Whether it’s with his current bosses at Alphaville, who gave him the freedom to work outside the company while still on staff, or with first-time directors like “Eve’s Bayou’s” Kasi Lemmons, Chubb is deferential to a fault.

“Cottie is a wonderfully eccentric man,” Lemmons says via phone from Paris, “and the best kind of producer for independents to have on their side because he would kill to protect your point of view. What he brought to ‘Eve’s Bayou’ was a fierce idealism. He just believed so passionately in the script that it eventually had to get made, no matter how many people had written us off. And there were more than a few,” the former actress chuckles.

Idealism, in its many forms, has served Chubb well over the years. Whether it was heading up the executive committee of Independent Feature Project/West and suffering the lean years of indie filmmaking (before Hollywood suddenly discovered its potential) or working as an assistant production manager on a Roger Corman film (his first big production gig), Chubb has maintained a steadfast belief in the sanctity of the filmmaker as a creative force.

“Indie filmmaking is like mid-19th-century warfare,” Chubb sums up in typical fashion, dipping back into his Stanford years for a juicy historical metaphor. “You’ve got the generals far from the action and the troops in the trenches, without whose bravery you’d die. And your army, of course, travels on its stomach, so the food you serve up had better be damn good.”

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