February 12, 2020

Advice from Producer Paul Webster

Last month, film producer Paul Webster visited the U’s campus to speak to Film & Media Arts students. Webster has been involved in making 100 films over the last 30 years.  He is Oscar nominated, and a BAFTA and Golden Globe winner, and is one of the leading British film producers of his generation. He produced 5 features with Working Title and set up their LA office.  He then independently produced “Little Odessa” and “The Yards” while based in America. Paul went on to become Head of Production for Miramax Films, supervising ”The English Patient,” “Good Will Hunting,” and “Shakespeare in Love.” A 12-year association with Joe Wright, has seen them working together on award-winning films such as “Atonement.” He has created or co-founded numerous companies – FilmFour, which produced 50 films (6 Oscar nominations) and numerous shorts over 5 years; Kudos Pictures, making – among others – “Eastern Promises” and “Brighton Rock” ; and, most recently, London-based production company Shoebox Film & TV.

“Paul Webster has produced some of the most important movies of the past twenty years,” says Film & Media Arts Department Chair Andrew Nelson. “The industry insights and career advice that he offered our students were invaluable."  

Here are some takeaways from Paul Webster’s talk on January 29th. 

Believe in yourself, but don’t think you can do everything. Film is a collaborative medium; seek help and input! Starting working with people you know (your classmates!). Lean on your professors. Take advantage of local opportunities, especially Sundance Film Festival.  

When you pitch projects to investors, it’s less important to know the detailed ins and outs of production. It’s more important to know how to talk to people and communicate ideas. This means that it is important to know how to watch films, not just make them

Become familiar with the market and trends. It’s crucial for filmmakers to understand the business, as well as the current zeitgeist and appetite for particular kinds of films.

The biggest mistake for a beginning filmmaker to make is not listening.  

To be successful in the field, filmmakers should strive to become the following: 

  • Good listeners

  • Confident enough to withstand constant questions

  • Self-starters, hard workers

  • Great communicators, can clearly ask for needs and provide clear answers to questions

Film is a democratic field, in that anyone can make it. However, you do have to start at the bottom and work your way up. Everyone is looking for new talent. Be fearless, and keep working any way you can. Even if your projects don’t turn out, they are good practice. 

Last modified on February 13, 2020