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Book Review - The Producers: Profiles in Frustration

SEATTLE, Washington - In case you've wondered what it is that a television or movie producer does - you can read The Producers and still not be quite sure what they do.

Author Luke Ford has been around the block. A few of us would read his porn gossip website when we were in grad school in the late 1990s. This type of profession was unusual for a convert to Orthodox Judaism, and he wrestled with this for years (a struggle chronicled in his XXX-Communicated: A Rebel Without a Shul) and appears to have finally thrown the porn reporting over the rail.

The book contains interviews with 68 different producers. If you're interested in movie scuttlebutt at all, the material is interesting. Luke doesn't talk a lot in the interviews, and when he does it's often to ask questions about values and Judaism. Luke's the kind of guy that throws all his stuff onto his website, so you can read most of the interviews (except the ones with Jeff Wald, which were removed due to threats and litigation) on his website. Some good example interviews are Peter Hyams (I never seem to like his movies) and Christopher Mankiewicz (for his repeated bashing of producer Arnold Kopelson).

I also did throw a dozen or so movies into the Netflix queue while reading the book, including The Man From Elysian Fields, Trees Lounge, and Sordid Lives.

One amazing thing about Ford's writing is his incredibly bad spelling. For a guy obsessed with Hollywood, he inexplicably misspells names like Lee Strasberg and Hal Wallis. He must call Sidney Lumet "Sydney Lumet" a dozen times. At least his mistakes aren't confined to names - Luke, there's no such thing as "du-op" music. Luke, "He's the worst human being whoever lived" is not a valid sentence. I'll forgive Luke for writing that Don Phillips "grew up in Ventner, New Jersey, a heavily Jewish town" - the name's wrong but it was a heavily Jewish town in the 1940s.

Ford claims he was laid up with "Chronic Fatigue Syndrome" for six years, perhaps those were the years when spelling is learned.


Post-Ironic said...

I absolutely loved this book. It was fascinating reading and the interviews were well done. He was able to fully flesh out the subjects within a page or two. I don’t feel he reduced any of these interviewees into caricatures of themselves.

Except for Luke’s intrusive narrative voice which popped up from time to time, I am reminded of Stud Terkel’s “Working.” This book should be required reading for any college film program.

The spelling errors also bothered me. It makes sense there would be a bunch given the lack of an editor or the resources of a publishing house.

Maybe a real publisher can sign him up for a sequel. It would sell. I would like to see, “Producers 2009.”

I would also like the sequel’s preface not mention chronic fatigue. It’s a distraction from the content.

JMR said...

Maybe a real publisher can sign him up for a sequel. It would sell. I would like to see, “Producers 2009.”

Come on, this is the new era: self-publishing, small publishing, the wisdom of the crowd, avoiding the gatekeepers, etc. Talking about a "real publisher" is so 2005.