For budding producers Jami Gertz and Stacey Lubliner, the gritty streets of East Los Angeles where “A Better Life” was shot were a world away from studio lots. But the film’s message of family was one Gertz, star of 1980s series and pics, could definitely relate to.
Now the mother of three sons, Gertz still appears on shows including “Modern Family” and “Entourage.” But she was looking for a space to expand beyond acting when she decided to dive into producing.
After partnering with former ICM agent Lubliner, the thesp had to hone new skills on the other side of the camera. Together they launched Lime Orchard, and came on to produce the Chris Weitz-helmed pic that Summit bows June 24. Pic was also produced by Weitz, Paul Junger Witt and Christian McLaughlin.The film’s world premiere is June 21 at the Los Angeles Film Festival.
“I’m an actress first and foremost,” says Gertz. But that foundation helped pave the way to producing.
The partners brought complementary strengths to producing. “Jami is all about the script and knowing a character,” Lubliner says.
“Actors are so insulated,” Gertz says “When you’re a producer you have to be so extroverted — Stacey is amazing at that part.”
After tackling two large-scale studio projects, “Golden Compass” and “New Moon,” Weitz was attracted to the story of a Mexican immigrant gardener and his relentless quest to keep his son on the right path, starring Demian Bichir and Jose Julian.
Gertz was hooked by the script on her first read. She was at the hairdresser and began to cry, drawing stares from other patrons.
To keep things real, Weitz and the producers sought advice from Father Greg Boyle, the priest who founded Homeboy Industries, which helps steer former gang members into productive lives.
“Chris wanted to be as authentic as he possibly could,” Lubliner says. Not only did Boyle help them get the lingo right, but members of the org ended up taking roles as in the pic.
Summit is doing Hispanic outreach for “A Better Life,” which is partially in Spanish.
Gertz explains that the pic doesn’t have a political agenda, but seeks to put a face and a name to immigration.
“It’s very relatable,” she says.