How Terrence Malick’s Creative Producer Sarah Green Decided to Work with Then First Time Filmmaker Jeff Nichols
If you think it’s hard to get professional’s attention before you’ve made your first feature film, think again. This SXSW talk with Producer turned Creative Producer Sarah Green, who is known for being one of Terrence Malick‘s few key collaborators is a perfect illustration of how hard it is to make busy professionals want to just look at your work.
Sarah Green was already a seasoned and full-time busy creative producer when she decided to work with Jeff Nichols, an unknown filmmaker who had done exactly one feature film. (Things have changed since). And the story below shows you how talent is essential for people to recommend you, but a little push from the Universe to send several messengers and cheerleaders is also necessary.
Here is what Sarah Green says:
“He was here (in SXSW) but I didn’t know him and we hadn’t cross paths at all. but we have a mutual friend, called Brian Kavanaugh-Jones, who was a CAA agent at the time, he was actually in the finance department, which is how I knew him, he worked under Rick Hess, who is an old friend of mine at CAA, and he kept telling me ‘There is this young filmmaker, and he is really smart, and you should meet him, he made a first movie for -whatever $20, 30,000, and I’m like ‘run away, run away, no, no, no I don’t need that.’
He kept saying ‘No, he’s worth it!’ and I kept putting him off. Because Terri is a full time job, and then there was a DVD that CAA had sent me of Shotgun stories, which was Jeff’s first film, sitting on my desk because I was actually talking to Michael Shannon’s agent about something and he wanted me to see this piece of work that Michael had done.
And my then assistant, Morgan Pilot saw it on my desk and said ‘That’s an amazing movie, have you watched that yet?’ and I was like ‘No, how do you know that movie?’ and she happened to be a friend of Jeff’s brother’s band Lucero who did the music for the movie, she said ‘Well I came to it through that but it was amazing.’ So I watched it that night and then I called (Jeff Nichols) and I said ‘What can I do to help you? Who are you? What do you need?’ So yeah, I totally stalked him after that.”
It is not the first time, and it won’t be the last that somebody’s career jumped a few ladders thanks to the triple combo:
- hard creative work
- word of mouth
- aligned planets
The moral of the story is that if it can feel discouraging, it is also a reality to be aware of. There is something you can’t predict, a word of mouth that needs to happen, within a circle of influencers, and that escapes rationals. But it always start with inspiring work. We need to make an inspiring piece, and believe it will be worth people talking about it to each other.
Watch the full conversation below, there’s a ton to learn there: