Tremors, Terminator, T2, and Aliens. What do all of these films have in common other than the fact that they're amazing and probably your favorite? They were all produced by Gale Anne Hurd.
Hurd has brought so many great projects to life in her 35-year career, including one of the most watched TV shows out right now, The Walking Dead. At her SXSW keynote, she shared a bunch of useful insights into not only the world of producing, but also what it's like being a woman in the industry.
We've shared several takeaways from her keynote below:
Pay your dues
Like with many creative jobs, putting in work and paying your dues is expected if you want to get anywhere. Sometimes that means that you work as an assistant running errands, sometimes that means you're not getting paid for some of the work you do. But Hurd says keep at it. Work hard. Do favors. Do what you love and what you're passionate about.
If something speaks to you it's worth doing
What's the point of putting your energy into a project you don't care about? According to Hurd, there really isn't one. She recalled receiving two scripts in the late 80s, one of which she really loved, but was a little out there, and one that everyone around her told her to jump on because it was bound to be "the next big Hollywood blockbuster." So, she had to make a decision: does she get behind the weird low-budget film about giant earthworms, or the safer one that would appeal to a bigger audience? In the end, she chose the film that spoke to her, which turned out to be Tremors. The other one was called Downtown — ever heard of it? (Didn't think so.)
Embrace the bitch
When asked by a woman from the audience how to avoid being perceived as a bitch on-set, Hurd replied, "Oh, I embrace the bitch." Then — thunderous applause. This is a great lesson for not only female filmmakers, but all filmmakers: you're not going to be able to make everyone happy. Some people are just not going to like you for whatever reason. And yes, assertive women, get ready to be considered a bitch — it's just how it typically goes. But don't allow other people's perceptions of you, whether you're the asshole, bitch, or push-over, to take away from the positive side of your — uh — troublesome personality. Assert yourself, be a team player, and you should be just fine.
Want to be a producer? Get on-set experience
This isn't about starting from the bottom and working your way up, although that's a good point also. This is about allowing your first-hand experience with different phases of production help you become a better producer. If you know what it's like to write a screenplay, or direct a film, or scout locations, all of that knowledge will inform the way you produce films in the future. So, putting it simpler, it's good to be well-rounded.
"There's no crystal ball."
At the end of the day, nobody knows anything. Some people might be telling you that a certain project is doomed, while another is destined for great success, but guess what — they have no damn clue. Hurd explained that, as a producer, of course you want your films to become successful and profitable, but there really isn't any way to know for sure. "There is no crystal ball," she said. This is why she suggests making films that you like and are passionate about, because, if you think about it, there's really nothing worse than making a film that you hate and having it tank at the box office. That's really adding insult to injury.
No Film School's coverage of the 2016 SXSW Film Festival is sponsored by SongFreedom.