“So, I think those are a lot of the obstacles, and part of the obstacles too is just being able to stay in the game, right? I think as producers, you’re not necessarily making several movies every single year, and you have to find a way to financially make it work.”
Nicole Rocklin – Co-Founder of Rocklin Faust; Women in creative positions in Hollywood; Women having their voice in Entertainment; The power of investigative journalism; Obstacles to making a film; The process in creating Spotlight; Telling purpose driven true stories.
Segment 1: (Length :04:00) – General Updates; Introduction to Nicole Rocklin; Getting started in film; Having the right relationships to support your growth.
Nicole’s finer points:
“I worked for a couple lawyers, making sure that I learned the business from an early stage, and jumped in, realizing that I didn’t wanna go to law school after getting into a little bit of a difficult accident.”
“I went to Bruckheimer, and I realized while I was there … One of my best friends was the chairman at Atlantic Records and he really pushed me to go on my own and really became a huge advocate and supporter of mine. And, you know, I left and just started to figure out how to be a producer.”
At that point, I think I'd read maybe three screenplays in my life. I knew nothing. But I realized when I was young, I didn't have a mortgage, I didn't have children, I didn't have high level of expenses that if I failed, I failed and I could jump back in.
“But I wanted to take sort of a leap of faith. And, really just started hustling. Really, that’s you know, that’s what was my drive and had really good relationships and started putting projects together.'”
“I think around that time is the time that I met Bly, and we didn’t partner immediately. We partnered … Really just started helping each other as two women in the business that had good taste and were respectful and didn’t want our time wasted and realized, you know, that we could help one another, and if we both … If one of us succeeded, the other was gonna succeed. And really just started pushing projects forward.”
“And you know, at that time, I had met Andrew Kosove and Broderick Johnson, who are the two heads and partners and founders of Al Con, which is backed by Fed EX founder Fred Smith, financially backed and now has a deal at Warner Brothers. And they gave me an overall deal, I had never produced a movie, and I am so indebted to them.”
“They’re such amazing people. So I was able to really, not only have legitimacy, but have a studio as a home where I could start putting projects together. And, I did that having never … You know, they took a leap of faith on me having never produced anything yet at that point.”
“I And just started putting projects together and realizing sort of the niche that I wanted to be in, which really focuses on true stories and you know, shortly after that point, Bly and I partnered and we found what for us, was a gem which was the underlying story of Spotlight.”
“It wasn’t a deal on one individual project. It was sort of a home. I guess it would be sort of like an option on a basketball player. I guess you can’t see that on a basketball player. But I think you know what I mean. You get the first dibs.”
“I just said, “Listen. I’m gonna go and I’m gonna start putting things together.” And if you control them and you control the underlying rights to those things, then those are your projects, right? And then you’re a producer. But it wasn’t something that was handed.”
“It was an opportunity that somebody said, “Here, go produce this.” You actually have to create that opportunity for yourself.”
“But you know what’s interesting? I mean, three days earlier I was an assistant. So like, I had no idea. But, I think it’s about relationships, right?”
“I think like most businesses, I could be selling tires. But I have to have the relationships with who I’m selling tires to or the distribution platform, the stores, or whatever it is.”
“And he said, “Listen. Call anyone in my Rolodex.” You know? “Anything I can do to support you, go out on your own and then really just try and see if you can do it.” Right? Because otherwise, I would’ve probably drifted into a development trajectory in the film business, which would’ve been great and I’m sure I probably would’ve made a lot more money in the short term, but you know, I think for me it was just really betting on myself and figuring out how I could put these things together.”
“And I didn’t know how hard it was. If I did, I probably wouldn’t have done it. So I think it comes to, there wasn’t a lot of creative producers. There’s a lot more independent producers now, but there weren’t that many that were out there on their own putting things together.”
Segment 2: (Length :08:00) – Talking with Nicole; Women in creative positions in Hollywood; Women having their voice in Entertainment; The power of investigative journalism;
Nicole’s finer points:
“You know it’s interesting. I just spoke in a panel of female Oscar winners for women and film, and I hate saying “Oscar Winners” like, let’s forget that word for a while. But, you know what’s interesting is I think … First of all, I don’t know how many women … I wish there were more women that were, you know, getting behind the camera as directors. I wish there was more women that were cinematographers. I wish there was more women in a lot of these creative posts and not just in front of the camera but behind the camera.”
