Other Asians: As a producer, you have a vision, and you must guide the script towards the right direction. In what ways are you involved in the creative process, and how do you know what direction to take a script?
Teddy Zee: Part of being a producer is very much a collaborative process. It’s usually not completely my vision. If it starts with a book or other source of material, that really informs you of what that vision may be. Or if it’s a writer’s idea, it’s about bringing out the best from their vision. Ultimately, it’s about bringing out all the potential in the talent; giving them the right encouragement and tools to be their best.
OA: You’ve been the driving force behind one award-winning box office success after another. Is there a secret Teddy Zee formula you’ve developed, or what gives you the confidence to move forward with a film?
TZ: A successful film has many parents, a box office flop is an orphan. You know a film is ready because the market dictates it. It’s ready when you get a director, a star, and a studio to say yes; when you get the financing for it. It’s never me, it’s all the factors around me. It takes a long, long time. Put lots of eggs in your baskets.
OA: Many people don’t know, but a great extent of work takes place before the film ever reaches pre-production. What is the source of funding prior to a film being green lit? Walk us through the stages of funding from development to post production.
TZ: In the development process, the money is always the riskiest. Development itself is such a risky business. It’s akin to drilling for oil wells. How many wells do you have to drill to hit something that isn’t dry? How many of those wells turns out to be the gusher, big one? It takes a skilled geologist to determine where to drill and who’s going to help you do the drilling. Even with the studios, the ratio of films that get made out of the films that get purchased or developed could be 1 in 15 or 1 in 20. Sometimes you get lucky and the first draft looks like a movie. Or sometimes scripts have to be developed for years and years. When you’re looking at the credits, you see a name next to “Written By” and “Story By,” but it’s very rare that there was only one writer. Someone comes up with the story, someone writes the spec script, a bunch of different writers will try rewrites, then someone else gets brought in by the studio, and someone else works with the actor on last minute polishing. Script doctors come in for a week and make a million dollars. You’re willing to spend that money because you know the movie is getting made. But it’s really hard to spend money on something you don’t know will ever see the light of day.
Read Other Asian’s full profile on the man who brought us Saving Face and Pursuit of Happyness.