After reading the headline, you may wonder to yourself, “who the hell is Ted Hope?”
And that’s okay.
As an avid film buff, I had no clue who this man was, aside from being the author of the book I was holding in my hands, Hope for Film: From the Frontline of the Independent Cinema Revolutions. The book details Ted Hope’s ventures as a film producer working in the independent film scene of New York City during the 1990s. This movement is one of the most important periods of filmmaking in the United States and helped spur many long-lasting careers for talented and critically acclaimed filmmakers. Peter Biskind delved into this fruitful period with his book Down and Dirty Pictures: Miramax, Sundance and the Rise of Independent Film. Biskind’s book is great from a historical (albeit gossipy) perspective, but what Hope offers is a more insightful look into the actual filmmaking process.
Ted Hope helped champion many important (and still relevant) directors from this period. His work with famed director Ang Lee on a handful of films, notably The Ice Storm, reveals the inner workings of one of America’s most celebrated directors. Dismanttling the idea of the auteur theory, Hope has this to say, “A team of collaborators needs to commit to learning new languages and ways of working, helping to make sure that an emerging artist’s vision makes it to the screen. An enterprise is driven by more than just money, even though it does need money in the first place. But passion often allows luck and opportunity to strike.” This is one of many, and I emphasize many, insightful passages in his book.
Honestly, as a fan of film culture and the filmmaking process, I can’t recommend this book enough. Hope offers a canny look at the filmmaking of many vital cinematic landmarks, from films like Eat Drink Man Woman, Happiness and In the Bedroom, to more recent films like A Dirty Shame, Adventureland and Super. He explains the difficulties acting as producer, such as where to draw the line between expressing a certain director’s creativity without going over budget. One such instance details his work with Michel Gondry on the set of Human Nature. One scene called for a swarm of flies crawling all over one of the actors. CG was an option, but Gondry prefers handmade effects. If you ordered live flies you would have to work with the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. What they did to resolve this expensive issue is one of the funniest bits in the book.
Throughout the book Hope stresses the issue of business vs. art. One can be done without the other, but can there be a way that both can meld together in harmony? Does the industry itself need to evolve? And for that matter, what about what film creates? What of film culture? With the right mix of passion and business, can we finally push forward into a way that makes movies matter like they did decades ago? These are only some of the questions Hope poses and answers in his book. If you’re a filmmaker looking for an easy read by a revered icon of cinema, check out this book. If you’re a cinephile hungering for a book that pushes the idea of film culture forward, get this book. If you like movies in general, you have got to get your hands on this book.
Ted Hope is a savant of film. Famed American independent film producer and CEO of Fandor, Hope is doing his best to help teach and guide people to a better film culture. You can check out his blog here and his book here.