David Zuckerman Kohner: To listen is by far the most important quality in human being and a businessmanWritten by Eva Csölleová, Vítek Formánek
Son of Kathy „ Gidget“ Kohner a Marvin Zuckerman is film producer in Hollywood. He is also President of ScriptCoach and Virtual Pitch Fest. and served for many years as Head of Development for Silver Lion Films, where he worked on „ Man on Fire“ or Crocodile Dundee in L.A.“ He is also a licenced psychotherapist.His idea and job in ScriptCoach is so interesting that we asked him for interview and he responded within a week.
Was film industry something you were dreaming since your childhood or you studied for something else but film got the nod or with famous surname Kohner you could not be anything else but film producer?
Yes, my grandfather Frederick Kohner was my hero, and I wanted to be just like him. So I started out with screenwriting and eventually wound up producing, which I think is a better ft for me.
In Los Angeles everybody wants to be in film industry. Could you tell us about your beginning, your first steps, how did you get your first experience and credit under your belt-how long did it take?
Well, you hear it being said to never invest money in your own projects. My experience tells me otherwise. A partner of mine and I decided to write & produce a short film which kick-started my career. It looked great production-wise, and things just moved quickly for me after that. I got hired to produce a critically acclamed short called PUPPY LOVE with won the LA International Film Festival. After that one, I started getting hired to produce features, and eventually was raising money and making my own projects such as ALL I WANT FOR CHRISTMAS, STRICTLY SEXUAL, THE FOURTH NOBLE TRUTH & CAUGHT IN THE ACT.
You are studied psychotherapist. So did you take different approach and found out what works the best, what people do wrong, what do they want but fail to do it and this abilitity and difference made you a good positing for own succes on film industry?
Yes, I decided to be a shrink and a producer, which makes me a masochist. But seriously, my education and training as a psychologist has helped me listen – which I think is by far the most important quality in a human being and a businessman.
What led you to establish the ScriptCoach company? Did you know many actors, novelists or script writers who had potential but somehow could not get the best out of them and failed due to silly mistakes in their approach?
I began that company before starting www.VirtualPitchFest.com which has become my bread & butter. Virtual Pitch Fest is a trusted Industry Source that specializes in connecting screenwriters with Hollywood Pros. With VPF, users can search through an online database – much like a dating site - to see what 375+ participating studios, production companies & reps are looking for. They can then send short written pitches to chosen companies which will all be responded back to in 5 days. To date, site connections have led to 85+ plus agency signings & script deals, including Hallmark’s “Christmas Magic” & the critically acclaimed feature, “Raspberry Magic.”
How does it work in your company. You organize seminars for scriptwriters and from your experience tell them where do they make mistakes?Are the mistakes in script writing very similiar so you can amend them by one single seminar or there are thousands of reasons and you have to judge everybody individually?
We don’t organize seminars...as VPF runs 24/7. In terms of mistakes, most writers aren’t making sure to get several reads from professionals and to do the necessary rewriting it takes to have a script stand out.
What is the biggest general problem and mistake in script writing not only in Hollywood? Is there any standart set of rules you have set which –when applied –bring 100% success and recognition?
The most common mistake screenwriters make is sending out their scripts before they’re ready. Hollywood will always be here. But it won’t be here for you, if you send out something that isn’t good, and up to industry standards.
You also teach people how to write correct letter accompanying the script to get to the right people in agencies. Can you briefly tell how what must be in this letter to interest particular person? If you teach thousand people how to write proper letter, there will be 1000 equally looking letters coming to agents so how can they be singled out to look special?
There are samples of good query letters on our website. A good pitch must be compelling, persuasive and get the point across without getting into too much detail. It should also be so clear and understandable that a 10-year-old would be able to “get it.
One director told us: „ All in all there are only 7 topics in film history“ 1)Beaten monsters 2) From poverty to fortune 3) Fight 4) Journey and return 5) Comedy 6) Tragedy 7)Ressurection and they are mixed or repeated all over again.Do you agree with that and when reading scripts did you find some that was totally out of all forms, new but sadly not commercially viable since people wouldn´t be ready for that?
I believe that you must be able to answer YES to the following 7 questions for a script to be considered by a producer:
|The ScriptCoach 7|
|Is the premise believable?|
|Can you visualize the poster?|
|Is there a specified genre?|
|Is there a defined hero?|
|Is the hero likable?|
|Is the hero’s goal clear & stated early?|
|Are the hero’s stakes high enough?|
You produced Crocodile Dundee in L.A.What led you to do it, sniff of box office success? Do you think that formula of bushman with nice girlfriend in big city can work third time out?
I actually was the head of development for Silver Lion Films and my boss Lance Hool produced the film with Paul Hogan.
How do you personally view sequels like Die Hard 5, Rocky 5,Mission Impossible 5, Expendables 3, James Bond 25? Don´t you feel that it has very little artistic value and is only money machine, so if invested money would be spent in say 100 more artistical films it would have much more sence?
I have no opinion on this. I give credit to anyone who can get a film into the theaters.
We have read that Hollywood make sequels and remakes cos it is safe net for money and there is shortage of good, new and original screenplays there. How do you see it from inside? True or false?
I believe that to each his own
You produce independent films in Hollywood. Hollywood for us is the top commercial workshop. How can these two worlds-independent and commercial live logether. Any hatry and competition or they don´t cross each other paths?
Since the time of Shakespeare, people go to watch something because of the star who is in it. Independent or otherwise, this is the bottom line. Movie-goers don’t ask who the writer is, they ask who’s in in. What makes something indepedendent good is not having a different story or genre, but being able to tell a story in a way that is incredibly unique.