About Meta Valentic
Meta Valentic has worked as an Assistant Director on films like Avatar and on television shows like Bones, Castle, and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. She was nominated for two Directors Guild Awards for her work on Lost. Meta has also produced multiple independent features, such as the critically acclaimed Urbania, which was seen at Sundance and Toronto film festivals. She serves as a judge and panelist for the annual Austin Film Festival and works with the Producer’s Guild of America’s Women’s Impact Network, whose goal is “to promote gender equality as part of the PGA’s larger vision of diversity.”
Meta is currently executive producing the comedy web series The Donors with Kevin Hart’s LOL Network.
Here she chats with us about dealing with the ups and downs that come with financing a project.
Meta Valentic: I’ve actually never really been attracted to directing. I don’t have that kind of brain, as far as I know. I have a very linear mind and I see the way directors have to kind of play the creative with the logistical. I just don’t quite have that bent. Plus, these days as I’m paying attention to the statistics, it’s not a great place for us ladies. I think producing is a much more open area for us.
LU: When you are looking to attach yourself as a producer to a piece of material or start something, what are things that appeal to you about it in order for you to get involved?
MV: I’m so relentlessly un-conforming in my criteria for getting involved in something. It could be because I know the person and either the writer or director another producer has really intrigued me and I want to work with that person. It is absolutely the material itself, the script speaks to me. It can be almost anything. There was a baseball project that is about a girl who can play just like the boys and was good enough to get drafted. That is just a real inspirational project for me and as a woman. Seeing a girl power script about something, pardon the pun, out of left field. Super strong writing and I’ve loved it ever since I read it.
It is kind of anything and everything and it always gets me when there is some true-life event connection as well.
LU: When it comes to raising money for a project, how does a producer keep the team inspired, especially if you’re struggling to raise capital?
MV: I’ve definitely experienced this. Sometimes you’re in a bit of a lull after financing falls through, but you have to pick yourself back up. Even when there’s a project you’ve loved for years and want to get involved in, things don’t always work out.
In that recent baseball project we were working on, at the heart of it was a 17-year-old girl and we really just had this instinct that a female director would be the right fit. That took up a good three or four months of both looking and then finding that person. In the meantime, I had reconnected with an old AD friend of mine who had been talking to some people she knew in Texas. They happened to be putting together a film fund for female driven projects.
They were in the very early stages of it, but it was a group of powerful oil women who were really looking to put their mark on female driven projects through stage, screen and literary stuff. I gave her our script and she loved it. From there she tried to move it forward within that fund. We kept going with our search and ended up booking a woman we were very confident in.
It was all happening and felt very positive. Plus, our script felt like it fit the mission of this fund out of Texas. The only roadblock, which turned out to be huge, was they really didn’t ultimately think our director was the right person. We did meetings and showed them her work and had her pitch her heart out to them. At the end of the day, they just couldn’t see it. At that point, the producing team in charge of the movie had met with her so often and knew her so well that we couldn’t say, “Ditch her and go with somebody else.” We continued to be convinced that she was the one to make this movie.
LU: That could make things awkward.
MV: It definitely became a real interesting dichotomy. You’re always chasing the money. That’s just one of the harder things to come by. But if they weren’t excited about the person we were excited about, we weren’t going to be able make the same movie. By the time it came to a head and we parted ways, it was almost a relief. You could look at it as though we had the chance to possibly get funded and it didn’t work out — that’s a kind of a failure on one level. On another level though, it was like, “You know what? It’s never going to work out with them if they are not in sync with our vision.”
LU: That’s a really great way to look at it.
MV: Yeah. It was a really important lesson to learn. As far as keeping everyone inspired, when situations like this happen, it’s just about keeping in touch with everybody, especially because those involved are often in different parts of the country. It’s about trying to keep the information flowing. That and just staying really positive.
It sounds like a cliché, but when you go underground on your team and suddenly disappear, it’s bit demoralizing to the rest of the folks. Whether it’s sending people an article saying, “This applies to our project!” or maybe our art director will send us photo she has taken of something and say, “This would be great for that scene” and it’ll remind us of our project and that we need to work harder to get it done.
LU: Finally, what sort of advice would you have for those looking to get into this business
MV: I’ve always felt that with this industry there is no map. You could turn left and have fantastic success or you could turn right and have no succes. You often won’t even know at the time which one was right or wrong. That’s both the blessing and the curse. What I do think is that work creates more work. Even if it’s not the thing you necessarily want to do, if it’s not going to put a mark on your reputation, I would do it. Clearly there’s reasons to say no to things, but I think you can always have your passion projects in the forefront as much you want to them to be, while still doing other things.
Again I think it’s all about hard work, being good at what you do, and being nice. Those currencies go a long way especially when you are on a limited real currency budget.