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Indie Film Producer Gives UT Students Reality Check, Inspiration

Published: September 18, 2007
Wrangling drunk movie stars, shooting from inside a nuclear submarine and bailing film directors out of jail are all part of the job for Boris Malden, producer for LIFT Studios.

“We get to see things and do things the normal public could never do,” said Malden, producer of this fall’s Factory Girl. “I’ve had a good life, and you can too, but you have to tough it out when it gets hard.”

Malden gave University of Tampa film students a taste of reality mixed with a bit of inspiration when he spoke to their class on Sept. 18. Tom Garrett, visiting assistant professor of communication, invited him to speak to his students in "Producing for Motion Pictures and Digital Media."

“It’s good to get a real life perspective of what it’s really like,” said senior film major George Denison. “It was interesting and inspiring.”

The business is not always as glamorous as it seems, Malden was quick to point out. He urged them to take an accounting class, because sometimes you have to make a film on a shoestring budget and meet unrealistic expectations. Sometimes networks want a big name star for a movie of the week, but they are only willing to pay $5 million to make it.

“The network is looking for Gone with the Wind, the studio wants Gone with the Wind on a tight budget, and the director is looking for an Emmy,” Malden said.

Malden speaks from experience. He started working in the business more than 40 years ago, when he quit college to work for $2 an hour at a film equipment company. He worked as a key grip a sound mixer and an actor. He learned every job on the set, working on shows like Charlie’s Angels and The Mod Squad.

“When I look back I think ‘How lucky was I?’” he said. “But at the time it was a job.”

He freelanced for a while after that, working as a production manager. Once he worked as a crane grip, filming figures in the sand in a church parking lot. Only later did he find out they were C3PO and R2D2 wandering the desert in Star Wars.

Now executive vice president of production for LIFT Studios, Malden gave the students some advice.

He told them to know their craft. Having a strong working knowledge of every job on the set can help them know what they can get away with, he said. They should keep up with the technology and post-production techniques for the same reason, he added.

“Treasure the people you meet and take advantage of what you can learn from them,” Malden said.

He also told them you never know who you’re going to meet and when. Someone might give you your big chance when you least expect it.

“Show them how much you want it,” he said. “And be honest about what you can do. Don’t B.S. them, because they’ll eat you alive.”