When he’s not being president and owner of New Jersey-based cable company Service Electric Broadband Cable TV, Edward Walson, son of cable pioneer John Walson Sr, produces and finances films like Blue Jasmine through his Sunrider Productions.
Walson talks to Jeremy Kay about his Woody Allen collaborations, working with Richard Gere on Cannes market title Time Out Of Mind and inching closer to a start date on Andy Garcia passion project Hemingway & Fuentes. Walson has produced Bullets Over Broadway and Cinderella on stage is represented by Paradigm.
You come from a cable background so how did you get into movies?
I grew up I cable TV. My father was the one who started the first TV system in the US. I had a lot of exposure to quality films on cable and I have always had an appreciation and love for good quality films. The first film I worked on was [as co-executive producer] on City Island [starring Andy Garcia]. Then I worked on Relatively Speaking with Woody Allen [a trio of one-act plays by Allen, Ethan Coen and Elaine May that Walson co-produced].
You seem to like working with Woody Allen
I have produce two films with Woody: Blue Jasmine and Magic In The Moonlight, which comes out this year [July 25 through SPC.] We will be doing another movie together this summer.
I can’t say too much yet but it’s going to be another beautiful project with a good story. One of the big perks of working with someone like Woody is the best actors gravitate towards his projects.
How do you rate him?
Woody is a true artist. I go to his jazz concerts whenever I can. I had known him for a few years [before we started working together]. I’d never discussed my involvement in film producing and never thought we would work together but we had the same vision on what good cinema should be, so it was a natural fit after we worked on Relatively Speaking. It has been a great experience because I am working with who I believe to be the greatest filmmaker in the history of US cinema. I don’t think he is at his peak yet. When you see a film like Blue Jasmine it’s phenomenal. Blue Jasmine will really stand the test of time and will probably be shown to film students in 100 years’ time.
What was it like working on the movie?
It was an honour and shooting in San Francisco was a dream come true. It was a great city to shoot in. Cate’s [Blanchett] performance was incredible. I could see the Oscar while we were shooting.
Do you finance everything you produce?
Generally speaking if I believe in a project enough to be involved in it it’s important to be willing to invest some money. Levels of investment change from film to film, but I like to have some investment in a project I believe in and be a part-owner, so to speak. By doing that it creates a priority [so] that not only do I want to be there at the set, but it carries through. When Richard and I first had a meeting about Time Out Of Mind I was talking about how we wanted to market the film and he said he wasn’t used to hearing that coming from someone at my level. The story is number one then the actors and beyond that it’s marketing, distribution and promotion. I have been fortunate that I have picked good projects.
The money must mean better better scripts your way
Since people heard I wanted to be involved both as a producer and investor I’m starting to get a lot of scripts. I’m very selective about the quality of films I do. I like projects with a good story that would be received by auteurs and yet are commercially viable also. I want the films to get seen and if you create a wonderful film like Blue Jasmine or Time Out Of Mind and people don’t get to it, it’s a tragedy. It’s important for people to see the art. Film has a tremendous influence on people and many can also help people get through problems in their life.
Time Out Of Mind will be in the Cannes market and is being handled by Paradigm and QED International. What’s it about?
We just wrapped and we’re very excited. We’re going to start editing now. Richard Gere plays a guy who has had a down period in his life and ends up homeless in New York. He has an estranged bohemian-like daughter played by Jena Malone and there is a phenomenal performance by Ben Vereen. We shot in New York; Brooklyn and Queens. I’m proud to be involved in this film. It could change the face of homelessness in the country. So many of us have preconceived notions of homeless people that we fear them or think they will steal from us or [think] they’re lazy or that we will catch a disease from them.
What’s the status on Hemingway & Fuentes?
I’m going to meet Andy after this. He and I have been working on this for a few years and it’s coming to fruition. I’m very excited. Andy will play Fuentes [the boat captain Gregorio Fuentes who inspired the author to write The Old Man And The Sea]. It’s a story about Hemingway’s happy days in Cuba and the dark days towards the end of his life when he was going through shock treatment. It’s a beautiful story. We’re going to make the movie this fall. I’m very honoured that Jon Voigt has joined us on the project [to play Hemingway.]