“I think probably, the place where’s the most women is as producers, and probably next is as writers. But I think that women need to tell their own narrative, and they need to … You know, I think there’s a shift happening in the business which I think is only a positive shift that Harvey, that the New York Times, again, journalists, broke, which was the Harvey Weinstein scandal.”
But I think it's opened such a dialogue, and it's become such, sort of a cry for sexual harassment just as a starting place in the business to stop. And also equal pay, which people have been talking about for quite some time. Women have really started honing in on equal pay and equal rights and equal all of these things.
“So, I think it’s only a positive … It’s quite positive obviously for women, and I also feel like it’s a little bit of … There’s community building.”
“You know, women looking out for other women. And, I think that’s how Bly and I started really just looking out for one another as we both navigated our ways through the business, not necessarily as partners, but just as like minded individuals.”
Rachel Morrison who was nominated this past week, because it was the Oscars this past weekend, she was nominated. She's the first female GP nominee. And Greta Gerwig, I think, is the fourth woman nominated in the directing category. I mean, that's crazy. It's insane. And there are so many talented women out there. They just need to be given the ability to be hired.
“And the more women that we have making those decisions, I think the more women we’ll see. And we also just need, you know, a sense of inclusion.”
“And it’s not just women. It’s people of color, it’s age, you know? I think majority of films that have been nominated are older white men. And obviously the academy is changing. I think in our business, as we reflect and we put up images that other, that children are watching, we just need people to be, to reflect on … It needs to have a better sense, a better alignment I’d say, with what society actually looks like”
“Spotlight’s a really good example. I mean look at the abuse that were happening, abuse of power amongst priests and children for so long. Why now? Some really good reporters at the Boston Globe Spotlight team broke the story.”
So, you know, we call it the spotlight effect what happened after that. The same thing here. And it just shows the importance of local journalism and the importance of subscribing to your local paper. 'Cause if we don't have these people investigating these stories, they're not gonna come out.
On the power of the digital age: “That’s what was most interesting about Spotlight is, you know the digital age is what was taking down the newspaper business. But at the same time, it also helped them, because as soon as they ran … As soon as the Globe … Not to make this about Spotlight, but as soon as the reporters posted a story or published a story, they would publish all the backup materials on the Boston Globe’s website.”
“Go look at the underlying facts yourself. Look at the letters from this priest or look at all the backup material. So at the same time as the internet was taking the newspaper business down, it was also empowering them to be able to land their story, which I think at the same time is helping all of these movements of course. I mean without social media, I don’t know if Me Too would have the sweeping effect that it’s having on people. Because it’s the communication everybody has.”
I have to say I hate social media often, but I actually love social media in this respect. I say I hate social media because I'm the parent of a three year old son who I'm scared is gonna grow up in this age of cyber bullying and everything else that's going on. But I think that for important campaigns and for education it's amazing.
“. I mean, here’s the problem. I think when you look at … There’s often times what people call “journalists” are bloggers, and in no way am I disrespecting bloggers, I have a lot of friends that are bloggers, but I think if you’re Marty Baron and you’re the executive editor of the Washington Post, or you’re the executive editor of the Boston Globe or the LA Times or any of these papers, your story’s not coming out as soon as that blog’s landing, right?”
“Your story’s gonna come out much later ’cause you have to go through all those gut checks in making sure that everything is backed up, right?”
“So I feel like traditional journalists have always been responsible. And, I think … The journalists, I’m talking newspaper journalists right now, or magazine journalists, you have to check your sources, right?”
Segment 3: (Length :10:00) – Obstacles to making a film; The process in creating Spotlight; Telling purpose driven true stories.
Nicole’s finer points:
“So, for Spotlight. I’m gonna use Spotlight, which was not my first film. It was probably my third. But, I’ll just use Spotlight as an example because it’s probably the most well known of the movies that I made.”
