Learn more about cinema with a producer of The Lord of the Rings, Matrix – Barrie Osborne
David: Hello dear achievers. I'm excited to be with someone awesome, he's Barrie Osborne, the producer of the “The Lord of the Rings”, “Matrix”, and “The Great Gatsby”. He’s with me and I'm excited to ask a lot of questions. So follow this interview. Hello Barrie?
Barrie: Hi David.
David: How are you?
Barrie: Very, very good. Thank you. Thank you for having me.
David: I'm excited. I would love to know just first of all if you can introduce yourself, who are you and what are you doing?
Barrie: Yes. I'm Barrie Osborne, I'm a producer and I started in the business in probably 1969, I would say. And I worked my way up from the bottom of the business as a runner in TV commercials. And then I got into the Directors Guild training program in New York. And then…
David: You started with directing?
Barrie: Well, it’s Directors Guild training program and that encompasses 1st ADs, production managers and directors. It's really more a program for training production managers, 1st ADs and production managers. But it’s with a great opportunity which is pretty competitive to get into, but I got to do four pictures as a trainee. I think the very first picture I did was “Godfather II” with Francis Coppola. Then I did…let's see, “Godfather II”, “All the President’s Men” and “Three Days of the Condor”. So “All the President’s Men” was with a very prominent director whose name escapes me right now, and “Three Days of the Condor” was with Sydney Pollack. They were all pretty amazing films to start the business with.
And I also did a little piece of “The Fortune” just for a short period of time that I was in New York, and also a short piece of “Marathon Man”. It was a great start to get a hint of future film making.
David: Yes, and how old were you at this time?
Barrie: Well, I would have gone through college, well, university, and then gone through the army. And then come out and then spent about four, five years in commercials, and then got into the training program. So I would have been probably somewhere in my late 20s, I'd say.
David: I would love to know, according to you, what is a producer? How do you define someone who produce?
Barrie: Well, there's many different roles that a producer fills and sometimes they are divided up among a number of people. But if you were doing 100% of the roles, you would be funding the material, the script or the story that you write a script based on either a novel or a news article or something totally invented. Or you work with a director or writer who may have found that material and you start to put together what's typically called the package that people will finance. That means you start to attract, first of all, you have to make sure that you have a script, a really compelling script. And then you start to attract a director if you don't start out with one that will attract cast to the movie that are bankable.
That becomes a financeable package essentially that you can take to the market and either you can go to a studio with that package or you can go independently to the international market place, the film festivals and the markets that are associated with them and raise presales. You essentially work with the distributor in France, or England, or Germany, or around the world and sell the distribution rights or license the distribution rights to those distributors and they’ll put up a minimum guarantee that you can collect on when you deliver the film. And then you can cash for that through a bank providing you have a completion bond that guarantees delivery of the film. Does that make sense? So that’s…
David: Yes, I see that. So the producer doesn't have necessarily the money for the movie.
Barrie: Correct, so you have to raise the money or you have to interest the studio that has the money to get behind the film.
David: I would love to know because there are many roles in a movie.
David: Why did you decide to become a producer, the writer, than a director for example?
Barrie: That's a good question. And by the way, the roles for the producer go on beyond just raising the money or finding the story. It's also helping in the casting area and then helping to manage and figuring out how best to execute the director’s vision of the film. So that, one, he accomplishes what he sets out to accomplish, and two, so that it's on schedule and budget, and three, that it's good, that it looks really good. So you can try to form a collaborative team with a great crew and a great cast. And then you have to market the movie as well and you should have a voice in the marketing with the studio or the distributors so that you make sure the values you think you've captured on the film are exploited in the promotion of the film, and presented in the film that you’re showing.
David: So for example with the “The Lord of the Rings”, you were the one who negotiates with big studios to find the raise?
Barrie: No, in “The Lord of the Rings”, there were three producers. That was Peter, Jackson, Fran Walsh and myself. Peter actually found the material and Peter found the money basically, made the deal. And I came in to help him execute his plans along with a lot of other talented people on that film.
David: I imagine how many talented people there is to have in movies like that.
