Hollywood Celebz Descend on Holloway…via video stream

By Jacob Jewitt-Jalland

Before this filmmaker masterclass, organised for Royal Holloway by former MA Screenwriting student Candy Eash, I had been to too many careers events at Royal Holloway to be particularly enthusiastic about this assignment. They have tended to pander to the pseudo-expertise of mid-level professionals, intent on delivering the same advice that any parent or lecturer would give, while assuming that their advice is somehow far more relevant coming from them. They have been condescending and only occasionally useful. I am a bitter person, and I don’t much like being proven wrong – I have been proven wrong.

The Masterclass impressed me for two reasons, the speakers were genuinely helpful to the audience, and they were film-making heavy hitters that I was impressed Royal Holloway managed to pin down for two hours of their incredibly busy lives. Here are some of them:

Brigham Taylor, producer of John Favreau’s live-action reboot of The Jungle Book, and head of his own production company TaylorMade Productions (who make movies with Disney, rather than golf balls):  giving concise but detailed insight into his life of ‘nitty-gritty’ film production, budget meetings, audience analyses, and constant project development, his laid-back style encapsulated the general atmosphere. How somebody can be relaxed when making a film with a 200 million dollar budget still baffles me – perhaps it’s all that California sun.

Matthew Janzen, Senior Vice President of Production at Lionsgate, who has overseen the company produce all four of The Hunger Games films, as well as the phenomenal Denis Villeneuve picture Sicario, and is currently working on the upcoming Power Rangers film that he assures us won’t be as awful as we are all expecting it to be: in fact, he spoke honestly about the silliness of the idea, but his decision to green-light the film to give young newcomer Dean Israelite a chance to realise his vision of what the film could be, was fresh honesty that one would not expect from an industry executive.

J.D. Payne, a particularly articulate and witty screenwriter credited with collaborating on the screenplay for the most recent instalment of the Star Trek franchise, as well as the next sequel (and, presumably, the eight after that): his background tutoring in Los Angeles to make enough money to write rang so true with my own ideal existence that I’m afraid I lost my journalistic integrity and was briefly daydreaming about my own aspirations. However, the general theme from all the speakers that hard work is constantly required rather dashed my hopes of success.

As soon as they began to speak, I realised that we were engaged in conversation with some of the most important people in their fields. These are not the celebrities we are used to seeing plastered all over our magazines and on our televisions, reading about their tantrums and their colossal pay-cheques, no, these are the people that actually do the work.

This experience was a very measured and interesting account of life in the film industry and it was a major coup for Royal Holloway to land these film-makers. The credit, of course, goes to Candy Eash, a former student who took these people’s advice and went to LA and worked. Specifically, what is most admirable about her achievement is that she hasn’t forgotten us over here at little-old Royal Holloway (impressive as the new Library is, it’s hardly Grauman’s Chinese Theatre). Credit for that must be split between herself, University fellow Ivan Levene, and the writer’s retreat programme for which the event was organised.

A fantastic experience overall, maybe all that debt is worth it after all…


Jacob Jewitt-Jalland

Image courtesy of Flicks And The City Clips

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