Michael Pierce

Canuck rancher turns hand to assembling pic projects

Name: Michael Pierce
Age: 37
Breakthrough pic: “The Cooler”
What I learned the hard way: “Not living in the moment. Instead of enjoying the process, living years in the future when the movies you thought were going to get made never did. You should find some joy in every moment along the way.”

With 60 projects in development and a number of upcoming titles (Warner Bros.’ “Chaos,” Gurinder Chadha’s “Nine Wives” and Wayne Kramer’s “Running Scared”) on the horizon, it’s hard to believe Michael Pierce never watched movies growing up. After all, he was raised on a cattle ranch in Alberta, Canada, by a father who thought films took time away from chores.

Pierce caught the bug in England, where he began his career setting up AV equipment. One law degree and an obligatory mailroom stint later, Pierce launched Pierce Prods. in 1997. On his first outing, he produced an award-winning short, “Loafing,” about strangers bonding in a public restroom in New York.

“I have always had an offbeat taste in certain material — things that haven’t been done,” says Pierce, describing a trait that continues to define him.

These days, Pierce is moving nonstop. He has a hand in a number of companies: production shingle Pierce/Williams and management firm Zero Gravity, both with partner Mark Williams. With helmer Kramer, Pierce operates True Grit.

All this vertical integration, says Pierce — whose attorney points out he has more scripts in development than MGM — feeds a pipeline that fully maximizes his potential as a producer. Flipping between indie and studio projects, Pierce hates wasting time. “I’ll do indie movies as much as I can. To get a studio movie is a four- to five-year process,” he says. “I can’t twiddle my thumbs.”

Williams, a former screenwriter who works closely with the scribes in their stable, says the good material draws people in “and gives Michael the power to go and put movies together.”

Even execs who haven’t worked with Pierce are waiting for their chance. “We’re constantly trying to find things. I’d even bring him aboard things I have,” says Alex Young, senior VP of production at Fox. “I have faith in his energy and enthusiasm that he’ll push it forward. Michael is one of the most pro-active people I’ve met.”

Ditto, says helmer Kramer, ready to begin principal photography on their second pic together. “Michael has been the facilitator of my dreams. He backed me when nobody else would, and I entrusted my work to him as a producer with the knowledge that he didn’t have any producing credits.

“We also liked each other as people. I think that’s maybe because we’re both outsiders. I’m from South Africa and Michael’s from Canada. We both had to claw our way into this business.”