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March 22, 2012

Wendy Finerman on Staying in the Picture

wendy fineman

Photo Credit: A.M.P.A.S.

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What kind of boss are you?
I pride myself on having continuing relationships with the people I've worked with. My previous assistant Lisa Zupan now runs my company. On the production side, I've been working with some crew members for 15, 16 years. We've worked together over and over again and have built a shorthand. And whether it's the casting agent or the makeup artists, they become like family. We trust each other.

Female producers are a rarity in Hollywood. How do you make it work for you?
Let's face it, it's fun to be a girl when there are 30 guys in the room. It's fun to make a movie with [Top Gun and Enemy of the State director] Tony Scott, who is pretty macho, but totally respects women. I wouldn't be telling the truth if I said I didn't enjoy working with a bunch of talented men.

So it's never gotten in your way?
I was once on a location scout in the South. I was the only woman in the group. The owner of the property we were looking at was being particularly rude to me. After a while he noticed that everyone was talking to me like I had some authority and realized that I may have had some say over how much he was going to get paid. He looked at me and said, "So, what does your husband do on this movie?" And no, we didn't end up using his location.

What advice do you have for up-and-coming producers about breaking into Hollywood?
First I'd try to scare you straight with my "Hollywood is the worst place in the world" speech. If at that point you start to waiver, you really shouldn't be here. Second, learn all different kinds of media — old TV shows and movies, how films are distributed, everything about their shelf life that you can. The more knowledgeable you are, the better understanding you'll have of the entertainment business. Third, you're not making art, you're making a product. Sometimes you get lucky and you really do get a beautiful treasure. But once you become too precious with your creative medium, you lose sight of the commerce. And at the end of the day, I'm in the business of making successful — and profitable — projects.

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