“Be smart, committed, hardworking – and nice”
Pictures of Meryl Streep have been appearing in the London newspapers. She was in the city filming her latest role as an influential British woman. This time she is starring as Emmeline Pankhurst in the new movie ‘Suffragette’ about the struggle for women’s suffrage in Great Britain in the early 20th century. Hopefully the movie will raise awareness amongst young people in particular of the struggle to bring the vote to everyone.
The film is being produced by Alison Owen who has just given the latest Olive Till Memorial lecture at the Department of Media and Communications, Goldsmiths College, University of London. As she shared her experiences in the film and TV industries, Alison also spoke about how much the industry has changed for women since she began producing music videos in the 1980s.
Just as there are many kinds of managers, so there are many types of film producer. They can do ‘pretty much nothing’ or ‘pretty much everything’. The role can include the financial aspects, the team building and/or the creative process itself. Alison’s preferred way of working is collaborative, working with directors particularly at script stage. She loves – and looks for – good writing.
Key lessons from a successful producer
- Be courteous – Alison read every script submitted to her and responded – this is what got her noticed early on in her career
- Understand what elements you enjoy about your job – taking a project from A-Z is what interests Alison, so these are the projects she looks for
- She loves the creative, collaborative aspects of her role, especially at script stage
- Be passionate, emotional AND practical. She is looking for her own visceral, emotional response to a project. She wants to see women’s lives reflected on screen. But projects have to ‘work’ in other ways
- She measures the success of her projects three ways:
- Did the project succeed financially?
- Was it an artistic success?
- Did the project achieve what she set out to do?
- You can recover from the worst of events.
Her works include The Other Boleyn Girl, the Oscar-nominated Elizabeth, Shaun of the Dead and Saving Mr Banks as well as television series including Case Histories and Dancing on the Edge. For a full filmography, see IMDB.