US independent producer Ted Hope closed out the first day of the weekend’s Big Screen Symposium.
Outlining his career, with a few sidebars along the way, Hope easily entertained the audience with his easy humour taking on his youthful ambition (“I want to make deeply personal films possibly influenced by the French new wave”), youthful reality (working as a production assistant “on classics like Return to Hell High 2”), maturity awakening (the discovery that spending your life surrounded by stoners doesn’t qualify you as a drug counsellor), and mid-life crises (“I’m a bit jealous because I’m averaging about three films a year at present, so I’m behind New Zealand”).
He also covered off the the difficulty of raising $1.4 million to make Ang Lee’s The Wedding Banquet (“It’s gay and Chinese”), the ease of raising it (“I did what I always do – I halved the budget”) and – once it was finished – telling his assistants he could pay them or use their wages to buy a ticket to the Berlinale to try to sell it. (Hope came back from Berlin having confirmed $3 million in sales.)
An entertaining way to end the day though it was, the true value of Hope is not in his stand-up. The day before the Big Screen Symposium, he ran a day-long workshop in Auckland. Prior to that, he ran a two-day Hope for Film workshop in Australia.