Denise Pinckley’s recently completed “Bella,” bowing in the World Contemporary Cinema section at Toronto, marks a milestone as a producer in a career that’s steadily risen from the ground-level ranks of production.
Having “fallen into the biz” with a production office management gig, Pinckley soon became “one of the most sought-after New York-based production coordinators in the business,” according to fellow producer Rudd Simmons, who exec produced “The Royal Tenenbaums,” on which Pinckley served as unit production manager.
“If you wanted to get it done, you called Denise,” says Simmons. “She had an intuitive sense of what would and wouldn’t work on set. Denise spoke with department heads not with a managerial top-down approach but with a bottom-up, big-picture approach.”
With production manager credits on a range of films that includes “The Manchurian Candidate” as well as a co-producer credit on HBO’s telepic “Iron Jawed Angels,” Pinckley acknowledges her first full-fledged production manager job on “Analyze This” as a critical juncture in her career.
“Bella,” directed by Alejandro Monteverde, adds a first-time full producer credit to Pinckley’s resume and served as a transition for her into more creative aspects of the production process.
“It’s always hard to leave what’s safe because you’re good at it … but you have to,” says Pinckley.
“In understanding (a) story, you either got it or you don’t, and that’s another thing Denise brings to the table,” says Simmons.
Participating in discussions about cast and storyline, and working hand in hand with first-time helmer Monteverde, Pinckley describes her experience on “Bella” as “pure joy — on all levels. I was thrilled to get up each morning for a 5:30 a.m. call, which is no small thing,” she adds.
When considering new projects, “the script has to resonate with me,” says Pinckley.
“If I can envision it, I feel connected to it. Then comes meeting the collaborators and finding common ground.”
Projects on Pinckley’s current slate include “The People’s Choice,” a story about the Brooklyn Dodgers’ Peewee Reese and Jackie Robinson; “Fatherland,” an adaptation of an Australian novel; and “The Flea Circus,” based on a novel by Billy Lee Bramer about politics in the 1950s.
Base: New York City
Model producer: Jane Scott: “She was the first female producer I ever worked with who showed me it could be done, could be done well, and with grace.”
Hard lesson: “The translation of creative idea from what is imagined to what appears on film happens in layers. Nothing can be taken for granted, from script to design to cast to crew. Creative ideas come from all of these places.”
Now playing: “Bella,” the story of two individuals whose lives converge and are transformed on a single day in New York City.