Interviews with IndustryProducer

Bruce Cohen, Producer of American Beauty, Silver Linings Playbook, Rebel in the Rye and More

 Lift-Off snagged the opportunity to speak with the massively successful Producer Bruce Cohen to discuss his influences, career and his top tips for every Producer.

Bruce Cohen is known for producing “American Beauty”( which won a total of five Oscars and awards at the Golden Globe, BAFTA and Producers Guild of America), “Milk” ( nominated for 8 Academy Awards and won Oscars for Best Actor and Best Original Screenplay), “Silver Linings Playbook” (nominated for all four acting categories and winning the Best Actress category) and “Big Fish” ( nominated for Best Picture at the Golden Globes and BAFTA). Cohen was also the executive producer for “Pushing Daisies” ABC series ( winning seven Emmys and nominated for Best Comedy at the Golden Globes).  Cohen has recently released a new film “Rebel in the Rye” based on the Author J.D. Salinge.

When did you decide that you wanted to pursue a career in producing and how did you go about making it a reality?

I decided I wanted to go into the film business when I was in college. After graduation, I heard about the DGA trainee program to be an assistant director, which I applied to and got in. It was when I as an AD that I saw what the producers job was and decided that was what I wanted to do with my life. I was fortunate enough that my three incredible bosses at the time, Kathy Kennedy, Frank Marshall and Steven Spielberg, believed in me and gave me a chance to start producing.

What was the film that sparked your interest in the industry?

I had always been interested in film, but when I saw RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK in college, that was the film that inspired me to actually try to have a career in the industry.

What has been the biggest hurdle you have faced on a production ?

Making sure all aspects of the film are as good as they can possibly be within the constraints of the amount of money and time you have been given. Making the film is always the primary and biggest hurdle a production faces.

What is your favorite thing about your job?

How every project is completely different and how, within each project when you are shooting, every scene is completely different. No two days of my job are ever the same — in fact, no two hours of my job are ever the same!

What is your favorite genre of film to produce, is this different from your favorite genre to watch?

Of what I have done so far, my favorite genre to produce is historical drama. I love the challenge of bringing events that changed history to the screen—you want to be as accurate as humanly possible, but first and foremost, you have to engage the audience by telling a dramatically compelling story. My favorite genre to watch is the movie musical and my dream is to get to produce one some day soon.

You have had an extremely successful career so far and I am sure will continue to do so with your latest release ‘Rebel in the Rye’. Which of these films has been your biggest achievement and why?

Well, your films all become your children and its hard to play favorites, but the experience of making AMERICAN BEAUTY, followed by the extraordinary response it received world wide, culminating in 5 Academy Awards, including Best Picture, would be pretty hard to beat.

Interview continues below the Trailer for the latest release for Cohen “Rebel in the Rye”.

What makes a film and script stand out to you, inspiring you to produce it?

I look for two things in a script – a fresh, exciting vision and voice that makes me fall passionately in love with that script creatively, and then I also have to actually believe the movie could get financed, made and seen.

Who are your inspirations?

I get inspiration from all kinds of places – great writing, performances, art, music and especially from people with extraordinary stories.

What is your favorite film and why?

SCHINDLER’S LIST because it is the deepest, most profound reaction I have ever had to watching a film in my life … by far.

If someone wants to pursue a career as a Producer, how would you recommend they go about it?

 One of the challenging things about the entertainment industry is that there are very few established paths for how to get your foot in the door and then work your way up the ladder, and producing does not really have one. Going to film school and studying producing could definitely be a good start. When you are ready to join the work force, starting as an assistant to a producer or at a production company, network or studio is a great way to get started – but those jobs are extremely competitive now days. Or, if you are able to find an available piece of material you believe in, just start producing!
What would your top three tips for Producers be ?

The three most important elements of the creative producers job are having production experience, having development experience and having good people skills. If you can figure out a way to have/obtain all three of those, you are on your way!

What are the biggest mistakes you notice producers make at the start of their career?

An easy trap to fall into in any aspect of the entertainment industry when you are first starting out is to want success all at once. More likely than not, you will see some folks in your “generation” achieving sudden success, but most careers are built over the long haul and slow and steady can win the race.

Interviewed by April-Rae Hughes

Feature image courtesy of DreamWorks Pictures