10 Producers to Watch
By SHARON KNOLLE
Breakthrough pics: "Brick," "Dancing at the Blue Iguana"
What I learned the hard way: "You should really delete the word 'vacation' from your vocabulary.
"Being a foreigner, I figured I wouldn't be able to get a job in development or as an assistant," Bergman says of when he moved from his native Israel to Los Angeles in 1991. "I had no choice, being an immigrant, except to start producing on my own."
He worked as a valet while trying to break into the industry, eschewing other behind-the-scenes jobs. "You get caught up in how to make a living, but if you work as a P.A. or a second assistant, that's not getting you closer to your dream. As a valet, I had the flexibility to do what I wanted in terms of achieving my goals."
His first film was "Rave Review," made for a few hundred thousand dollars in 1995. "I just kept putting together more and more movies," he says. "I learned how to take a movie from nothing, raise the money, and produce it, to every stage of finishing it and selling it."
Now Bergman has a festival hit with "Brick," which earned good notices at Sundance and is on its way to Venice and Deauville. Focus will distribute domestically in March.
"We loved 'Brick' and he's been really instrumental in making that movie. .. He makes interesting and artistically brave movies -- and has a good eye for discovering talented filmmakers," says Jason Resnick, senior VP of acquisitions for Focus Features and Universal.
Another pic under Bergman's stewardship is the Hans Canosa-directed "Conversations With Other Women," starring Aaron Eckhart and Helena Bonham Carter. He is bringing the pic to Telluride.
"Not only is he willing to take chances -- he took a chance on me as a first-time director -- but he also takes chances on material. My film is a dual-frame film, a two-character film with two frames. I didn't think I would get a producer to make it but Ram kind of inevitably became the guy who made it, because of his willingness to take chances," says Canosa.
Bergman is currently finishing "Relative Strangers," a romantic comedy starring Dannny DeVito, Kathy Bates, Ron Livingston and Neve Campbell, and "Nomad," an epic shot in Kazakhstan over the last two years.
Breakthrough pics: "Wedding Crashers," "Van Wilder"
What I learned the hard way: "Just focus on what you're doing, not what someone else is doing. When it's your time, things will happen for you."
Panay, who came up with the idea for the summer smash "The Wedding Crashers," is refreshingly honest about his taste for mainstream entertainment. "Growing up, I loved going to the big summer blockbusters and the comedies. I was never someone who sought out smaller bands or films. I always went to the films that were mass marketed and listened to Top 40 radio."
After graduating from Cal State Northridge, he worked for Accelerated Chart Movement, checking stock of music CDs over the phone. He recalls a day when he got called to do some P.A.P.A. work on "A Pyromaniac's Love Story." "I went into work at my regular job, which was a music company, so I changed from my hip-hop attire into a dress shirt and pants for a few hours, and then changed back. My job was getting Joey Lawrence water for a test shoot. He was the first star I ever met."
He worked at Walt Disney Pictures and Touchstone Pictures. At 26, he became a director of development at Tapestry Films, working with partners Robert L. Levy and Peter Abrams. Says Panay: "They gave me the environment to help nurture what I do."
Says Levy, "He has the instinct for what the audience wants to see. He knows what stories have an emotional quotient that will draw actors and directors to a project and also draw audiences."
"He has a great combo of tenacity and creativity," says New Line's Richard Brenner. "And once a project is set up, he's got a great work ethic."
He has several comedies in development, including "Sweet Child of Mine" at Paramount, "The Other Guy" at Disney and a project with writer Kevin Bisch ("Hitch").
"I'm really passionate about giving people a great time at the movies, just give them two hours of escape," he says
Date in print: September 11, 2005
(c) 2005 Reed Business Information (c) 2005 Variety, Inc.