Barrie: What I have found in my career is when you start out, which is to answer the question you had asked me a second ago, was you start out and you basically…I was exposed to all parts of the business. And because of my background and because of what I did in university and also what I did in the army, I had really good organizational skills, so that I started out doing everything. I was running around being a PA, or a gofer, or a runner, whatever you wanna call that, and a trainee. And I was exposed to all the different areas of film making which was a great way to learn. And I naturally gravitated towards the things that I was strongest at. I like writing a lot, but also my organizational skills are really tuned both form my education and also from the experience.
David: Can we say that the director is more of the creative guy and the producer is helping him to realize what he's imagining? And in your case because you're also creative, you help the director also about his ideas.
Barrie: Yeah, it's fair to say that. It's primarily the person responsible for the film is fit for the creative aspects of the film as a director. I think writing is also very important, and of course acting is in bringing across the idea that you wanna accomplish on screen. And the producer’s role is really to make sure you assemble the team that will work cohesively to accomplish that and you find that you might know someone that is a great production designer, for example. But by experience, you'll know that that guy, that person, man or woman, won't work so well with that particular director that's doing the film. So you have to make sure the chemistry between the people is good because making movies is not easy, it's a lot of hard work and a lot of concentration, and…
David: And long time also.
Barrie: …and for a very long time. So you wanna make sure you put together a very collaborative team that has the same aim, that thinks and feels the same way about the material, the script.
David: Yes, because I'm very interested about that, I am an entrepreneur, a young entrepreneur, and we are starting to attract people and create all our team. How can we know that it's the right people for us? For example, let's say that I want to do…how do you say it in English? A short movie. A short movie, and how can I know that it's the right person? Because you can meet someone and say, “Oh, I'm excited. I love them,” and it's different to love them one day and be able to work for three years. So how do you know?
Barrie: Well, part of it is just you start to develop a sense of who you're gonna work well with. And it's not just who’s gonna work well with you, but the team you put together. As I say, like some directors, for example, might like a very strong first assistant director who runs the set like a Field Marshall and some directors would like someone that’s a little quieter and a little more laid back, but still effective, still on top of everything that needs to be done. That's a personality decision.
David: You need to know yourself, so then you’ll know what you need.
Barrie: Yeah. And frankly, it takes…but you gain the experience as you work. And by starting out in the bottom, you start to meet lots of different people. And you start to figure out who you feel work well together.
David: Because you have a lot of experience, when you have this experience, do you want to work with new people or do you keep the same stuff and team because you know how to work each other?
Barrie: Well, there's a short hand when you have the same team. I like both frankly, so I find that you learn…if you work with lots of different people and lots of different cultures, you find that there are different ways to solve the same problem. And by working across different teams, you start to realize that you don't have to do it this way, you could also do it that way. What fits best for the picture that you’re making, and you start to learn that and that's invaluable, I think.
David: So the fact that you’re working with different culture and people makes you more creative.
Barrie: Yeah, and it makes you able to assemble a better team, I feel. There is a short hand if you know, and certain departments like for camera or production or design, there’s certain people you might wanna work with because you know their capabilities and you know what you can rely upon. But there’s some magical spark when you met somebody new that has those capabilities. And I also think it's incumbent to always explore upcoming talent, because they bring this side cast to the world that is out there now that your audience, the people that are gonna go to the cinema, so you start to incorporate that in the film you’re making. So it's both, I wouldn't say there's a hard-fetched rule for me to want just one way. And I actually feel I've come a long way in my career where one of my strengths is being able to go into a country and meet people and figure out who I think is gonna be really good for our team. It's one of the things that I think I'm hired for. If I'm hired by a director or a studio to run a picture, I think they realize I can go into this situations and assemble a good team.
David: I have many questions in my mind, so I have to select when you speak. You just said that someone you have selected by someone to run a movie. For example, I would love to know why someone selects you. Do you understand my question?
David: Because there are many producers in the world. According to you, why can someone decide to work with you?
Barrie: Well, there's a number…at first, because I'm good and I think I get along with people very well and they relate to me. There are sick exceptions, you don't get along with everybody in the world no matter how nice a guy you are. There’re gonna be personality clashes because you're under a lot of pressure. One of the guiding things for me is to try to find pictures. The signing factors for me is, “Do I like the screen play?” And then the second thing is, “Do I like the people that are principles in this company either that I put together or that I'm gonna work with?” Because you’re gonna 14-hour days for months or a year or a year and a half, and if you start to dislike the people you're working with, that makes it really unpleasant.
