Book – You’re Only As Good As Your Next One

You’re Only As Good As Your Next One
I went to film school at Ohio University and I am always looking to learn something new in the world of film.If you’d like to learn how movies are made these days read the book, "You’re Only as Good as Your Next One: 100 Great Films, 100 Good Films, and 100 for Which I Should Be Shot" is a good place to start. This is a book that I picked up about 5 months ago and read it off and on. I have started to read books more and more lately, and I simply have learned more from this book more about show business than anything else I have come across in a very long time.
Mike Medavoy,
a film executive for more than three decades, has written an autobiography about his time in the business. He’s been involved with some of the top motion pictures of the era – "Silence of the Lambs," "Rocky," "Annie Hall," "Platoon," "Bugsy," etc. That makes him a pretty good source on show business.
Medavoy has worked for such companies as United Artists, Orion and Tri-Star, and he formed Phoenix Pictures in 1994.
Luckily, this isn’t about the shoe store business, so we know some of the cast of characters involved here as well as their work, and it’s interesting to read about them. Here’s Medavoy leading Steven Spielberg out of his office and telling him he’d be better off with some other studio. There’s Madonna, telling Medavoy she’d do anything to get a part in a movie. There’s Francis Ford Coppola, trying to find an ending to "Apocalypse Now," and finding one (maybe) 24 years later.
Sometimes popular doesn’t equal profitable. I was surprised to read that "Raging Bull," one of the great films of the Eighties, barely broke even. Then there’s "Hook," which was perceived as a disappointment by the public, actually made some money despite a big price tag. And the acclaimed "The Insider," which certainly could have won a Best Picture Oscar, lost money in buckets.
I liked the anecdote about how United Artists took "Rocky" only if it could be in tandem with "New York, New York" – figuring the profits from the latter would cover the costs of the former. As it turned out, it was the other way around. As a movie-watcher, these are the types of facts and stories that interest me, and Medavoy provides them in large quantities.
Still, Medavoy comes off as a smart, reserved man who knows his business and who has a genuine interest in making good films (and not just profitable ones). I believe he’s sincere in saying that he gets a thrill from a good movie and likes to be associated with such products. His track record, presented here, bares him out.
This is a lifeline of his achievements that any studio executive would be envy of.
Medavoy began his career at Universal Studios in 1964. He rose from the mailroom to become a casting director.  In 1965 he became an agent, working at General Artist Corporation and later as vice president at Creative Management Agency.  Joining International Famous Agency as vice president in charge of the motion picture department in 1971, he worked with such prestigious clients as Steven Spielberg, Francis Ford Coppola, Terrence Malick, Jane Fonda, Donald Sutherland, and Gene Wilder among others.  United Artists brought him in as senior vice president of production in 1974 where he was part of the team responsible for “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” “Rocky,” and “Annie Hall,” which won the Best Picture Oscars® over three successive years. 
In 1978 Medavoy co-founded Orion Pictures. During his tenure, “Platoon,” “Amadeus,” “Robocop,” “Hannah and Her Sisters,” “The Terminator,” “Dances with Wolves,” and “Silence of the Lambs” were released.  In 1990, after twelve fruitful years at Orion, Medavoy became Chairman of TriStar Pictures.  Under his aegis, critically acclaimed, box office successes, “Philadelphia,” “Terminator 2: Judgment Day” (with Carolco), “Sleepless in Seattle,” “Cliffhanger” (with Carolco), “The Fisher King,” “Legends of the Fall,” and Steven Spielberg’s “Hook” debuted. Of all the films Medavoy has been involved with, sixteen have been nominated for Best Picture Oscars and seven have won.
Medavoy has made a mark not only within his industry, but in his community as well.  He has received numerous awards including the 1992 Motion Picture Pioneer of the Year Award, Career Achievement Awards from both UCLA (1997) and the University of Central Florida (2002) and the 1999 UCLA Neil H. Jacoby Award, which honors individuals who have made exceptional contributions to humanity. In 2001, he received the inaugural Fred Zinnemann Award presented by the Anti-Defamation League and in 2002 received the Israel Film Festival’s Lifetime Achievement Award.
Extending his involvement in the community, Mike was appointed to the Board of Directors of the Museum of Science and Industry in Los Angeles by former Governor Jerry Brown and was appointed by Mayor Richard Riordan as Commissioner on the Los Angeles Board of Parks and Recreations.   He’s a member of the Board of Directors of the University of Tel Aviv.  He also serves on the Board of Trustees of the UCLA Foundation and is a member of the Chancellor’s Associates, the Dean’s Advisory Board at the UCLA School of Theatre, Film, and Television, the Alumni Association’s Student Relations Committee, and is Chairman of the Leadership Circle for UCLA’s Center for International Relations.
In 2002, Governor Gray Davis appointed Mike to the California Anti-Terrorism Information Center’s Executive Advisory Board. In addition, he is Chairman of the Group Theatre Society, as well as one of the original founding members of the Board of Governors of the Sundance Institute and is currently serving as co-chairman of the American Cinematheque.
Today, as chairman and co-founder of Phoenix Pictures, Mike Medavoy has amongst others brought to the screen “The People vs. Larry Flynt,” “The Mirror Has Two Faces,” “U-Turn,” “Apt Pupil,” “The Thin Red Line,” “Dick,” “Urban Legend (I&II),” and “The Sixth Day.”  “The Thin Red Line” was nominated for seven Academy Awards®, received five nominations from the Chicago Film Critics, won the Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival and five Golden Satellite Awards, a cinematography award for John Toll from the ASC and nominations from the DGA and WGA for Terrence Malick.  Phoenix Pictures’ most recent releases are “Basic” (starring John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson, directed by John McTiernan) and “Holes” ( staring John Voight and Sigourney Weaver, directed by Andrew Davis)
On September 21,2005 he was a awarded a Star on the Hollywood Walk Of Fame. Among those who turned out to witness the star’s unveiling were Sean Penn, Sylvester Stallone, Patricia Clarkson, former Gov. Jerry Brown, former Mayor Richard Riordan and Medavoy’s wife, Irena.
The only thing I hate about good books is now I have to find one just as interesting or I will quit reading for a while. I just found Harry Knowles book, the guy from "Aint it Cool" and I am hoping that it’s a good read. "The Gross" from Peter Bart is after that.
"I learned early on from a series of mentors four of the most important things in life: maintain your character,maintain your dignity, be loyal and never stop learning. And I have never forgotten the apocryphal words of my grandfather on his deathbed:"You spend your whole life learning and then you die".

Posted on October 8, 2005, in Books. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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