Gale Anne Hurd is one of the most respected producers in the entertainment industry and has produced more than two dozen feature films which have earned multiple Oscar nominations and numerous awards.
As the chairman of her own production entity, Valhalla Motion Pictures, Hurd’s most recent feature credits include the blockbuster The Incredible Hulk for Marvel Studios and Universal Pictures and Punisher: War Zone for Lionsgate and Sony Pictures Entertainment. Her other film credits include Armageddon, the Terminator franchise, Aliens, The Punisher, The Hulk, The Abyss, Alien Nation, Tremors, the Spirit Award- and Sundance Audience Award-winning indie The Waterdance, The Ghost and the Darkness, Dante’s Peak, The Relic and Dick.
Hurd is well known for her service to the entertainment community and her charitable work. She serves as a National Board member of the Producers Guild of America, as well as chairs its Produced By Conference, which will take place June 4-6 in Los Angeles on the 20th Century Fox lot.
Screen Actors Guild spoke with Hurd for a sneak peek of Produced By as well as to get her insights into the casting process, hypenates. . .and more.
- Screen Actors Guild: What will be some of the topics you hope to personally address at the Produced By Conference? We know, for example, it’s important to you to promote mentoring opportunities for women in the industry.
- Gale Anne Hurd: Mentoring is incredibly important – and to have the opportunity to meet with some of the most iconic producers in the industry for an hour is simply not to be missed. What is unique about the Produced By Conference is that it provides not only great content from the most successful and respected professionals in our industry, but access as well.
- SAG: You yourself were mentored by Roger Corman. What’s the most important thing he taught you about filmmaking?
- GAH: Without Roger’s mentoring and belief in my abilities, I wouldn’t even be in the industry today. I think the most important one was to believe in myself, in spite of the daily rejection and negative feedback. That’s important for all of us: producers, actors, writers and directors!
- SAG: We understand you like to spend a lot of time on the sets of the movies you produce. How does your hands-on approach produce a better product?
- GAH: I can’t imagine producing a project from my office, which may be 3,000 miles or more from the set. I like to interact with my director, cast and crew on a daily basis, whenever possible. I like to be a resource to support the creative team as decisions are made moment-to-moment throughout pre-production, production and post-production. It’s certainly another legacy of my time working for Roger Corman.
- SAG: Does being on set so often create any tension for your creative team? (For example, when there are those pesky “art vs. cost” concerns…) Or do you mainly collaborate with professionals who are used to working in this manner?
- GAH: We’re all on the same team and I’ve very rarely found that the creative team is at odds. By being so involved from pre-production on, most potential problems can be anticipated and solved before they become an on-set crisis. If I do my job right, which includes offering up creative solutions to budgetary issues, there should never be an us vs. them; we’re all on the same creative team.
- SAG: Many films are being shot overseas these days, including some films with distinctly American settings or themes. What are your thoughts on this?
- GAH: The Producers Guild has a very important initiative, Film USA, which we take very seriously. We provide a resource for producers, so that there is one-stop shopping for US-based film commissions and data regarding tax credits and rebates in different states. I’m currently working on The Walking Dead, an AMC TV series, and we’re filming in and around Atlanta, the location where the comic book-inspired series is based.
- SAG: How involved are you in the casting process? Do you go into pre-production with specific opinions about who would be the best fit for the major roles, or do you keep an open mind and/or give the casting director complete freedom?
- GAH: I’m very involved in the casting process alongside my director. Filmmaking is a collaborative medium, and I find that each film has a different path. On some projects, the lead role is written for a specific actor. Casting directors are a wonderful resource, and they provide a great deal of insight into finding the right actor for each role, but they aren’t directing or producing so I wouldn’t rely on their input solely.
- SAG: Are there still opportunities for relatively unknown actors in the films you make now, or are those days gone? What is the best way for an unknown to rise to your attention?
- GAH: We have just cast a relative unknown (at least in the U.S.) as the lead in our television series, Andrew Lincoln. AMC has been terrific, and they have a reputation for casting relative unknowns in their series Mad Men and Breaking Bad. The same is true for The Walking Dead. Before Twilight, Robert Pattinson and Kristin Stewart were not household names, now they are. I think there are more opportunities now than in the past for unknowns to break through.
- SAG: What are your thoughts on hyphenate talents? (Actor-director, director-producer, and so forth…) Is it really possible to wear multiple hats effectively on a big-budget film?
- GAH: I’ve worked very successfully with hyphenates and find that it’s a bonus to collaborate with someone who is wearing more than one hat. James Cameron (writer, director and producer), Frank Darabont, Edward Norton (who wrote and starred in The Incredible Hulk), Jonathan Hensleigh – I’ve worked with many, many hyphenates!
- SAG: Why is it important for actors to attend Produced By?
- GAH: The Produced By Conference is the one place where you can find out everything you need to know about producing for features, television and new media. You’ll learn vital information on how to ‘green’ your project, finance, market and distribute it from experts like Richard Zanuck, Lee Daniels, Marshall Herskovitz, Paula Wagner, Mark Gordon, Bruce Cohen, Jon Jashni, David Eick, Tim Gibbons, Cathy Schulman and Jane Rosenthal — and where else will you have access to one of them as a mentor as well? Only at The Produced By Conference!