From Faber & Faber's Projections: Tod Lippy's interview with John Pierson
Tod Lippy: How do you think working in that context affected the people
who ended up becoming the major New York indie distributors - like Ray and
Lipsky at October, Deutchman at Fine Line, et al. - in the '80s and '90s?
Did it create a uniquely "New York" mindset?
John Pierson: I think a lot of people learned how to be entrepreneurial,
number one - even if you wound up being a division of a larger entity, like
Sony Picture Classics. Because people like Tom Bernard and Michael Barker
were working at places like Films, Inc., they just got this more
entrepreneurial instinct than a lot of the L.A. people might have had. Out
there, I think it may have been more about plugging into a pre-existing
system rather than making something up from scratch.
I think the other thing - sort of the trademark of independent, specialized
art film - was that nobody was shy about having opinions about what they
liked, and what they thought was good. And in those days, anyway, you
could really get behind something you believed in - you didn't have to draw
a line between, "Well, I like this, but who else would? Is there an
audience for it?" It was more like, "I like it. It's good. We're gonna do
something with this." And with certain people it's carried over to the
Tod Lippy: Like with whom?
John Pierson: Well, most of the time with Sony Pictures Classics. I know
they're always talking about it. I mean, whenever I hear Michael Barker
mentioning "demographics" it kind of makes me think the pods got him. I'm
not saying they shouldn't think about things like that, but when your
roots are in the realm of personal taste, and a belief in quality, it
makes a difference over time. That's not to say that people in L.A. don't
have personal taste, or don't believe in quality, but I think it's more
pronounced in New York. Everybody has an opinion, and stands by it. I
mean, you've got Bingham Ray, a year after Blair Witch premiered at
Sundance, saying, "I don't care if it grossed $100 million, it's shit." So
it goes both ways - it's not just positive, it's also stuff like, "That
director's no good, that film's no good. Fuck it, I don't care if people
do go to see it - it's still crap!" You know, in L.A., if it grosses $400
million worldwide, it's not shit anymore.
New York Film-Makers on Film-making
edited by Tod Lippy
faber and faber
© copyright Tod Lippy, 2000