“That was something that we found the true story, we go and we put all those pieces together, we have to meet everybody, get all the rights to it, then we have to find a writer. We’re literally, we’re the GM of the basketball team, right? We’re putting all, bringing everybody together. So we’re creating opportunities and jobs and interest and everything for everybody that worked on the project.”
“Our mission is to do true stories. I think 99.9% of what we have are true stories. Most of what we have and most of what we do are built from the ground up. So there are long lead times. And, we have to convince people.”
“Nothing’s easy. But the stuff that we like is the hardest to get financed, to get made, to get produced. So, there’s always obstacles. It’s convincing … You know on Spotlight, for example, you go to a financer and you’re like, “Yep. I’m doing period,” ’cause it’s period. It was fifteen years ago from this point roughly.”
“You’re doing period. “I wanna do a story about the Catholic church. I wanna make a story about journalists. I wanna make a story about kids that are being molested.” Not that you actually see kids molested. I mean, you go to any finance room, they’re like, “Yeah, you wanna do that or we’re gonna make Black Panther. I think we’re gonna make Black Panther.”
“The biggest obstacles, are just getting difficult projects across the finish line. And some of them … I mean Spotlight, the day we got the rights to the movie hitting theaters was seven years, and then another year of campaigning for the Oscars. It was eight years to get that one movie made.”
So, I think those are a lot of the obstacles, and part of the obstacles too is just being able to stay in the game, right? I think as producers, you're not necessarily making several movies every single year, and you have to find a way to financially make it work.
“Because you know, I think a lot of people think that producers all make millions and millions and millions of dollars a year, which is not the case. If you’re making the kind of movies we love, yes you get paid well for those once they’re made, but you don’t get paid anything until they’re actually made.”
“So, I think that’s a huge obstacle and why there’s probably not more independent producers out there that are trying to put projects together. Because it’s hard financially. So that’s a huge obstacle and that’s just the reality. I mean, maybe most people wouldn’t talk about that, but it’s the truth.”
“It’s just, for us, we’re so passionate about telling these stories. In many ways, it’s seeing the effect of them. Like Spotlight, Spotlight gave victims, families and survivors a platform and to be able to watch that … There’s no greater award. An Oscar’s not as rewarding as seeing people actually have a platform to be taken seriously, and to be heard. So, those are some of the obstacles.”
“Segment 4: (Length :03:00) – Hustler Thought of the Day:
People saying ‘no’ just willed me to fight harder. Things come together the way they’re supposed to, especially when you work hard at it.” – Nicole Rocklin (Challenging the Status Quo with Women in Focus 2016 at Dodge College)
Nicole Rocklin – Co-Founder of Rocklin Faust
Nicole is an Oscar winning producer of Spotlight and has been named as one of Variety’s Top 10 Producers to Watch.
Her other producing credits include The Perfect Guy (directed by Dave Rosenthal starring Sanaa Lathan, Michael Ealy and Morris Chestnut) and Middle of Nowhere (directed by John Stockwell starring Anton Yelchin, Eva Amurri, Justin Chatwin, Willa Holland and Susan Sarandon.
Prior to forming Rocklin|Faust, Nicole held an overall deal at Alcon Entertainment with her company, Rocklin Entertainment.
She started her entertainment career as an assistant at Jerry Bruckheimer Films and at an entertainment law firm and graduated with honors with a B.A. in History and African American Studies from the University of Wisconsin, Madison.
She is a member of the Producers Guild of America and the Creative Future Leadership Committee.
Rocklin|Faust is an award-winning film and television production company focused on telling transformative, entertaining true stories that engender a collective social dialogue, inspire change, and celebrate innovation. Led by partners Nicole Rocklin and Blye Faust, the company draws on its expansive network of journalists and filmmakers to create a unique platform in the space.
The company recently received international acclaim for its film, Spotlight, a true life drama surrounding the Boston Globe’s investigations into abuses in the Boston Archdiocese, which was awarded Best Motion Picture and Best Original Screenplay at the 2016 Academy Awards and grossed nearly $100 million worldwide during its release.
2015 also saw the Screen Gems release of Rocklin|Faust’s, The Perfect Guy, which grossed $60.2 million worldwide, winning the box office its opening weekend.