Unsung enablers, independent producers make miracles happen: bringing financial and moral support to filmmakers who otherwise might not have access to either. Following in the footsteps of such hardworking indie stalwarts as Scott Macaulay, Paul Mezey and Effie Brown, this year’s producer nominees span the spectrum and geography of low-budget filmmaking.
After surviving an internship at Scott Rudin Prods. and assisting on a few studio films, Anne Clements produced documentaries for VH1 and Trio. But it was her 2006 effort, “Quinceanera,” winner of the Sundance Grand Jury Prize, that really got the ball rolling. She has since exec produced the coming-of-age surf story “Shelter” and Jessica Yu’s “Ping Pong Playa,” has several reality TV pilots in the works, a series for VH1, and three features on the verge of production, most notably Mike Miller’s Australia-set “Cleave,” starring Radha Mitchell. What drives her: “There is something really beautiful about watching something from idea to completion and seeing how others respond to it.”
Few producers call Portland, Ore., their home, but for Neil Kopp, it’s helped cultivate a unique career in bold arthouse work. After completing Vancouver Film School, he produced numerous musicvideos for Portland’s indie rock stars, such as the Shins and the Dandy Warhols. His producing debut, Kelly Reichardt’s “Old Joy,” made dozens of top 10 lists in 2005, and his 2006 co-producing follow-up, Gus Van Sant’s “Paranoid Park,” nabbed a 2006 Cannes competition slot. Currently in post on Reichardt’s next film, “Train Choir,” starring Michelle Williams, Kopp doesn’t look at low budgets as a challenge. “I like to keep in mind the upside,” he says, “more autonomy and creative control for directors means better films.”
I was a bit naive,” admits Seattle-based producer Alexis Ferris about her first feature effort, Robinson Devor’s critically acclaimed “Police Beat.” But “that helped,” she says, “because I didn’t know that what I was trying to accomplish” — shooting 100 locations with 16mm film on a $200,000 budget — “was totally insane.” Committed to producing “independent films that challenge cultural norms with controversial central characters,” Ferris has since worked with Devor on his innovative Cannes Directors’ Fortnight doc “Zoo” and Daniel Gildark’s Northwest-set H.P. Lovecraft-inspired “Cthulhu.” She is putting together an investment group in Seattle focused on independent film and is pursuing several book properties.