People who regularly attend this panel over the years have regularly got some newsworthy blurbs. This one was no exception. Directors can be testy (David O. Russell two years ago) and the script writers make you feel anybody can get rich, if they have a relative in the business. But the producers are people who love movies and lots of money and live insular lives that make them forget how the rest of us live.
Take Dana Brunetti, for instance, the producer of Captain Phillips, who told a rich tale of getting a hold of the captain virtually while the real life incident was going down, using his “arrow,” partner Kevin Spacey, to impress the family of the Captain and get a meeting with him to secure his movie rights even before Philips got home to kiss his spouse and friends. When we met, “he was so fresh he still had bruises on his wrist,” said Brunetti. “I know it sounds like vultures, but I wasn’t the first one there,” said Brunetti. He managed to get the job, he explained, by promising Tom Hanks and Paul Greengas, who he eventually did hire — though had never contacted about the possibility before promising. Sounds like vultures, yes.
The sweetest story from the panel, which also included the producers of Dallas Buyers Club, 12 Years a Slave, Wolf of Wall Street, American Hustle Philomena, and Nebraska, was from Joey McFarlane, who produced Wolf and apparently had enough pull to get Martin Scorsese (everybody on the panel called him Marty) to consider adding extra weight to a character that seemed unimportant in the script, named Mark Hanna played by Matthew McConaughey. In between takes, McConaughey was doing a weird chanting sound and the producer told the cinematographer to keep filming. Eventually, of course, the bizarre behavior became a signature scene in the film: though not one that Marty foresaw.
The best part of the panel this year was the elimination of questions from the audience, which may sound anti-democratic but it really made the morning so much endurable. The News-Press guy and I invented a fake drinking game: one shot every time a question turned into a pitch and three pretend shots after every conspiracy theory was broached. We used to be imaginary intoxicated after every session. This time we were sober doing the Wall Street chant instead.