Hollywood film insiders share secrets of success

The Daily Pennsylvanian
April 07, 2003

Producer and director Jon Avnet gave Richard Gere his first acting job. Joe Roth has overseen 250-275 movies and is the former chairman of 20th Century Fox and Disney Studios. Meryl Poster is the co-president of production of Miramax Films and supervised the production of the 2002 Academy Award-Winner Chicago.

And all three visited Penn on Friday afternoon to discuss their careers in front of a packed and electric Hunstman Hall Auditorium. Each speaker seemed to agree that filmmakers must have perseverance.

"My career is riddled with great failures along the way," said Roth, who summarized countless low-level positions from earlier in his career. "What matters is that you work hard. People are always watching. You advance whether you know it or not."

In fact, most of what they said concentrated on the attitude required to make it in the business. Included in Poster's list of these traits were good problem-solving skills, intelligence, ambition and the willingness to work 14 hours a day for a flat rate.

"All it takes is a good idea and tenacity," Avnet said.

Later on, the conversation turned into one of balancing the business side of movies with its creative side.

"You can't think of the end result," Roth instructed. "Creativity has to matter. It's never about the money. If you love it, you'll get paid plenty of money."

When audience members asked questions regarding opportunities for women in the industry, all three speakers agreed that the glass ceiling does not exist anymore. Other questions included everything from combating pirated copies on the Internet to funding independent movie projects.

Overall, the event was a hit. College junior Victor Fang, who is pursuing a film minor, said he learned more than he expected and was impressed by the high profile speakers.

"Overall, it was fabulous," Fang said. "I've been to lots of panels, and usually they just talk amongst each other."

College sophomore Jake Avnet, co-president of Talking Film -- the club who organized the event -- said that this year's program is just the beginning.

"We are planning to do something like this once a year" said Avnet, who is Jon Avnet's son.

Wharton junior Sona Karia, chairwoman of the Wharton Council's Clubs and Conferences Committee that helped fund the event, said she enjoyed watching Wharton and the larger Penn community join forces to bring everyone more opportunities in a shared field of interest.

Looking back on what he hoped to accomplish by coming to Penn, Roth smiled.

"I want to be encouraging to students," he said. "They don't have to know anyone to get into the business."

When asked about his motivations for speaking to students, Avnet remarked, "More knowledge leads to better choices."

"Film has replaced the novel," he added. "It opens windows and allows you to see yourself through a different set of eyes."