Putnam Reporter-Dispatch

Producer's representative master at art of movie deals

By David Harris - March 3rd, 1997

Susan Sontag published an essay recently about how the art of movies was dead, because there aren't any more of the people who are involved in movies for the pure love of it. She clearly hasn't been to Cold Spring lately. Cold Spring is where John Pierson keeps the office of his company, Grainy Films.

John doesn't make films. He's been to film school, and his new book- "Spike, Mike, Slackers and Dykes," is being adopted by a bunch of film schools, but he doesn't make films. What he does is make it possible for other people to make films and to make money from them. John also makes a little money from them, but, talking to him, you never get the idea that that is what's important. He is what is called a producer's representative. He arranges the deal between the producer and the distributor. Sometimes he puts up some money so a young director (he specializes in people who are making their first movies) can finish a film. He did that for Spike Lee, and that worked out pretty well.

How much does John love movies? He and his wife, Janet, were married in a movie theater the Film Forum in Soho. She was the assistant director there, and he was programming another theater in the Village. Even after they moved to Garrison to get away from all the film people they met new film people an] made new friends among them. (The film community here seems to be a disproportionate part of the population.) They've made other friends, too, of course, but they cannot stay away from the movies. (There are some limits. As far as I can tell, neither of their children Georgia, 8, and Wyatt, 5 - is named for movies or movie characters.)

If you do ail your moviegoing at the multiplex, as I do, there's a good chance you haven't seen any of John's films. You may not have heard of any of them, except "She's Gotta Have It" and "Roger & Me," the first feature films of Spike Lee and Michael Moore, respectively. That seems to be all right with John. He's well-known in the world of independent films, and he likes attention as much as any of us, but he's not really trying to be a star.

As he says in the book, "Not only is my name not found above the title, it's never been anywhere in the head credits. Sometimes if you sit patiently to the very end of the end credits you just might find sketchy evidence in the alphabetical thank-yous that I exist. And that's as it should be."

He's involved in making movies that aren't for everybody and getting them seen by the people they are for. These movies are for people who really love movies more than most of us do. They're for people who want to make movies and talk about them all the time. John's movies are the, ones that are made by the directors and actors we get excited about 10 years later. And for the rest of us, the Piersons brought The Floating Cinema to North' gate so we could watch movies outdoors for a couple of years.

So for once I can say with some assurance that I know better than Susan Sontag. Because there are still people who are passionate about film, and they're right here.

David Harris' column "On Cold Spring" appears Sunday in the Putnam Reporter Dispatch.

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