I try very carefully to select the right people or to select the right project depending if I'm putting it together or someone else is putting it together. So how I get selected, it's partially…what happens if it's a studio film and they have a project that's gonna go on a production, they think about someone that has experience in a part of the world or someone that's able to travel well that's handled a picture of that size of the scope. And then they will put them together with the director if the director is already on the picture. You know, they'll interview you, but at the same time, I think it's only fair that I'm sort of interviewing them too and forming my opinion about whether or not I want to be on that film.
And generally, 99% of the time, I make the right decision, 1% I strike out and make a bad decision. But that's how. And how you do it is you make phone calls. Once you're in the business for a while, you call your friends especially if you're looking for someone…if the people you know or the range of people you know are not available, then you call friends. And you find out from them who they’ve worked with and who they would recommend. And then you interview those people and I think I pretty much make a rule not to take one person’s word for something because, again, I recognize the fact that there can be personality conflicts. That there can be a problem between two people or there may be a drama in someone's life on a particular movie that has nothing to do with whether they’re good or not or whether they’re pleasant or not. They’re just going through some…in a turmoil and so they are unpleasant and difficult to work with. So I usually try to get at least three recommendations on people that I'm gonna work with.
David: It's a lot about the quality of your work, your network, and yes, the quality of your work and the people you know that introduced you to other people.
Barrie: Yes, very much so.
David: I would love to know also something because you say that you have to find the right persons and you work together to achieve the movie. Let's take for example “The Lord of the Rings”, Peter Jackson was a producer and also director?
Barrie: Yes, and a writer too.
David: And a writer also. He had the vision of what he wanted to do. As and also a producer, do you have something to say about the vision or can you help him to define what he wants to do? What I want to know is as a producer, are you involved with also in the creative process of the movie?
Barrie: Certainly as a producer, especially on a film, well, on any film, making movies is tough and it's really tough for a director because everything has to be decided upon. There's thousands of decisions to what clothes I'm wearing, what clothes you're wearing. What color your tie is, what shoes you have on, what's the color of the rug, that fire place, everything in the room is a decision. And you have people to help with that.
David: Light, cameras, everything.
Barrie: Production designer, costume designer, a make-up artist, but nonetheless, it rests with the director to make those decisions and to keep an eye on it. And those decisions come up all the way through pre-production, which in some ways, it's the hardest part of the film because it's the most uncertain period. You don't really know yet what your story is necessarily. You don't really know yet what your locations are going to be, and you’re trying to make all of those decisions. But those decisions go on every day on a film even while you’re shooting. So I think sometimes the producer can be a great support especially if it's a good relationship between the producer and the director. A great support to share the visions of the director has said and made it clear what he wants to get out of the film. The producer can be there along with an editor and along with other people on the film to help support the director stay on truck, because you get absorbed in directing the actors, getting performance from the actors, and dealing with differences of opinions about what the performance are.
So a producer can help you as a director stay and make sure you stay on telling the story that you set out to tell, or clock to your attention if you're really going off track.
David: So you are helping the director to focus more on what he needs to do more than every decision?
Barrie: Yes, you try very hard to do that.
David: Do you have an example, for example, a decision you took in “Matrix” or “The Lord of the Rings” or the movies that they can know? I would…
Barrie: Well, in “The Lord of the Rings”, for example, we had…when we started out making the movie, while we were filming the movie, New Line was starting to pressure Peter to come out with a slightly different ending, more climatic ending of the first film.
David: What do you mean by climatic?
Barrie: Climatic conclusion, emotionally satisfying conclusion of the first film. Because Tolkien wrote them all as one novel, and at one time, his publisher said they should be three novels. And we made three films, but that meant that there was an ongoing story and you had to end the film in a way that was satisfying to an audience, emotionally satisfying to an audience, so that they would feel a complete story was told. We had an ending, but New Line challenged Peter on what the ending was in the middle of the filming, which is this not unusual.
