Alexis Alexanian sits at a restaurant on 17th Street and 7th Avenue in Manhattan. She has 20 things to do this morning but now she’s looking earnestly at a reporter trying to answer the questions put before her, just like she might be attempting to solve a production problem.
A partner with Gary Winick in Gotham’s flourishing digital shingle InDigEnt, Alexanian brings to the table years of experience as a New York production ace, having worked as a coordinator and production supervisor on more than 15 studio films.
“All I do all day is communicate and try to make things happen,” says Alexanian, a self-assured woman who has the ability to laugh through the tense times. “We’re managing so much now and we’re a real small company. We’re functioning like a mini-studio.”
Alexanian wears many hats at InDigEnt: She’s at times chief financial officer, chief operating officer, a producer — overseeing a half-dozen digital video projects at once. Every day, she deals with the nuts and bolts of bringing a movie to life: She checks in with the on-set producers, makes sure crew members get paid, examines and signs actor contracts, negotiates vendor deals.
“We don’t have time or money to waste,” she says. “We use our intellectual capital and say to line producers, ‘This is how it has worked for us in the past and we will guide you through it.'”
Alexanian’s days of working on studio pics directed by the likes of Robert Benton, Alan Parker and Nora Ephron have also taught her a thing or two about handling talent.
“You have Sigourney Weaver starring in your movie,” says Alexanian of working with the star of “Tadpole,” a critical hit at Sundance that was picked up by Miramax Films, “and you’re running around with none of the comforts she’s used to. But I think there’s an art to making a star feel safe and comfortable.”
Alexanian’s cell phone rings. It’s Winick calling from London, where he’s rescoring “Tadpole” in preparation for a summer release.
“Gary?” she says. “Yes, I can hear you. How’s everything going? Are you pleased with the facilities and musicians? Great! Does it feel good? Terrific!”
Alexanian’s voice is calming, assuring, almost maternal. “Being in the film business earns you a Ph.D. in human nature,” she later says. “You know how to push people to do their best work and you learn how to handle them even when they’re at their worst.”
Alexanian begins to chuckle. “Being in the film business also makes you macho,” she blurts out.
Primary credits: “Tadpole,” “Personal Velocity,” “Chelsea Walls,” “Tape,” “Final,” “Kill the Poor”
Definition of a producer: “I have always thought that a producer is the person who helps articulate the director’s vision. The producer brings the bag of tricks to the director; together we make the movie happen.”
Strengths: “I instill confidence and trust.”
Achilles’ heel: “What is that again?! OK, I’m flat-footed!”