Anthony Bregman says being a successful film producer means consulting with audiences regarding your works in progress – no matter where they might be at the time.
Bregman says he recently produced a film where, every Monday, he screened the latest footage for potential audiences.
“What you see in the room is so much more than what you see in an editing room. You feel what’s working,” Bregman tells Big Hollywood. And he’s not immune to eaves dropping on post-screening conversations in the bathroom post-screenings to get the unvarnished truth.
Bregman’s zest for feedback is clearly paying off, given producing credits like “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,” “The Savages” and “The Ice Storm.”
His latest film, “Darling Companion,” gave him the chance to work with writer/director Lawrence Kasdan of “The Big Chill” fame. Bregman is an unabashed fan of Kasdan’s work, although he had to look past his own admiration while embarking on the project.
“He never worked on this scale of film before … that was the big concern for me,” Bregman says of the independent film about an older couple (Kevin Kline and Diane Keaton) who reexamine their marriage after losing their beloved dog, Freeway.
That’s hardly true for Bregman, an indie veteran who relishes the artistic freedom smaller films allow.
“A lower budget takes away the idea that the film needs to appeal to everyone,” he says. “You can make a film that has real integrity to what the story is as opposed to a cloying, attempt to appeal to the broadest audiences possible.”
Working with Kasdan gave Bregman the chance to see why the director’s work connects with his audience.
“He really understands people, how these characters will act, how to bring out truth in human interaction,” he says. “It was great to see that play out not only on screen … but also in terms of how he dealt with everybody on set, that sense of what people want and how to satisfy them.”
“Darling Companion,” with its older cast and quiet rhythms, certainly won’t have tween movie fans lining up to see it. Bregman isn’t concerned. Movie audiences are changing, and content aimed at mature ticket goers is proving profitable. He name checks “Moneyball” and “Midnight in Paris” as two sophisticated hits from 2011.
“Filmmakers are starting to understand you can’t squeeze a grown up film into a kid film matrix. That just leads to frustration,” he says.
Bregman watches as many movies as he can to stay in tune with the modern ticket buyer. That’s proving to be a challenge unto itself, he says.
“The audience in 2012 is probably more fragmented than it’s ever been,” he says.
The other side of the ledger is evolving as well. Asked about the so-called death of the movie star, Bregman says we’ve come a long way from the days of John Wayne coming to the rescue wearing a white hat.
“The characters a lot of movie stars are playing are more complex,” he says. “They’re not your basic, simple heroes John Wayne would play … there’s not that complexity or darkness to it or self-doubt that makes contemporary characters in movies so interesting.”
Movie stars are brands, he says, and a static brand is a dead one.
“John Wayne has the same character for decades and people didn’t get tired of it,” he says. Today’s stars don’t have that luxury.
“The moment a brand becomes static it becomes stale,” he says. “People want something new, in their movies their storytelling and their stars, and you have to be hip to that,” he says.