With two films bowing at Toronto and another half-dozen in the hopper, Lars Knudsen and Jay Van Hoy may be the busiest low-budget producers in the country.
Knudsen, a native of Denmark, and Van Hoy, Texas-born, broke into the film biz at Scott Rudin Prods. in the early part of the decade. “Working for Scott,” says Van Hoy, “you learn how hard you can work; you get to know what your limits are.”
Since producing arthouse releases “Wild Tigers I Have Known” and “Old Joy” in 2006, Knudsen and Van Hoy have backed a half-dozen productions, from first-timer Nicholas Fackler’s “Lovely, Still” to So Young Kim’s “Treeless Mountain,” both premiering in Toronto, to a handful of other auteur-driven indies, with budgets ranging from $20,000 to under $2 million.
“They’re extraordinarily industrious and courageous,” confirms Rudin, who is supplying the duo development money to allow for bigger projects (and a “taxi now and then”). “They’ve been bloodied, but unbowed, and they’re in the toughest part of the business, and they’re banging out movie after a movie. They make more movies than I do.”
Knudsen and Van Hoy’s trick is dividing and conquering: Early on, one of them would take on money jobs — Knudsen was assistant production coordinator on “The Manchurian Candidate,” for example; Van Hoy worked mostly in post-production — while the other collected unemployment and pushed forward on their projects, and vice versa. Knudsen says they understand each other because “we’ve both been broke.”
To outsiders, Van Hoy says their collaboration may sometimes look “antagonistic.” “It’ll sound like we’re having a pretty intense argument. And we are. But whether it’s over a deal or a creative choice, there’ll be a good reason for it,” he says.
“And at the end of the day,” adds Knudsen, “we resolve it.”
Although they’ve only been producers for a few years, they’ve already learned some valuable lessons — namely, to manage every line item of the budget (“You have to know everything about a film to make a movie for $20,000,” Knudsen says) and to understand their directors’ individual personalities and vision.
To that end, they now spend time with filmmakers before delving into their scripts. “Because our intent is always to work with these filmmakers over the long run,” says Knudsen, offering a litany of directors they plan to work with a second or third time (Kim, Fackler, Cam Archer, David Barker) and others they’re bringing into the fold (Julia Loktev, Steve Doughton, Matthew Ross, Andrew Dosunmu). “It’s like a family you’re building up, and it’s based on trust and integrity,” Knudsen says. “And if you don’t have that, there’s nothing there.”
PROVENANCE: Aarhus, Denmark
INSPIRATION: “Scott (Rudin) was always someone; I left Denmark to work for him.”
Jay Van Hoy
PROVENANCE: Galveston, Texas
INSPIRATION: “An early inspiration for me was Fassbinder, his ferociousness — he was willing to take on almost anything.” Also entrepreneurial producers such as Christine Vachon, Ted Hope and Scott Rudin.