So Peter was a master in the great day to day operation and the overall view of the film, he also had…so he asked us and he had two other writers, Philip and Fran, who are great writers, but he asked us to come up with a couple of ideas for what the ending was because he didn't have time during the day to go away from the set and think about it. So I helped put together a team to come up with suggestions. He ultimately made the decision and we discussed the options with him, but I helped orchestrate that. That's an example, say, of what I might do creatively.
David: Okay, great. Did you enjoy the end?
Barrie: Yes, I did enjoy the end of the film. I thought it was a very clever idea. And it somewhat came from Richard Taylor's team to make the ending of that film really clearly about the separation and the fellowship, because they started out united as a fellowship. The Ring became so overpowering that Boromir tries to take it and Frodo starts to realize he's gotta separate from everybody and he original…and he starts out on his own. And then Sam won't let him go on his own, so he goes along with in. And of course Gollum tracks them along. So what I sort of came up with the concept that it should be the separation of the fellowship is what it should be. It's that scene at the lake and then Aragorn and Kimberly and Legolas go off to rescue Merry and Pippin who’d been taken by the Lords.
David: There is a question I would love to have your answer. Those movies are like excellent movie, everything's detailed. Everything's important in those movies, and the balance between excellence and time, I would love to know…
Barrie: That’s a good question.
David: …how do you manage that?
Barrie: I think the most important two things for a film, and I'll say that's wrong in a second. But the most important two things are story and cast. And if you have them, you'll have a food movie. The other things like production design or costume design, the camera moves, all of those things will make it maybe an excellent movie, a much better movie. But you can't let those things detract from telling a story nor can they detract from the performance. Those things are sacrosanct and that's what you have to capture mostly and focus on. And anything that gets in the way of that, you shouldn't allow it to get in the way.
David: How do you know that when you are…?
Barrie: Well, you can see, first of all, if you're frozen or blocked by a lack of decision in your production design, say, you've gotta address it. That should not dictate the decisions on the film. Yes, you wanna support the production design, it’s very important. But the moment it starts to interfere with being able to actually focus on story and focus on casting, that's something you shouldn't allow to have happened.
David: And I've like a similar question also about…let's take a true example, a concrete example in the field, “The Lord of the Rings”, minister it. I know that you made the big door through, it was a true door. I imagine that it cost a lot of money to do that, and I would love to know, how do you define the balance between investing a lot of money to create something and very true and doing something different? It will cost less money and may be save you time. For me, it's like, “Wow, how do you make the decision?” Because it can be maybe 1 million more to do just 10 seconds of the movie and how to decide. I'd love to have your…
Barrie: And you mean the gates to Mordor, right?
David: The gates of Minas Tirith?
Barrie: Minas Tirith, yeah. Mostly most of that were miniatures by the way, and a lot of that was done on the field in New Zealand and the big gates were mostly miniatures primarily. The answer to your question is, one, the first answer is you go into a production, you know either by how much money you've raised independently through the presales or through an independent investor or a series of independent investors. Then you have to design a production to fit within that budget. But there is still a balance, there is still a question, where is it we're spending money or extra money on and where it's not. And part of that you solve by figuring out, “Oh, what's the most cost effective way to make the movie and still deliver all those values?”
So you look at where, and frankly you have to do this, you look at where can you base the movie and satisfy the script requirements? That's primary that's the first decision. And then, where can you base the movie? Then once you make that decision, you look around the whole world and say, “Okay, these are five places we can make this movie.” Then you say, “Okay, of those five places, what has technically competent or good crew and where can you get the best incentives and the best exchange rate basically?” And then that helps you afford things that you might otherwise not be able to afford to increase the production value on screen.
But when it comes down to the bottom line of actually having to make a decision on a specific thing, this question of, “Can you afford it inside your budget?” And you wanna make the best movie always that you can, but you have to find a way that actually make it work financially too. Does that answer the question?
David: Yeah, and I imagine also that the more you practice, the more you have this answer. The more you do it, the more you feel what you have to do, and it’s…
Barrie: Yeah, and you can also feel, again what's dramatically the most important scenes. Where should you spend the money? How much screen time is it gonna be? And it's not only about screen time, it’s also about impact, emotional impact that helps you tell your story. And I think all of this should be story-driven or it must be story-driven, not just spectacle. You want to tell the dramatic story so that the audience has a really strong emotional reaction to that film.
