Adam Saunders is an accomplished film and television actor, who is making the transition to film producer with his latest feature Family Weekend, starring Matthew Modine and Kristin Chenoweth. But this isn’t Saunders’ first time acting as producer – he’s been producing for years now – and as CEO of Footprint Features, he’s ready to tackle bigger projects. With Family Weekend – in which he co-stars – opening today, March 29, 2013 in select cities across America, Saunders was happy to share insights on this hybrid producer/actor role with Working Author.
Working Author: How long have you been acting? Do you still enjoy it?
Adam Saunders: I’ve been acting my whole life. When I was 7-years-old I went to a performing arts summer camp; when I was 11 I played the kid roles in the local community college musicals. I acted in high school and college too, and then went to Yale for Acting grad school. It’s always been a part of my life. I still love it, absolutely. When I’m actually acting, doing the work, there’s nothing better. But the problem is – I hate the actor’s life – waiting for other people to pick me, hoping I’ll get the opportunity, that I’ll have enough credits, or the right look, or the right response from the right person at the right time. There are too many areas out of my control to be truly happy just acting. Producing changes that.
WA: Why did you decide to become a producer? Is this a transition away from acting, or will producing be a concurrent role?
AS: My hope is that is a concurrent one. I love producing, and I’ve found that it is really a natural fit for me and for my skillsets. And I’ve actually been doing it now for a lot of years – mostly in the old ‘necessity is the mother of invention’ kind of way – to create my own acting work. I co-ran a theater company in college, then after college called Footprint on the Sun which means “accomplishing the impossible”, and obviously now with Footprint Features. I love picking the projects that are near and dear to my heart, that have messages that I find to be both entertaining and socially relevant. I love building a team of intelligent, talented, folks. I love putting it all together to make it work. And I really do love the nitty gritty of producing – the fundraising, the negotiating, the marketing – these things excite me, and inspire me and make me happy to wake up and get after it every day.
WA: Which role do you prefer: producer or actor? Why?
AS: I really prefer the combination. I can put all of my day to day energy into producing – spend the bulk of my time putting the project together and all the work that takes – and then when it comes time for the acting – trust that I’ve put in all that time to learn my craft, and allow myself to do my work and just let go and release into the role. In some ways producing makes me better as an actor, because it allows me to be freer. When I was just acting, I think sometimes I had a tendency to work too hard, to make it harder than it needed to be. With the combination, I can put all of that effort into the producing, and then just relax when it’s time to act.
WA: What’s the hardest part about being a producer?
AS: Just never, never, never giving up. There are so many times when it would be easy to just say – OK, that’s good enough. But it’s not. And some part of you knows it. And you have to keep going. I had a teacher at drama school who said “Everybody knows the difference between good and bad, but few are willing to do the work to get from good to great.” The struggle to try to get to great is the hard part, that’s the part that takes all the work. But as a producer, you know first hand how many people have taken a chance on your project – from the investors, to the cast, to the crew, to the distributors – and they’re all at the end of the day really taking a chance on YOU – since that’s where the buck stops. So if you stop before you’ve done everything in your power to make it great, well, to me, I just can’t do that. I have to go until I know that I’ve done absolutely everything in my power to make it the very best version of itself.
WA: Did producing give you any insight into filmmaking you didn’t have before?
AS: Sure, a million things. But the main thing is just remembering how collaborative of a process it is. Bill Clinton once said that he makes his decisions by surrounding himself with the smartest people he can find, listening to their advice, and then just trusting himself to make the right decision. I think that’s right. As a producer you have to trust those around you, really trust them, really listen to them, but then at the end of the day to trust yourself to do what you feel is in the best interest of the picture. Because when all is said and done, the final picture is all that really matters.
WA: What was it about Family Weekend that made you want to produce it?
AS: It’s about family, about the importance of family about showing up for your kids, being there for them. I was lucky enough to have just about the most supportive mom and dad and sister in history – my mom came to every extracurricular activity I ever did, and my dad would help me with my homework, coach my baseball team, etc…and my sister is my best friend. They still to this day are intimately involved and supportive of everything I do. Those relationships have shaped me, and to a large extent helped to give me the courage to go after my dreams head-first. I wish everyone could have that. And this film is about that—about the importance of family – even in this modern world of cell phones and texting and emails and everything else – taking the time for family is still critically important.
WA: Why should people watch it?
AS: Because it’s funny! And entertaining, and the acting from Olesya Rulin and Joey King and Matthew Modine and of course Kristin Chenoweth is awesome. And it ultimately has a really good message. But really, it’s just a fun movie. This movie was made for the public, for families, for the people. It’s not your typical arthouse type of fare – it was made with a mainstream audience in mind from the beginning.
WA: How can people watch it?
AS: It comes out in theaters in NY, LA, Dallas, Detroit and Chicago on Friday 3/29 – and is available on VOD on Time Warner, Comcast, Dish, DirecTv, etc. Hopefully if enough people will go see it, we can continue to expand! Go to www.familyweekendmovie.com to see if your cable provider has it!
WA: Anything else you’d like to add?
AS: Go tell all your friends to see Family Weekend! If we can sell 250 seats a day we can expand to more cities!