Julie Goldman spent nearly 15 years breaking the traditional role of being an independent documentary film producer. With three films in this year’s Full Frame Documentary Film Festival, there is no sign she is slowing down anytime soon. By inserting herself directly into the creative process every step of the way she epitomizes the role of “creative producer”, and has earned some of the highest honors in the industry along the way.
As the founder of MOTTO Pictures in 2009, Goldman most recently acted as the creative producer on films such as, “Gideon’s Army," “Buck,” “Sergio,” “A Place at the Table,” “God Loves Uganda,” “Beware of Mr. Baker,” “Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry,” and “Manhunt,” just to name a few. This past weekend at Full Frame, she joined students from the Fellows Program for an afternoon of conversation, questions, and a behind the scenes look into how she shaped her own tremendously successful career. Below are some of the key takeaways from the afternoon.
Goldman’s career started with the business side of producing through educational distribution. By raising money for first-run features in international TV sales, she was able to move forward quickly into producing, already grasping the multifaceted nature of the business side of filmmaking. Yet she also became savvy to the technical aspects: lighting, camera, editing, and so on. In Goldman’s opinion, this can make all the difference in the progression of the film and is the defining characteristic of being a creative producer.
With three films at Full Frame this year, Goldman is a very busy person. At this point in her career, she can be selective in choosing her next project, yet often finds herself gravitating towards first-time filmmakers. How does she decide on the next project? It’s simple. Follow your gut. Never do the same project twice, look to your personal interests and passions, follow your instincts and when you find yourself saying, “I could see this being great,” make it great.
Producers and directors alike need to be able to make a pitch. The elevator pitch can be one of the most difficult things for filmmakers to nail, yet arguably one of the most important. According to Goldman, the most important element to pitching is the illusion that you aren’t pitching at all, but rather having a conversation. Passion in filmmakers shines through and when they can articulate and engage people in the topic of their film, it will be a pitch worth remembering.
Pay attention to Pitch Sessions as well. Most festivals and film events offer them and while she admits they are rather intimidating, they are worth it. The more a filmmaker pitches, the more effective those 30 seconds can be. The MeetMarket at Sheffield is a favorite of Goldman.
How does a first-time filmmaker get the attention of Julie Goldman? Make a sample of footage that shows the beauty of the film, the scope of the characters, and most importantly, unique, total access into their lives as the storyteller. Knowing that every project is different, Goldman does not suggest that there is a one-size-fits-all sample as it depends on the project. Share the sample with other people for their feedback. Mechanically speaking, the sample reel should be “slick without bring commercially” and no longer than five minutes. At the end of the day, show that this filmmaker is undoubtedly the best person to make this film.
1) Work with people you admire.
2) Be passionate before you commit to a project.
3) In precarious situations, have a great plan, be resourceful, be nimble.
4) Make people happy. Then they will want to work with you again.
To conclude in Goldman’s words: go out and shot something (anything), gage interest in the topic, and then if you are passionate and ready to make a film, get a great producer.