A few weeks ago, I attended a lecture at USC Law with Gary Lucchesi, Producer & President of Lakeshore Entertainment. He was a very jovial, down-to-earth man and I thought I'd share a bit from the talk.
Where do you go if you want to get into the business side of entertainment?
Start in the mailroom at an agency. I didn't know I was interested in film until the end of college, when I took a class taught by David Geffen. After graduating, I interviewed at William Morris Agency. When they asked who I knew in entertainment, I said, David Geffen, and I got the job. I was making $500/month. But I hadn't grown up with a lot, so I thought that was pretty good. I feel like I had an advantage, actually, coming from no money. Surviving on your own is a wonderful skill.
How do you make the most of a challenging work environment?
I worked for a crazy agent at one point. And it was rough. I felt like Terminator in the scene where the bullets keep hitting him and bouncing off--and he just keeps on walking. That's when my mom told me that I was anticipating the worst. And I was. She told me that I could handle it. And it was true, I could.
How did you get from WMA to become the Head of Production at Paramount?
When I got married and I wanted to be a family man. I looked at all the agents around me who were divorced and had problems with their kids--and I didn't want that. I thought to myself, studio execs have it better. So I went there. However, I quickly realized that studio execs are just as messed up as the rest. You have to seek out role models, it doesn't just come with a job title.
How/why did you cross over from the business side of entertainment to the creative side?
I grew up amongst storytellers. My house was the congregation point for all of my dad's old war friends, so I grew up hearing endless stories about WWII. And somewhere along the way, I decided that I wanted to be involved in the storytelling and creative process as well. So in 1997, I joined Lakeshore Entertainment, where we make 3 or 4 movies a year. As head of Lakeshore, I get to be an Exec as well as a Producer on our films. I split my time between the office and set when we have a project filming.
How do you finance your films at Lakeshore?
We usually sell the international rights to foreign distributors to get a good percentage of our total budget. Then we, and a couple equity financiers, put the rest of the money in. Things are different these days, ten years ago, we'd have none of our own money in the movie. But now, with the loss of the DVD market, we have to. It is very hard to re-coup budgetary costs without the DVD market.
What kind of material are you looking for?
I'd kill to find a family film. Animation completely dominates the family sphere these days. Where is the Home Alone today?