Split Screen 2000: Episode #63 - Projections: Tod Lippy & John Pierson

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 current day.

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.

Projections 11
New York Film-Makers on Film-making
edited by Tod Lippy
faber and faber
© copyright Tod Lippy, 2000

Split Screen: Projections - Tod Lippy & John Pierson Credits

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