Interview with Film Producer, Jon Kilik

August 15, 2010 § Leave a comment

Q- As a film producer you have worked on a myriad of projects working most closely with famous Directors, Spike Lee, Oliver Stone, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, and Julian Schnabel.  Tell us how you met and what it is/was like working with each one.

A- “I met Spike Lee through a mutual friend in 1988. He had just made one film, “She’s Gotta Have It”. He was looking for a producer to work with on a new script. The project was “Do The Right Thing”. We immediately hit it off. We are about 2 months apart in age, both grew up in the NYC area, love film and sports, and we are both hard working, passionate people who believe in our ability to do anything. It was a perfect match from day one and led to a 20 year collaboration on 13 feature films.
I first met Oliver Stone over the telephone. He called me a few times over the years to see if I was “ready to make a big movie”. We finally met and agreed to work together on “Alexander”. I found Oliver to be extremely intelligent and well prepared. He had done many years of research. That is his process as a writer. He is also very smart on the set. He takes great pride in his efficient and precise shooting style. Like Spike, he is extremely driven, hard working and self reliant. It must be their NYU training.
Alejandro Inarritu and I met briefly at an Academy Awards party for “Amores Perros” and “Before Night Falls”. We met again briefly when I visited Rodrigo Prieto on the set of “21 Grams”. When Alejandro first started working on the script of “Babel”, he called me to see if I would take a look. That started a 2 and a half year adventure/life experience that took us to Tunisia, Morocco, Mexico, Japan, and all the way to the Academy Awards. What a long strange trip it was. Three continents, 5 languages, it was definitely my biggest challenge. We are currently working in Spain on a new film called “Biutiful”. Alejandro makes intense and emotional films and we go through an intense and emotional process as we make them. His cinematic story telling gift is second to none. He is also a very, very hard worker and asks the same of everyone around him.
Julian Schnabel showed up on my doorstep in 1993 hoping to become a movie director. He had tried to find support from a few other people but wasn’t taken seriously. I was immediately intrigued by his unique approach and despite not having any prior training, his enormous love and respect for movies. He also impressed me as an artists so I said ok, let’s go. It took us about 3 years to put the cast, script and financing together for “Basquiat”. We have now made 4 films and are starting a 5th and have never received one penny of investment from the  Hollywood community until after the films were finished. Everytime we had to go to private individuals for financing. Julian and I collaborate very closely. He is extremely generous and inclusive with me in all aspects of his creative filmmaking process. I take that as a great complitment and I am extremely proud of our work.”

Q-“What projects have you been most passionate about?”
A- “I am most passionate about stories that center around people whose voice has not been heard. One of the great things about film is that it can shine a light on the human and social issues that are swept under the rug by the mainstream. The death penalty, racism in America, supression in Cuba, the hardship of life on the Pine Ridge Indian reservation, the struggle of artists and civil rights leaders. These are some of the stories that have interested me in the past and have taken many years of work to bring to the screen. They only get made with the passion and sacrifice of the filmmakers.”
Q-You seem to enjoy working abroad, France, Morroco, Spain, and now Israel/Palestine.  What has been your biggest challenge to date working in foreign countries?  What have been the benefits of working abroad?

A-“I don’t necessarily like working abroad for years on end but I do like to travel and learn about other cultures. The stories are what brought me to those places. I follow the story and do what is best to make the best film. I’ve found that shooting on location, whether it be in Brooklyn for “Do The Right Thing” or the West Bank of Israel for our new film, the location becomes a character and adds to the credibility of the work.”

Q- What have you observed with the current state of Israel/Palestinian affairs?
A- “Extreme tension, bitterness, mistrust and fear. If our film can add one ounce of compassion, understanding and fence mending, or better yet, fence dismantling, it will be a great success.”

Jon Kilik

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