David: My question is due to…I don't think it’s a true story, but I heard that in the movie, “Dark Knight”, there is a scene with a French actress, Marion Cotillard. Do you know her?
Barrie: Yeah, sure. She’s great.
David: One of the scene was criticized a lot for the quality of the way she's dying in the scene, and I heard the story that the investors say that we don't have the time to do it again. Is it possible that sometimes the investors start to say, “We don't have the time to do it more because it will cost maybe more money to do it again?”
Barrie: One, it depends on the scale of the production. On that movie, I would suspect that’s not true because I can't imagine that unless…you know, it depends on how well the production has been run and if you've been responsible and they feel comfortable with what you’re doing and they know you’re not being wasteful, then hopefully, they would allow you to do that. My argument always if I really wanna do something, or a director really wants to do something that he thinks will greatly improve the performance of the movie, that's the argument. You've got so much invested if you spend another say a million dollars just for the sake of argument or a hundred dollars or a thousand dollars. It's gonna have a much greater impact at the Box Office. It's gonna bring in more income on the release of the film. That sounds like an easy argument to make, but if you feel strongly about it, I think, with a director and you’re passionate about it, I think you can make that argument,
David: So it's possible to go back to see the investors and negotiate to have extra money to finish the movie. Is it possible to do that?
Barrie: Hard, but it's possible. Ever since the sort of giant recession we had, there was a big scale back. Before that recession, it was definitely possible. It was sort of an allowable contingency in most budgets for unexpected things. But now, I think you're really expected to deliver a picture for budget so you've gotta build it into you. You've gotta build that capability into your budget sort of.
David: So you have to define everything before starting?
Barrie: That's the aim, and you can also make the argument if you’re disciplined and you find that you don't need to spend some money on something but you wanna do something else, you can go…if it's a studio film, you can go to the studio and say, “Look, we think this scene is not gonna work very well. We'd like to cut this scene, and we would like to, instead, spend the money that was devoted to that set or whatever it is in that set and spend it over here in the budget.” Most studios would listen to that argument.
David: You just said cut and I have a question also about that, because for example in “The Lord of the Rings”, you have the long version and the short version, and you do think that you will cut at the end. So easy to have for the story to say, “We made that, it cost maybe…” Let’s say it’s the same price. “It cost 1 million, we finished it, but we decided to cut because it doesn't fit the story.” Is it hard to make those decisions?
Barrie: Yes, they are hard decisions to make because you've become very attached and you also end up feeling an obligation to the actors who are in those scenes who may feel their performances is diminished. However, I think the most important thing is to feel our responsibility to telling a story as well as you can, and fight for that. That's what I think is the most important.
David: And also the same question because I'm making a lot of videos, it’s not movies, it’s just videos. And sometimes when you…for example we did a video for the French terrorist attack. We did a video to inspire the world to believe in humanity, and at the end, we maybe watched it 200 times. So it was hard to see it the way people will see it. How do you do to be able to watch the movie again and again and being able to be aligned?
Barrie: It's very tough to do that, and often what you do is you screen it for friends, and then also that's tough because friends often won’t necessarily wanna hurt your feelings. So they might not tell you what they really think. You can do test screenings, so a recruited audience screening. There’re several different natures to where you can recruit an audience and there are companies that will recruit an audience and then do a statistical analysis of their response to the movie. But it still comes down to somewhat of judgement of someone making a decision of what they think in the end. Even with all that input, it comes down to intelligent decisions, but you become so unarmored with different scenes in a movie you don't wanna cut on. That's definitely true. It's hard to do.
David: It's hard.
Barrie: But I would suggest that you test it. Like in that case of your film, you could bring in people to look at the movie and screen it for them. You know, bring in 20 people or something like that. Then ask them what they thought of the movie or have a discussion with them to get their reaction or also watch them. And they also have review cards, I can send you some of the typical questions that are asked of a preview audience or a test audience. Because they take that and they take those questionnaires and then they tabulate them, and they figure out whether it's working or not, how much they think it's gonna do in the Box Office, and how's it's gonna perform if there's anything they should change.
