Seventh annual Produced By conference brings Hollywood powerhouses together

Produced By LA 2015 6-1-15

The seventh annual Produced By Conference presented by the Producer’s Guild of America (PGA) occurred May 30-31, 2015, and was hosted by Paramount Pictures in Hollywood.  It brought together the best of Hollywood in film, television, and digital.  Lee Daniels,Tyler Perry, Kevin Smith, Brian Grazer, Eva Longoria, and Reese Witherspoon are but a few of the names that came to speak to producers from all over the world. See more after the jump.

Where else can one bump into the producer who created your favorite movie, hear their life story, and get advice on your own project than at the Produced By Conference here in Los Angeles! Having recently entered the world of producing myself with my own short film, I knew I had to attend this conference. I have often attended events out and about Los Angeles as press, but today, I was there as a producer.

The day started of with registration and free coffee.  After all, a producer must have their coffee.  Then at 9:30am,  the first set of lectures began.  Three lectures went on simultaneously on the Paramount grounds.  Each session focused on issues faced by producers today.  One could choose from learning about producing horror films to how the social web was changing traditional media to producing opportunities in China.  Between lectures, there was a thirty minute break followed by lunch at 12:30pm-2pm. During the breaks, one could refill on that cafe latte or check out the booths teeming with production resources locally and abroad. Perhaps the hardest part of the conference was not trying to find your way around sound stage 4 from the parking lot, but deciding which lecture to attend!

At the end of day one, producers had a networking mixer in the Paramount New York back lot.  Champagne was flowing, business cards were flying, and people were either reconnecting with old friends or forging new ones.  There was a sense of camaraderie and  a “we are all in this together” mindset.

I went back for day two, listening to conversations by producers and directors who have literally become household names.  There were so many lectures that I could go on and on.  Some recurring themes were how there is still a need to increase racial, female, and LGBT diversity on the silver screen and tv, how social media has become an undeniable part of  film and tv, and one must listen to your heart if you are to put out a product you are proud of.  It also pointed out how China has become a huge part of the movie consumer audience.

Other highlights of the weekend included:  Reese Witherspoon (“Wild”, “Gone Girl”) and Bruna Papandrea (“Wild”, “Gone Girl”, “Milk”) talked about the need for more great roles for women in film and television;  Tyler Perry (“Diary Of a Mad Black Woman”) shared stories about his rise from a failed play to owning one of the the biggest movie studios outside of Hollywood in Atlanta; Kevin Smith (“Clerks”, “Chasing Amy”) recounted how his three year break after his rise to fame grounded him back to his heart as a director; Eva Longoria (“Devious Mades”, “Telenovela”) points out that although she is famous as an actress, she always had the mind and skill set of a producer;  Lee Daniels (“Empire”, Lee Daniels’ “The Butler”)emphasized that CW’s “Empire” is not a “black show” but a show of the human condition where people just happen to be black; Brian Grazer (“Empire”, “A Beautiful Mind”) reminds attendees who are attempting to make a dent in Hollywood that it took him several years before he could even sell his first hit movie “Splash”.

Interesting trivia facts:  Reese Witherspoon shot Oscar nominated “Wild” in fifty-five locations in thirty days; Tyler Perry does not rely on a writing team but primarily does all the writing himself; Per Kevin Smith, Johnny Depp is a “great texter” who uses eloquent, poetic words; Eva Longoria initially joined her first beauty pageant to pay her way through college for her kinesiology degree- and won;  Lee Butler wanted to have “Empire” on network tv so that family members who could not afford cable tv could still see his show; Producer Brian Grazer has three tv’s in his office where one tv always has the BET channel on.

In the end, it all boils down to story and the things that inspire us.  For Lee Daniels, it was reading “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolf” at age 8.  For Tyler Perry, it was sneaking into a theatre as a young boy and catching the second act of the plays. Even a Golden Globe nominated director such as Ava DuVernay (“Selma”) can get awe stricken with her fellow producer/directors’ success! The story of an academy award winning producer’s rise to the top is just as an important as the newbie producer just trying to get hits on youtube.  We all learn from each other.  We experience life and want to share it.  It is in the sharing that you can affect somebody in a positive way.  After all,  that is what movie making is all.


I end this article with a select few thought provoking and inspiring quotes:

“Find your lane.” – Reese Witherspoon

“Play the game you know.” – Ian Bryce (Transformers franchise, “Saving Private Ryan”)

“I learned the most from my mistakes.” – Marc Cherry (“Desperate Housewives”)

“If you’re going to live like you’re rich, then work like you’re broke.” – Tyler Perry

“Your voice is your only currency in life.” – Kevin Smith

“It’s one in a million, and that one is me.” – Eva Longoria

“I give a face to those who don’t have a face.” – Lee Daniels

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Courtesy of Producers Guild of America