Mark AlbrechtSnackboy's Words of Wisdom
august 1998 guest
independent film producer
"Iím an adopted son of Nebraska," Forrest Murray said.
Forrestís association with Nebraska began at a film festival in Santa Fe. It was there that Nebraska Film Commissioner, Laurie Richards, sought him out. They met and Laurie presented Forrest with her idea, a retrospective of his work.
After absorbing the initial shock that anyone would want to do a retrospective of his work, Forrest said, "yes."
Of course, Forrest is first and foremost known as the distinguished producer of many excellent independent films. His work includes, Five Corners, Bob Roberts, Dead Man Out, The Keeper and, Spitfire Grill, a 1996 winner at the Sundance Film Festival.
In conjunction with the retrospective, Forrest spent five days touring the state. "I just had a wonderful time," Forrest said of his experiences in Nebraska.
If Forrestís plans come to fruition, heíll be back in Nebraska soon. Only this time it will be for a new film. "Iím going to direct it," Forrest said, "It is going to be in Lincoln."
The plot revolves around a coast-to-coast limo ride. Forrest realized that he can shoot the whole cross country journey all in one place. Nebraska that is. A few days in NY and LA but after that, Forrest is sure that Nebraska is the perfect place to stand in for the rest of the country.
In all, Forrest Murray has produced seven movies in the last twelve years. Not every film goes on the resume, Forrest said, but The Keeper certainly does. It is a piece of filmmaking that he is exceptionally proud of.
While his films have all been relatively low budget, Spitfire Grill, $4 million, and Five Corners, $5.5 million, The Keeper was produced for only $150,000.
How does he do it? How do you make critically acclaimed films, with great actors, for what amounts to spare change in the world of Hollywood budgets?
I take advantage of actors," Forrest said. By that he means all actors want good parts. Especially big name actors. The same actors who routinely command top salaries, want good parts even more than money.
"I wonít make them rich," Forrest said. He has never paid the going rate. Itís not possible with such small budgets. "But I will give them parts they like."
The job of producer is to bring people together to do their jobs. The jobs they do best Forrest explained." Producing is delegating. "If I find myself doing a job, I hire someone else to do it."
"This is a nothing more than a people business," Forrest said. "No more, no less.".
On the set, the job of the producer is to create an environment in which people can be creative. It is a non-fear based environment that Forrest creates. One where it is okay to make a mistake once in a while.
"People cannot be creative playing defense", Forrest said. "I allow people to play offense with their work."
Movie making is also about learning. Itís not productive to come to the set thinking that you know it all. In Forrestís case, that means doing a great deal of listening. If the script calls for a dolly shot, Forrest might ask the dolly grip what she or he thinks. After all, the dolly grip is an expert at dolly shots. You do not have to do what the grip says, Forrest said, but you do have to listen. It is an important part of the creative, collaborative process that is movie making.
If this is a business about people then getting ahead is about opportunism.
"Life is serendipitous," Forrest said. Opportunities arise, maybe when you least expect them. You have to be ready. "If you donít grab it, someone else will.
"Iím opportunistic." you have to be opportunistic to make it in this business. "But you donít have to be rude about it," Forrest said. "This business is about, making it your moment."
Forrestís career as a filmmaker began in 1967. He was working for ABCís evening news when his phone rang. Those were the days when the evening news was assembled from black & white film and lasted only 15 minutes.
Forrest answered. Turns out the call had been misdirected to the wrong extension. Forrest recognized the voice so instead of hanging up, a conversation ensued. When it was over, Forrest had his first job in film, working as a production assistant. To this day, Forrest relies on the relationships that he has built as evidenced by his huge address book.
Although he worked his way from PA to grip and through many various positions to producer, Forrest still relies on his experience as a grip. It invariably happens on every film, Forrest said, a crew member will try to feed him a line, thinking that he wonít know any better. Not so. When it happens, Forrest, takes the offender to the side and shows his credentials. He keeps his old union card, from his days as a grip, with him on the set for just such occasions. Seems that this usually takes care any misunderstandings with crew. It helps when they know where you came from.
As a producer, Forrest says he is not a business man but a film maker. "I love being in the theater" to feel what the movie does to the audience."
Forrest is very aware of the feelings that his films create. It is not something he takes lightly. Movies are, "the most persuasive medium ever." As such, Forrest believes that with such a powerfully persuasive medium also comes responsibility. It is something he teaches his students at the American Film Institute.
I can teach about the technique of movie making in a few hours. It is not that hard to explain, "what takes time is getting good at it." Instead he and his students spend more time talking about the ethical and moral responsibility of movie making.
As the father of two young children, Forrest knows that parents must be responsible for controlling what their children watch. He concedes that not all of his films are suitable for his kids to watch. Yet, as a filmmaker, Forrest believes that it is important to make films that children can watch. He expresses concern that it cannot be all violence, especially when so many children, like his own, are watching several movies every week.
"I took a bet on myself," Forrest said, referring to his original decision to forego college to find his place in the world. He soon did, and has no regrets. "I love my life," he said. All I want my epithet to say is, "He made a few good movies."
There is no argument that Forrest Murray has made a few good movies, however, itís much to soon to be carving anything in stone. Forrestís next pursuit is directing; and once again, in serendipitous fashion, it looks like that is exactly what Forrest will be doing.
And then there is that movie back in Nebraska.
Forrest Murray made his presentation at the Nebraska Coast Connection Hollywood Salon, August 10, 1998 on sound stage one at Raleigh Studios, Hollywood California.
Forrest Murray can be reached at:
2438 3rd Street
Santa Monica, CA 90405
So, you're tired of sitting around waiting for the phone to ring. Let's face it, it's not what you know, it's WHO you know, so why don't you come get to know us? The Hollywood Salon is movers and shakers, celebs and wanna-be celebs getting together over a beer and a memory of a faraway place.
We're not all Nebraskans - some of us just like to hang out with Nebraskans - but we're all part of the magic of Hollywood. Join us at 7:30 on the SECOND Monday of every month at the Culver Hotel, 9400 Culver Blvd. (@ Washington Blvd.) in Culver City, California 90232.
Just ten bucks Just TEN bucks...includes one drink and a raffle ticket for fabulous Nebraska prizes. (Ten bucks too much? volunteer some time to the NCC and get in free.) There is a fully stocked bar, with cocktails, draft beers and good wines. There is also a great restaurant at the hotel serving wonderful appetizers and full meals (you can eat early in the lobby/bar or bring your food up into the Salon conference room).
There's a VIP guest almost every month--check out the list of recent ones and see who you've been missing. You'll have a chance to share your news and needs in our Show and Tell. But the best part is all the friends you'll meet--old friends and new friends. Most of them will know where you come from. And all of them are bigwigs (or tomorrow's bigwigs) in Hollywood.