Scattered throughout Christine Vachon’s producing memoir “A Killer Life” like testimonials in a charity-banquet program are nine first-person digressions labeled Spotlights. Contributors, from Universal Pictures co-chief David Linde to director Todd Haynes to Picturehouse prexy Bob Berney, salute Vachon and tackle such topics as foreign pre-sales, per-screen thresholds and Bob Dylan’s oeuvre. The passages offer a few left-field insights, but undermine the reader’s faith in Vachon’s stewardship. They are typical of this sporadically illuminating but choppily assembled volume.
Her work with Killer Films, surely has the makings of a page-turner. In 15 prolific years encompassing the explosion of indie film, the company has made an array of memorable titles, among them “Far From Heaven,” “Boys Don’t Cry” and “Kids.” Even its missteps have a noble pedigree and Vachon, author of a previous how-to book called “Shoot to Kill,” not only knows the game but helped to invent it.
Vachon begins by recalling her roots in Manhattan’s Morningside Heights. She inherited a keen aesthetic sense from her father, a Look magazine photographer who died when she was 13. The stellar student gravitated to Gotham’s moviehouses, learning to appreciate seemingly unlikely pics like “Patton.” She segues into her professional life, but this section is unwieldy in structure. Four main strands compete for space: a chronological memoir; recaps of trips to L.A.; “diaries” of certain films; and those unfortunate Spotlights, which eat up a collective 33 pages. Along with the less-than-accomplished prose, the pacing allows little momentum to build: It’s a memoir set to shuffle mode.
What’s not in the book is also striking: no back stories on Todd Solondz or views on the creation of Paramount Vantage or the Weinstein Co. There are a few sequences in “A Killer Life” where Vachon’s acumen shines through and the reader understands how she got to where she is. Her producing chops deserve a much better print showcase.
(Dade Hayes, a former editor at Variety, is working on a book about preschool entertainment for The Free Press.)