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Hollywood producer shares industry insights with students

Hollywood producer Bill Badalato provided insight into the ever-changing world of cinema Nov. 15 in a taped discussion with students, faculty and staff.

Bill Badalato (left) is thanked by Communications professor Paul Castro (right) and the gathered audience. (Photo by Merissa Blitz '13)

The conversation, which was led by Paul Castro, an associate professor in the School of Communications and movie screenwriter, was a partnership between the School of Communications and Performing Arts through the Fund for Excellence in the Arts and

Badalato, a 30-year veteran of the film industry, has worked on several hit films, including “Top Gun,” “Benny and Joon” and “About Schmidt.”

Badalato told students to remember that Hollywood is a business, describing it as a “meeting of art and commerce.” Badalato said he has remained inspired by his work, which includes production of both blockbuster and smaller, lesser-known films, all of which have generated a total of more than $2 billion in revenue.

“There's no correlation to the joy you have in a project and how big your budget is,” he said.

Want to know who Badalato thinks is today's best actor? What about his advice for students hoping to break into the industry? Read more from Badalato in his words in the following Q&A from The Pendulum.

What does a successful film have?
A simple plot and complex characters. You have to be able to follow the story. A successful film draws you in and engages you. The movies people like are character movies. People identify with interesting characters. They confirm and validate. Drama contains all of these things. A film is a moment in time where everything that happens in a lifetime happens in the production.

Talk us what makes a good director.
When you meet someone, you can sort of tell if they can be a director. To be a director, you have to have undying faith in yourself and what's going on, but still know that you can be wrong. You must be the one in 200 people on a set who believes in the film even when everyone else doesn't. It's a huge, huge job.

Is everything on a film an equal collaboration or do some people (i.e. producer, director) get more credit than others?
The writers get shortchanged. They often get paid well, but not as much respect. I don't know why, but I feel it is because people have this idea that everyone can write. I don't know where it comes from. Really, with writing, patience is key, and that's why a lot of people can't do it. Writing is rewriting.

Why film? Why not journalism or public relations?
When I was a kid, I loved movies. I enjoyed the escape of it and I never wanted to be in the movies. And later on in my career path, I came to understand that and wanted to be on that end of movies.

You've produced “Top Gun,” “Around the World in 80 Days,” “About Schmidt” and many others. What movie really stood out to you?
I was an executive producer on “Top Gun.” I'm very proud of “Top Gun” and “About Schmidt.” Realistically speaking, I've enjoyed all my movies. They've all been experiences—good or bad.

If you could remake any movie in history, what would you remake and why?
I like love stories. I've never worked on one in that way. There's a movie called “A Place in the Sun.” It's a good movie and it reflects society, a conflict between classes and society. I don't know if it can be remade, though, because it was made with Elizabeth Taylor, and she's amazing. These movies stand on their own.

DVDs, VHS or Blu-Ray?
It's all overwhelming to me. Thank God I have a son who can navigate the technology for me.

What was the last movie you saw in theatres?
“Drive” with Ryan Gosling. I really liked it.

Who is the most remarkable actor right now?
I like Mila Kunis. I like Ryan Gosling. I also like Justin Timberlake. The girl who was in “The Notebook,” (Rachel McAdams) I like her too. And the kids who played in “The Kids Are All Right” – Mia (Wasikowska) and the boy (Josh Hutcherson). They were really good. I wouldn't say “remarkable” because it's such a tremendous word. But there's a lot of amazing young talent out there.

When you read or get a script, what makes you think, “I want to produce this. I want to be a part of this?”
If I like the characters.

You've produced many movies but have you ever thought about writing a screenplay or directing a movie?
I've thought about it. I'm not a writer, not a director. The fact that I came to understand that made the way for my career as a producer.

Are you currently working on any films right now? Can we expect anything from you soon?
I have two projects in development that I'm raising funds for.

Why Elon? What made you decided to stop by here?
Paul (Castro)'s a good friend of mine and an inspired teacher. I like what he does with his students. I'm always intrigued by his teaching.

What advice would you give aspiring filmmakers?
They need to understand that their talent is, be clear on what their suit is. The aspiration should be good work, not about glory. It shouldn't be about glory.

— Story by Edith Veremu ’13 with additional reporting from Ashley Watkins ‘14

Colin Donohue,
11/20/2011 5:24 PM