David: It’s hard to define how a movie will…
David: Yes, sometimes it's like you have a great team, great director, or great producer, the greatest actor and the movie is not doing what was expected. It's like weird sometimes.
Barrie: I think sometimes…well, sometimes it's just, I think, depending on what's happening in the world, a movie might resonate, that story might not resonate at that particular time because of things that have happened in the world with what society is going through, the countries are going through. I can't think of a particularly good example right now, but there’re certainly plenty of them.
David: Yes, for example let's imagine that in France you did a movie just the week of the terrorist attack. It was not the best day to publish your movie.
Barrie: Anyway, in the testing process, that works and doesn't work. I mean, one of my friends who’s an editor, a good friend of mine and a very good editor, he used to say that the cards and going through the cards is like a bunch of thematic scholars going through the bible and picking up passages that support their point of view just so they go through that. So people will go through the cards and they will read into the cards whatever they believe anyway. Basically they'll read those cards to support their position rather than actually getting an impartial point of view.
David: You can find what you need to…
Barrie: Yes. And also the other thing he mentioned to me was generally if you ask the audience, “Was the movie slow in any part?” Generally you start to feel as an audience that the movie is slow about three scenes after you…it's really accumulative thing rather than, “Oh, this scene was too long or too slow.” It's usually accumulative pace issue, not just a specific scene.
David: If everything was possible, what is your dream in the next year? Do you have some kind of crazy project you would love to manage?
Barrie: I have a few. Some are very far out there, there's one with a person I've become quite friendly with who lives in Scotland, this woman Cynthia Kamari [SP]. Really it's about humanity and the fact that we all should be living together. It's historical, but it's a very fictional piece that spends about a hundred years of history or more. And it starts in India and it goes to England and Scotland and many other cultures. It's interesting, very challenging, very big film.
David: Did you start it? I’m trying to understand.
Barrie: Well, we've been working on it.
David: But it's not released.
Barrie: No, it hasn't even been started. It’s just we've been working on it. That's why I'm gonna have the people I just worked with on Pete’s Dragon: David Lowery and Toby Halbrooks, they have become good friends and they have a friend that has a project that I find really interesting that I’d like to become involved with. There's that, and I'm working with a writer/director named Scott Walker who is originally a New Zealander, lived in London for a while for about 10 years. And then came to the US to the film here and has a slate of films he'd like to do. So I've been working with him on those. And then I have like a great project with Francis Coppola and Carroll Ballard, I would like to get it off the ground as well. That also is a really big scope of film.
David: I believe that movies can educate young people. I’m not sure about the word educate, but I believe that it's changing the beliefs of the world. If you had a message you would like to spread through movies, what can it be?
Barrie: First of all, people have said if you wanna send a message, then go to Western Union. But nonetheless I believe with you that movies do present a world view of a way that you would like to see the world. And also a cautionary about what can happen if certain events happen in the world. And I think those are all…and I'd like that idea. I think a good film has a theme to it that people can get behind that means something. And first of all, it reflects…any good story would reflect on humanity or what life is about. And a really great film will reflect on a theme that is important to the world. I think that's true. Right now it's the same thing you try to do with your video. I think that's a really important message that all cultures are really part of humanity and we are all humans and we all share many things. We have some differences and the differences of things to celebrate, not condemn. That's my basic believe.
David: Yes, I agree also in this belief. When you have like a strong message like that that everyone can be connected. The fact that you can enjoy your own life, simple message but powerful message. How do you find also the balance between finding a way to spread the message, but also finding your way to have kind of powerful story? Because you can have a strong message, but if the story is not appealing, it will not work.
Barrie: I think it’s just really…you have to first of all tell a powerful story and an entertaining story, you have to do that. And if you have a certain outlook, and again, in choosing the people you work with, that you're gonna assemble a group of people that share the same sort of fit themes or the same sort of beliefs or same sort of understanding of the world so that hopefully, that is gonna come through naturally into the story telling, and the stories that they’ll choose to tell. But to do a movie, a lot of money is spent on the movie. Your first responsibility is to tell a story really well so that it actually returns the investment to the people that took the risk to finance the film.
David: Yes. So how are you paid in a movie? Are you paid…is it like decided before or is it a proportion of the results of the movie? Am I clear?
