Department of Theatre and Film
Interview with Producer Chris Hanley
By Mike Robinson
Producer Chris Hanely
Under his company, Muse Productions, Chris Hanley has produced such films as American Psycho, The Virgin Suicides , Trees Lounge and Love Liza . In this interview, he gives student and independent filmmakers advice and guidance on working in the film industry. Learn more about Chris Hanley and Muse Productions at musefilms.com .
What inspired you to become a filmmaker?
In school I would always watch films by Bergman and Louis Malle, and I would read a lot. Whenever I was reading something, I would always have visual ideas about the story. Films always made sense to me. It's a medium to express my thoughts. It's an art form that mimics life.
Describe the process you go through when making a film.
Some things follow a pattern. You get an idea for a setting and a story--each location brings in its own culture. It can come from an original screenplay, a pitch, a magazine article, or a novel. After you make a few, things get sent in.
What advice can you give for people who want to produce independent films?
Start finding properties such as novels, magazine articles, newspaper articles, or screenplays that would make the kind of films they want to produce. Then let the value of the material speak for itself.
What do you look for when searching for new projects?
It could be anything. I look for things that deal with emotional issues like death, survival and beauty. If I'm going to spend 9 months on a project, I have to like it.
What are some ways that young screenwriters can get their scripts into the right hands?
First they have to write them. That is usually something that does not happen. Then they have to go to places where films are being made like Los Angeles or New York City and meet filmmakers in various settings, whether it be at agencies, management companies, production companies, social events, or film festivals. One has to go to where the business of making films takes place. Once someone has a working knowledge of the process and makes contacts, then communications can take place by e-mail, coupled with face to face meetings. There is a program at Sundance which is quite useful to screenwriters called the Screenwriters Lab, which takes place at the Sundance Institute in Utah during the early part of the summer.
Can you give any tips to independent filmmakers in regard to finding financing?
Independent filmmakers should attend conferences and seminars. AFI, Kodak and the American Film Market have such seminars in Los Angeles during the AFI Fest, Sundance and Cannes film festivals.
Interning or formally working with film production companies or with production lenders (banks, film financing companies, etc.) will help filmmakers gain this knowledge as well. Keeping track of territorial financing incentives (such as in Connecticut , Massachusetts, Louisiana, New Mexico, Toronto, Vancouver, Isle Of Mann, and Hungary) and the EU treaty, or co-production treaties in general, will provide other financing knowledge as well.
What is one thing that young filmmakers should know before trying to find work in the business?
If the young filmmakers want to write, direct or produce then the same process applies as for finding financing. If one wishes to work for production companies, studios, management (which in many cases also includes producing films for its talent) or agencies, then one has to come to the cities where work takes place and meet people that are already working. Show a school resume, any films that have been created, or a screenplay. The big cities for film are Los Angeles, New York, Toronto and London.