Insider’s guide to independent filmmaking from a passionate 20-year industry veteran.
Hoping to usher in the next generation of entrepreneurs, Vachon follows up her how-to guide for first-time film producers (Shooting to Kill, not reviewed) with one about the inner workings of Killer Films, the indie production company she runs with partner, Pam Koffler. The author has come a long way since her humble beginnings as Todd Haynes’s assistant on his 1987 thesis project, Superstar. Raised by an errant father and a cancer-stricken mother, Vachon grew up poor in New York City in the mid-’80s. She loved American cinema, and it wasn’t long before she earned her wings at the independent filmmaker’s paradise, Robert Redford’s Sundance Institute, where she eventually became a film-festival judge. Soon came the grueling fundraisers, tough shooting schedules and MPAA ratings battles over films like Kids, Boys Don’t Cry and Hedwig and the Angry Inch. Encounters with a detached Julia Roberts and a double-talking Kirsten Dunst weren’t much fun either. In 2002, Vachon achieved breakout triumphs with One Hour Photo (starring Robin Williams) and Todd Haynes’s slickly produced masterpiece Far From Heaven, about which she warned her crew, “We have more ambition than money.” The author writes of these ups and downs with good humor. Among her ten rules for surviving Cannes Film Festival: “You will look like shit by the end. Embrace it.” She supplements her text with mini-commentaries from other producers and diary segments that spotlight hourly, on-set action. While conceding that modern filmmaking has become a “commodity business,” Vachon still glows when über-producer Jerry Bruckheimer admits he’s a “big admirer.” Fans of Hollywood’s mighty, ever-grinding celluloid machine will be rapt and sated by her straightforward, at times dispassionately dry dissection of a cutthroat industry. Others will resort to paging through for random points of interest.
A surprisingly uncontroversial exposé with an egocentric aftertaste.