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Managing the Creation of Stories

Film producer Chris Moore shares the story of his journey through Hollywood with MPTV students and staff

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Film producer Chris Moore, in conversation with MPTV Executive Director Jana Memel, speaks to students about his experiences in Hollywood on Oct. 30. Photo by Bob Toy.

During his visit to the School of Motion Pictures & Television at the Academy of Art University (MPTV), producer Chris Moore hoped to deliver a heavy dose of reality to his audience. 

Mostly made up of MPTV students and faculty, the Good Will Hunting and American Pie producer, who received a Best Picture Oscar nomination this past year for Manchester By The Sea, spoke at length with Executive Director Jana Memel about his impromptu beginnings in production and film.

A 22-year veteran in Hollywood, Moore started in a studio mailroom before working as an agent selling scripts. When he saw that the films of the scripts he sold weren’t sticking to the vision he imagined, Moore jumped to producing. When elements of that didn’t follow his liking, he teetered a bit into directing before ultimately deciding that the producer hat suited him best. 

“[It’s] just hands-on enough where I feel like I’m making something,” he told the audience. “I’m not like an executive supervising the people with the fun jobs, but it’s also I’m not really a director in the sense that I wake up every day saying this story needs to be told—I’m the guy that says, ‘This story should get told’ and then figures out how to tell it.” 

Moore was highly candid in his responses (“Am I allowed to curse during this thing? Because I curse a lot”) and often referring to personal anecdotes to hammer home a point. He touched upon what it took to manage personalities, hire the right people, manage both business and creative sides and how to maintain friends and quality relationships in a cutthroat industry. 

“Chris tells it like it is,” said Memel, on why she brought Moore in to speak with her students. “I kept looking at my staff because I felt validated by what he was saying, which are the same things we tell the students all the time.”

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Photo by Bob Toy.

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Photo by Bob Toy.

One of the students in attendance, William “Buck” Rivers, asked Moore how to juggle between personal creative projects and working to pay the bills. Moore shot back an even harder question: “Sometimes you have to sit down and decide, do you really have to do your own thing?”

It wasn’t a question to dissuade Rivers, but more to emphasize the importance of passion when pursuing the film industry. One theme throughout the talk was figuring out how to look inward and asking the hard, soul-searching questions before diving into film. But, Moore said, that’s the benefit of being in an environment like the Academy. 

“Part of what’s great about art school is you get a chance to pursue your art, get much better at your talent, but also decide, ‘Is this something I really want to do, is this how I really want to spend my time?’” he asked. “It’s a chance for people to figure out which job or which area they like a lot and [are] more interested in. And if you’re into acting or writing or directing or whatever, it’s an opportunity to play around and make mistakes.”

Another theme that frequently cropped up was the importance of people: “Film is a people business,” he reminded the room. 

He reflected on the partnership between himself, Matt Damon and Ben Affleck and the shared loyalty in including each other in projects and acting as a sounding board when making decisions and addressing speed bumps. A support system, he said in response to another student’s question, is a Hollywood navigation necessity. But instead of solely looking to network upward to seasoned industry folks, look to build that camaraderie and community within their peers.

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Photo by Bob Toy.

“You can’t do it by yourself so it’s important to meet people to help you figure it out,” he said. “But it’s also important to acknowledge that all these people are struggling to get ahead, and you do remember the people you get ahead with.” 

Moore’s talk may have gone over his scheduled time by 45 minutes, but students had plenty to ask and he had plenty to say. True to the Academy philosophy, bringing in an industry professional like Moore provides students with feedback and intel that is invaluable to their schoolwork and careers in the long-term.

“I didn’t get a lot of opportunity to hear what it was like in the real-life and particularly in the entertainment business, because there is so much up and down, it’s a lot of personal soul-searching and a lot of stuff you have to learn to be able to function in that world,” he said. “I hope that came across, I hope they were interested and will find their way to make it work for them and also got a dose of reality that you don’t just get to wake up and become Matt Damon.” 

 

Watch the full conversation with Chris Moore below.