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Interview with Grace Ledding, Independent Producer of Agile Entertainment

October 21, 2010 | By | Add a Comment

Margaret Ann Stewart

Grace Ledding is an independent producer and founder of Agile Entertainment. She began her career working at the esteemed William Morris Agency in Los Angeles, worked as a Creative Executive at Intermedia Films, then served as Vice President of Cerenzie-Peters Productions. Ms. Ledding has been involved in the development of such films as Breach, The Hunting Party and The Friday Night Knitting Club. At Agile Entertainment Grace not only focuses on traditional filmmaking, but on television and “new media” as well.

I asked Grace is she would be willing to discuss the screenwriter, screenwriting and film making from a producer’s perspective in order to provide some insight to those just starting out and, without hesitation, she agreed.

Queries

One of the most frustrating aspects of screenwriting is not getting a response to queries, whether it is positive or negative. So I asked Grace if there was a rule for writing queries that would inspire a producer’s response. Her immediate reaction was, “brevity”, then indicated that the key to making a producer want to respond to any query is to “simple and concisely state the facts” about the script and if the producer is motivated to be as passionate about your project as you are, then that producer will most likely respond.

Grace elaborated by stating, “You want the person behind your project to be incredibly passionate about it. They need to be able to pitch the project to directors, actors and financiers, again and again, day in and day out, with unwavering dedication and contagious enthusiasm. To do that, they need to really love it. If they’re not on board with your core idea – you don’t want them”. Grace further commented that, “It’s like dating, you just need to find the right match”.

What’s Hot, What’s Not

One of the big discussions that up and coming screenwriters always seem to have is about what producers are looking for. Ms. Ledding stated that outside of the fact that the project has to be something that the producer loves, screenwriters should be aware that the script must be commercial in order to draw in an audience and attract attention. She stated that her favorite line from a movie is “There’s no business like show business” because people seem to forget that the entertainment industry is a business that must make money to succeed. Screenwriters, most especially, must always be aware of that fact.

The two most attractive types of scripts for producers in Hollywood now, according to Grace, are action and comedy scripts. Grace said, “Hard bitten (action scripts) like Taken and buoyant buddy comedies like Rush Hour are attractive to producers. However, screenwriters need to consider that high cost action elements, such as “helicopters, planes, trains and boats” should be eliminated from the script, unless there are “A list actors” attached. Grace stated that “these elements can be written in later” and that personally she is not attracted to period pieces or “anything that could be described as a ‘pretty sad girl’ or a ‘girl with a badge’”.

Notes for Screenwriters

I asked Grace why it was so difficult for screenwriters to locate name producers on the Internet and she offered this advice: “Vetting material can be like holding back the ocean. Great ideas have a way of rising to the top…winning fans at the bottom of the totem pole is a litmus test to see how others will respond”. This corresponds with her belief that “making films is a lot like a popularity contest” and that screenwriters should “become known for something, (brand themselves) so that people will remember” who they are.

Additionally, Grace stated that too many screenwriters use “crutches” like repeated voice overs, or flashbacks in their scripts. They also have a tendency to write “ensemble” pieces that prevent them from focusing on “one character and one story”. Grace said that this makes it difficult to sift through the tons of scripts producers receive and “find the diamond in the rough” that they are seeking.

On Film

With the growth of Internet filmmakers in the entertainment industry, I asked Grace what profound effect, if any, that she believed this was having on traditional filmmaking. Grace commented that, “As more and better content becomes available online for free producers, financiers and distributors will have to find a new financial model to compete”. She further stated that this is evident because already underway are sites that bypass the local theaters altogether and provide feature to viewer films directly on the Internet. She added, “Distribution and financing methods are changing rapidly. I think there will be growth for smaller films with digital and new media distribution. And the number of studio films will continue to shrink”.

At the Core

I was curious what films Ms. Ledding was attracted to from the past and the present. She told me that she immediately thought of Out of the Past, because it has had a lot of buzz lately and that Kick-Ass was her favorite new film. Then she added, “Life is mostly mundane. But for two hours you can sit down and experience a whole range of emotions, and be exposed to ideas and ways of life you might never have otherwise experienced. Mainstream or art house, enduring films endure because they resonate on an emotional level. Evoking an emotion is what attracts attention more than anything else”. And for screenwriters and filmmakers this is a philosophy that must be at the core of any project if it is to spark an audience’s connection to a film.

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