Barrie: Yes, you are very clear. Depending on what your job is on a movie, you might get a fee, either a salary or a fee on a weekly basis or you might get a fee, the direct compensation for making the movie as a director or a producer. And then you get what's called contingent compensation. So on top of your fee, you get contingent compensation that is dependent upon how the movie performs at the Box Office. And that very few people get that. That's more the people that are credited with the creation of the story and the control of the story, so it's very few people. Maybe some of the top actors and some of the top directors and some of the top producers would get that contingent compensation.
David: Do you prefer this way to be paid?
Barrie: It's always a balance. If you get a good basic fee, you know, you’re gonna get your money. If it's all contingent and compensation, there's a chance you might work really hard for a long time and not see much. What you find is really when you make a picture that you’re making for a reason or that's more risky, that's more independent-minded and that is not so obviously commercial, in other words, some of the more interesting movies, then people have to cut their fees. And then in exchange for cutting their upfront fee, I think it's certainly appropriate that they get a greater contingent compensation. And maybe that contingent compensation is spread a little bit further because you’re asking people to work for below what they would normally be paid.
David: Do you work sometimes for projects where they don't have the same money that big movies but because maybe you love what they want to do? Do you do that sometimes?
Barrie: Sometimes, yeah.
David: And what is you criteria to just say, “Okay, I'm not paid that I can deserve, but let's do it.” What are your criteria?
Barrie: Well, sometimes it's the nature of the material…first of all, again, it's always any project that I do, I will really love the script, you know, love the material that…the story which I like.
David: You read the story?
Barrie: Yeah, or at least know a good sense of what the story is going to be about. And then if it's of such a budget that they can't really afford to pay my normal fee, then I'd make that decision at that point in time. And if it's balanced, if it goes across the board and everybody is doing the same thing on the picture, then it would seem only fair that I would do it so as well.
David: Great. I have a last question, it's more general question for people who are not dedicated to becoming producers or directors. According to you, what could be keys of success, and according to you, what do we need to develop to become successful in our life?
Barrie: Well, first of all, I think if you…almost in anything, you have to be passionate about what you do. So you should get into something that you really enjoy doing so that your passion can come true and that’s whether you’re a cameraman or a production designer or a costume designer, a key grip, or if you wanna be a grip or a gaffer. Those people do really big jobs on a film and really important, and they have really creative contributions to make on a film. So I value all of them. It's just what you as an individual is most interested in. That's why it’s sort of interesting to get in at a low level in the film and sort of experience on a lower level what all the different departments and all the different key people on the film do, and start to realize where you fit in best.
And my analogy or metaphor is sort of like evolution. You know, at first, there was one-cell amoebas and then they expanded and they adapted. And some went on land and some went into the sea and some developed fins. And that sort of is the way I see us as humans, you develop certain skills. In my case, it was from education and from being in the army, I developed certain skills. And when I became exposed to the film business, I saw that although I really loved writing, I saw that my real skills were in organization. So it just evolved that way than I had a lot more opportunities in jobs that were asking me to organize things.
David: So you see like a need in the world and a skill you have that it can mix it together.
Barrie: Yeah, a skill you have and also need in the world, skill that you have, and also an enjoyment of that skill. I think it’s the passion for that skill. I think it's interesting. So in my case, I feel like putting together a production so I could join a puzzle. It's what people fit together ride, where's the best place to make the movie, what's the best use of money? For example on Pete’s Dragon, it was a big question. We went to New Zealand, we had a reasonable budget to make the film, but like any budget, you have certain constraints financially. And the studio started off thinking we should make the film in one city, but we found…just in scouting around New Zealand, I found that we couldn't make it in one city. We had this beautiful forest in this one section of the country, and in another section of the country, we had a timber mill that was abandoned that we could take over and film like it was a backlot. It was incredible, and the forest in a sense and the North Island also was there like a backlot.
