People before projects

Academy Award and Golden Globe winning producer Jon Landau produced the two highest grossing movies of all-time, Avatar and Titanic.
Producer Jon Landau (left) at the Big Screen Symposium 2015. Photo / Soane Tonga for BSS15
The Big Screen Symposium was held on October 10-11 in Auckland, presented by Script to Screen and J&A Productions. Photo / Soane Tonga for BSS15
Jon Landau, producer of Avatar and Titanic, is no stranger to success. In this audio interview he tells Ande Schurr how valuing people before projects is key.

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The Academy and Golden Globe winning producer was one of the Hollywood heavy hitters appointed to the New Zealand Screen Advisory Board in 2014, and was a keynote at the Big Screen Symposium (BSS) in Auckland last year.

In this audio interview, recorded by Ande Schurr at BSS, Jon talks candidly about balancing life with the work ethics needed for success.

"We are not in this alone, filmmaking is a collaborative art form, we need the support and ideas of so many other people to make it successful. For them to do that well you need to let them know you value them."

Listen to the seven minute audio below. Here are some highlights:

  • Put your crew, cast and staff first: The project comes second to the family of the people you hire. What makes movies/projects special are people. You have to let the people know you value them. The true value of our success in life is what our friends, kids and partners think of us, not how well our projects do. 
  • Have an opinion and articulate it: Too often people harbour an opinion they don’t share. You can’t just say you don’t like something. You have to give the reasons you don’t like it but you can’t expect them to change immediately either. “The people I’ve met in New Zealand who are most successful have opinions and they can articulate the reasoning behind the opinions.” 
  • We have to take initiative and responsibility for what we do: No matter what role we have, we need to take initiative and responsibility. With responsibility naturally comes criticism. You can’t be afraid of that, you have to learn from it. You don’t have to change whatever it is they don’t like but better understand why they needed to criticise it. "Position or spin it in a different way that is better received next time."
  • Become more robust by not being afraid to fail: We’re defined by how we get up from our failures. Deal with life with a certain joie de vivre and fearlessness - which doesn’t mean recklessness - but rather a fearlessness to go out and try something. "More ideas are left dormant because people are afraid to fail, than those that are attempted and failed." 
  • Know what to compromise. We all have deadlines, budgets and restrictions. The key to success is finding ways to compromise that doesn't compromise the final product - what you’re writing, drawing or producing. You have to be the arbiter of knowing what to compromise that doesn't compromise the goal of the final product. 

Written by

Ande Schurr

30 Mar 2016

Ande Schurr is a professional and experienced sound recordist with a passion for the film and TV industry. His columns on The Big Idea focus on 'How Freelancers Succeed'.

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