Full House for Producers from 'The Florida Project'

There wasn’t a single empty seat in Shoma Hall on Feb. 5 as students, professors, and even a couple of dogs gathered to hear from Kevin Chinoy and Francesca Silvestri, the award-winning producers of Tangerine, Starlet, and, their most recent film, The Florida Project. Margaret Cardillo, lecturer in the Department of Cinema and Interactive Media, led the question and answer session. They discussed everything from the day-to-day process of making a film, to challenges they have faced, to what they look for in projects that they produce.

“For me, it’s the script and the idea, and it’s the filmmaker,” Silvestri said.

One filmmaker with whom Chinoy and Silvestri have created a rapport is Sean Baker, who they worked with on their past three films.

Silvestri added that she has to really love the story, because a producer may be working with the same project for several years.

Though the partners have had much success in the past few years and worked with major stars, including Willem Dafoe in The Florida Project, they faced challenges in the start of their production company, most notably with their first project.

Silvestri recalled shooting a film with Kirsten Dunst in a friend’s house, which she was hesitant to do because they didn’t have a permit for it.

“We were shooting in this house and … an electric put a light on a bookshelf and it caught fire, it started smoking,” Silvestri said. “And the person who was overseeing the house … freaked out and the next think I know they’re calling the police, the police are coming, they’re shutting us down and I’m like, ‘Keep shooting till they cart us off, don’t turn the camera off!’”

Chinoy said that as a producer of a film, you make a million decisions a day, and it is inevitable that you will make mistakes.

“You ultimately have to have confidence that no matter what happens, you’ll overcome it … never compromise your values,” he said. 

With today’s technology, aspiring filmmakers don’t need expensive equipment to make a movie. Tangerine, a film that the partners also worked with Baker on, was shot entirely on an iPhone 5S.

“One of the things I’d say for people who are making films today … you have every tool imaginable,” Chinoy said. “You can go out and make a movie with your phone and your computer. I mean that’s crazy.”

He also discussed the different approaches to getting a foot in the door in the film industry.

“I think if you’re interested in the business … be willing to explore across mediums and spectrums,” Chinoy said, adding that he took coursework in not only producing, but also directing, and acting.

Silvestri added, “I always tell people, if you want to produce something, just go out and jump in.”