We were in this gigantic plantation forest, and the forest was so big that they create timber from the forest and they replant. But it was so big that they could just assign their manpower away from this one area, and we had total control in that area within the boundaries of our contract. But still it was like working on a backlot and working at this timber mill even though it was rundown and abandoned. We had to bring it up. It was like working on a backlot, so I was able to accomplish or we were able to accomplish a lot more production value and in real terms for a lot less money than had we tried to force this in one location in New Zealand. And that's an argument you have to make, but I like figuring out though and solving out those puzzles and then arguing for them because you have to…people thought I was crazy because we had to do all these travelling and I thought, “That's worth it, we’re gonna save a lot of money and get a better picture as a result.”
Barrie: I’ve have to add one other great thing about music because we didn't talk about music at all. Most of the best directors I've talked with have always said that half of the emotional content of a movie comes through the music.
David: Yes, it's very important.
Barrie: Yeah. And a case in point as I did Dick Tracy with Warren Beatty. We were in the editing room and I said, “Warren, why are you…you’re holding on this one shot of Tracy dropping off Tess and the kid at his house.” And then he turns around and goes back to her towards the police station and the camera raises up and you see the setting sun, it's all created through visual effects. But you see the setting sun and you're just holding there as the car drives off. And said, “Why are you doing that?” He said, “Well, you know, Danny Elfman is gonna tell us that Tracy is coming up with Tess through his music.” And you watch the movie and you see that shot and you say, “Oh, yeah, I get it. It does work that way.”
David: Yes, it's amazing, the power of music in a movie. Someone maybe two or three days ago told me that in Star Wars, before having the music, they were wondering if it will be a sexist, and when they had the music added to the movie, it was like amazing.
Barrie: It's really, really an important element. So that's originally the start of our conversation. I said there’s two things that are really essential to a movie: a good story and a good cast, and I said I would later tell you that there was a third thing and that's music.
David: Music. It was like the teasing at the beginning of the interview, they need to see until the end to have that.
David: Do you have children?
Barrie: Yes, I have a daughter.
David: Let's imagine that you speak to someone who has a dream to become someone like you, to become a producer, and maybe other people tell him it's not possible, it's just a dream, you will not be able to do that, it's too hard. A lot of things like that, big excuses. What would you love to say to someone who has this dream?
Barrie: If they have a big dream, then I think you have to be…because I heard all of those stories when I was getting out of university and also after the army. I heard all of those, people telling me that same thing. I think it's just passion and then working really hard and watching what people do, learning from every experience you have even the bad ones, and applying that knowledge and just being passionate about it. Then it won't naturally…it's hard to get into the film business, and it's hard to be successful. But I imagine it's just as much a struggle no matter what you do.
David: Yes, and it's hard sometimes to not achieve your dreams, so it’s hard in both ways.
Barrie: Yeah, and you’ve gotta try. You’ve gotta strive for it. There is also…and what you said about the message of films, and the themes in films, the person that’s sort of pretty universally attributed with creating modern cinema was D.W. Griffith who took…originally they had a film camera or a camera sitting out and just like it was in a stage, in a theater and the camera didn’t move. And then D.W. Griffith came up with cross-cutting, time and cross-cutting action. So the kind of trivial easy example is the good guy coming on a horse, the big guy tying the…the good guy [inaudible 00:52:29] to a railway track, a train coming on the track. Coming back to the guy riding on a horse to see whether he got there in terms of free hair. He came up with a lot of the modern kind of language of film, and then, of course, there were lots of other people too. There were the Mezly [SP] Brothers in France. But the next thing that happened was Griffith did this intuitively and he never wrote anything down. His movie sort of told what he did. And then during the Russian Revolution, the Russians sort of thought, “This is a great thing for propaganda and for storytelling.”
And so they put money into making movies and they had Sergei Eisenstein who wrote a book called “Film Form and Film Sense” which is a great book. And he's made some great films. He made the “Battleship Potemkin” and there's quite a number films he made, a really talented director, but a Russian guy. He formalized all of these techniques including music and put them in this book.
David: Thank you, Barrie. And maybe, how can people find you or do you have a website that people can follow you or things like that?
Barrie: I’m on a couple of the social medias, but I hardly ever…I must say I'm very…I get so involved in what I do on a day to day basis. I'm very poor correspondent, I must say.
David: So people can follow you through your creation.
Barrie: My movies.
David: Through movies?
David: Yes. Thank you, Barrie.
Barrie: Thank you.
David: It was awesome. Thank you very much. Thank you.