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From Tears to Care, Producers Guild Nominees Reveal Emotional Journey to the Big Screen



Steven Spielberg thought he was done processing before shooting The Fabelmans, a movie loosely based on his youth as an amateur filmmaker and his parents’ complicated relationship. He’d done that during the script phase when working with writer Tony Kushner. Kristie Macosko Krieger, Spielberg’s longtime producing partner, still made sure to surround the filmmaker with his most trusted collaborators. Her instincts were right.

“He’d say, ‘I got it, I got it.’ But on set he broke down quite a bit. He was having memories flooding back from his childhood,” Krieger said at the Producers Guild of America’s annual Nominees Breakfast in Los Angeles on Saturday (an unexpected twist this year was a historic winter storm battering Southern California). “He was entrusting his life with us.”

Krieger was among the producers from all 10 films nominated for the PGA’s Darryl F. Zanuck Award speaking at the event, which was held at the Skirball Cultural Center and sponsored by The News84Media.

The other PGA nominees on the panel were Jon Landau (Avatar: The Way of Water), Graham Broadbent (The Banshees of Inisherin), Nate Moore (Black Panther: Wakanda Forever), Gail Berman (Elvis), Jonathan Wang (Everything Everywhere All at Once), Rian Johnson (Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery), Todd Field (Tár), Jerry Bruckheimer (Top Gun: Maverick) and Darren Aronofsky (The Whale).

Their conversation touched on the emotional journey of their respective films, whether for them individually or for crew and cast. They also stressed the importance of being attuned to the well-being of others, both personally and against the larger backdrop of outside events, such as the pandemic. PGA co-presidents Stephanie Allain and Donald De Line moderated the discussion.

Wang recalled his reaction when learning that Everything Everywhere All at once had earned 11 Oscar nominations. He thought of his father, who had always told his son he’d have to work harder and be better. “I went and took a shower, and I cried so hard,” Wang said. “I realized what my dad was doing all those years.”

On a broader level, Wang and the other panelists said goodwill and care on set emanates from the top down, ie, the producers and directors. Wang said while it may not have been efficient, the Daniels — who directed Everything Everywhere — took 15 to 20 minutes every morning to speak with the crew and cast before officially starting the day.

And on the set of Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, people were encouraged to speak of their feelings associated with Chadwick Boseman’s passing. Soon, they were talking about other things happening in their lives, Moore said.

Wang and Field also noted how their respective actresses, Michelle Yeoh and Cate Blanchett, always took the time to speak with cast and crew so as to be aware of any personal issues. “That sense of awareness is everything. The danger in filmmaking is that we all get these ‘kick-me signs’ pinned to our back,” Field said.

For Bruckheimer, there was a 30-year gap between the first Top Gun and Top Gun: Maverick. While Tom Cruise brought the same boundless energy to Mavericka poignant Bruckheimer felt the loss of two key people who had made the first movie possible, Don Simpson and Tony Scott.

Berman said that Elvis, directed by Baz Luhrmann, was the first live-action movie she’s produced and stressed the importance of taking the time needed to make a project come to fruition. “I first met Baz 12 years ago. Baz pitched me in a three-hour meeting. And that is the movie you saw on the screen. We went through a lot of drafts and concepts, but he knew the way to tell this story,” she said.

For his part, Aronofsky revealed it took 10 years to find his Whale star, Brendan Fraser.

The panel wasn’t without its humorous moments, beginning when the producers were asked a two-pronged question: what was the inception of their respective film project, and what was the biggest challenge.

“The answer is the same to both: The inception was Jim Cameron. The most difficult was Jim Cameron,” quipped Landau, Cameron’s longtime producing partner.

There was another moment of levity later when Aronofsky spoke about what he learned from making The Whale: “I learned the same thing I do with every movie: You can never, ever fucking tell what’s going to happen.”

The PGA Awards will be handed out Saturday beginning at 8 pm

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