“My wife and I were driving up to Oregon from L.A., and we wrote down all the movies that I had worked on, which were over 60,” recalled film producer Hawk Koch. “She had a tape recorder, and I started talking about stories that happened on those particular movies, and also what was happening in my life at that time.” The result of that trip — and four years of writing — is Koch’s memoir, Magic Time: My Life in Hollywood.
The book is an intimate telling of growing up on back lots and movie sets, and a behind-the-scenes look at filmmaking. It is also a moving story of a man’s reckoning with his identity and success. On Sunday, November 3, area folks have a chance to hear Koch speak about his book (which comes out on November 12) during a Q&A led by actor Peter Strauss as part of this year’s Ojai Film Festival, which runs October 31-November 10.
Koch grew up in the shadow of his father Howard W. Koch, an Academy Award–winning producer beloved by all of Tinseltown, and despite establishing his own successful Hollywood career, younger Koch was riddled with self-doubt, thanks to endless comparisons to his father. “There’s a moment during one of the first movies I worked on,” Hawk said by way of example in a recent interview with the Independent. “I’m in the bathroom, and [I hear] a guy say, ‘The only reason that little Howie got his job was because of his father.’ I was down in the dumps when I heard that. Then the other guy said, ‘Yeah, but give him a break. He’s working really hard, and he’s good at what he does.’ And I realized at that moment that I had to work harder than anybody else, because not only was I in the same business as my father, but I had the same name.”
Through hard work and talent — and changing his name from Howard to Hawk — Koch found his niche in the business and to date has a laundry list of well-known, varied film work under his belt, including Chinatown, Heaven Can Wait, Marathon Man, Primal Fear, and Wayne’s World. A highlight of his career, he recalls in Magic Time, was working as Sydney Pollack’s assistant director on The Way We Were, which will be screened prior to the Q&A. “Everyone working on it knew it was going to be special,” he writes.
The Hawk Koch event is just one of many cinema-focused offerings taking place during the 10-day Ojai Film Fest. In addition to myriad films — from features to shorts to documentaries to animation — there are workshops and conversations on the festival slate. Here are a few examples of what the fest has planned: A free showing of The Nightmare Before Christmas at the Libbey Bowl (Oct. 31); seminars on how to distribute your film, the business of licensing music, and how to leverage environmental films as educational tools; a screenplay live table read; “Stuntmen: Action in Film,” a 90-minute session with stuntman and stunt coordinator John Branagan; and the Women in Film Legacy series, which includes short biographical films on Penny Marshall and Eva Marie Saint.
Other highlights include screenings of the Young Filmmakers Competition winners and the presentation of the Lifetime Achievement Award to honoree Pat Boone, who will be on hand for a showing of his 1962 film State Fair, followed by a reception.
4•1•1 | Q&A with Hawk Koch, led by Peter Strauss, Sunday, November 3, 4 p.m., at the Ojai Art Center Theater. Reception to follow. The festival runs Thursday, October 31-Sunday, November 10. See ojaifilmfestival.com or call 640-1947.