The Phi Centre hosted a conversation with acclaimed indie-Producer Christine Vachon on December 16, 2015. Vachon recently produced the much talked about film Carol, starring Cate Blanchett and Rooney Maara. She sat down to speak to a Montreal audience with Canadian filmmaker Guy Maddin.
Christine was her relaxed self as she spoke about experiences as an early woman indie-producer, with over two decades of umpteen films, Vachon still swears by a solid story and artists that respond to the market/their audience.
Vachon is a self-described ‘Content producer’ as opposed to a film producer as she believes that ‘content’ is at the heart of our creative processes. She has worked in film for the most part, but has recently been working on TV movies and online content as well. Her diverse repertoire and expansive experience was at display as she spoke on a wide range of issues, reflected on experiences and threw out more than a few laughs during a conversation of just over an hour, followed by a brief Q & A.
Vachon grew up in Manhattan and cinema impacted her life from very early on. After finishing school she worked on two short films as a director, but soon discovered her true passion for production. In response to a question of why she choose to turn producer and never to return to directing, Vachon was candid and confessed that the singular focus on one project that is needed for a director is not something that drives her. She loves working on the many things that are happening around the director’s singular focus. She also loves working on a few projects at a time which is not possible if you wear a director’s hat and have to focus on one film. She loves the idea of thinking about the entire life of the project from scripting to when it hits the cinemas. It’s the thrill of every stage in the process of bringing a film to life that keeps her working passionately day in and day out.
The life of an indie-film producer has given her the unmatched skill to work with tight, really tight budgets. The fact that the making a film is one of the hardest things to do, it’s not uncommon to see a budget slashed during pre-production and/or financing and Vachon spoke about the merits of adaptability as the key to succeed in today’s market. Vachon has also dedicated her life to supporting auteur artists, people who like to make ‘their’ kind of movies and she balances that with the commercial ones, which are necessary to keep afloat. She is a mentor and equal opportunity advocate as she has consistently worked to give women directors the opportunities that they are mostly denied in the industry.
With an anecdote filled conversation, she spoke about the time when she went convincing filmmaker Robert Altman to work on her films. After many years of prodding and convincing she was able to get the ‘cranky’ Altman to work with her, an experience she described as one of the most memorable of her career. Specifically, Altman was only recently introduced to digital filmmaking, having worked with film all his life. The filmmaker took to the changed tool of filmmaking instantly and never once complained of leaving behind what he had known for decades. Vachon’s insights spoke to this sense of adaptability, instantly learning to change and perseverance, which is perhaps the reason for her success and continued passion to support independent filmmaking. It was a thoroughly enjoyable conversation with an artist and professional who lives by her credo to empower good storytelling and have an ear for one’s audience.
Christine Vachon spoke at the Phi Centre on December 16.