Helmer Furie has seen all sides of evolving biz

Sidney Furie is on “Top of the World.”

Not only is that the title of the director’s latest project — Dennis Hopper and Peter Weller star — but it also describes where one might find the very content artist.

The $10 million Nu Image film, a story with a nod toward Elmore Leonard, is just the latest in a lengthy career that has seen mainstream and independent Hollywood trudge through some very different — and difficult — stages. “I’m extremely lucky that I’ve seen and been through it all,” says Furie, who has tackled every genre from drama (“Lady Sings the Blues”), to comedy (“Ladybugs”), to action (“Iron Eagle”). “But I’ve come out of it sensing the processes are more or less similar. People have always demanded excellence from the movies, and people always will. I don’t think there has ever been — or ever will be — a creative drought, and although the dynamics of distribution have become increasingly complicated and the tools have improved, perfecting the craft has stayed the same.”

What hasn’t remained intact, according to Furie, is an unequivocal interpretation of independent: The lines he once saw as clearly definable have begun to blur. “I’ll leave it to others to decide where independent filmmaking begins and where it ends,” he says. “It’s simply about the day-to-day conditions, and you do the identical things no matter what the budget is. With less money you have to watch what you’re doing and work faster, but that’s true now, and it was true in the 1960s.”

Conversely, what didn’t exist in earlier eras was a certain electricity that Furie finds conducive to today’s creative environment. “I think there’s a vitality that never used to exist,” he says. “A boom in ancillary markets has created the need for more product, and there are more venues offered. All of this translates into better opportunities. Thirty years ago, the film world encompassed a much smaller group of people. Now, with all of the different players, there’s a distinct attitude rife with open-mindedness and free spirits. People seem truer to their ideas.”

However, don’t expect Furie to join the growing ranks of would-be auteurs who select projects based solely on importance. “Humanity is the only thing that has defined me through the years,” he says. “I feel comfortable directing a movie-of-the-week or the next ‘Independence Day.’ I don’t think it’s fair to box myself in, because I just love doing the work.

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