Film Independent Thu 1.23.2014

“Let’s not outsmart ourselves”: Alix Madigan Inspires at the Sundance Producers’ Lunch

“How do we remain committed to telling our stories in the format of independent film instead of running frantically towards the more loving and receptive arms of high-end cable?”

“Why do we choose to stay in a business that seems too hard, too unprofitable, too undignified, and too unstable to keep at it year after year?”

These were just a couple of the provocative questions veteran producer and Film Independent Board Member Alix Madigan proposed as keynote speaker at the Sundance Producer’s Lunch on January 19. “I was touched when you asked me, but it threw me into a panic when I realized I would have to follow Ron and Albert’s great keynote of last year,” Madigan began. “Their speech was incredibly funny, wise and entertaining and it featured a topic that inspired me: ‘producers make the most of the opportunities given to them.’”

Madigan spoke candidly about the evolution of the film business and the unpredictable career of producing, and offered her own brand of inspiration. Here are a few take-aways.


The main reason Madigan loves producing so much, she said is “the unpredictable nature of what we do and the outcomes that we can never guess. Sometimes, these risks can result in failure but, even then, I have found that there is always something positive in the process that I can take away from it – some knowledge gained, some connection that pays off further down the road or some surprising partnership.”


Gratitude can seem like such an ineffective act in an industry that is addicted to the word no, but Madigan suggested that being thankful will reassure your passion for filmmaking. She recalled a time in early years of producing that has resonated with her for years. “I was screening a movie I had worked on for the Sundance Independent Producers Conference. I was sitting in the back of the theater next to Christine Vachon. Sensing my anxiety, Christine turned to me and told me about the great responsibilities we have as producers and how indebted we should be to the filmmakers who choose us to realize their visions. She said that our business was unique in that it allows us to collaborate with extraordinary people, that we get to put their creative work in front of audiences without knowing how it will be received and how exciting that great unknown can be when we are part of that audience.”


“Some of you are able to raise money in miraculous ways, some are able to perform brilliant, incisive work in the development or editing stages, and some of you have an unerring eye for fledging talent. My primary skill as a producer is an acute sense of knowing precisely when my persistence is crossing over into being annoying. So I strongly believe that it is the generosity of others that has played a big hand in where I am today and for this I am also extremely grateful.” She shared the wisdom she gained from her personal mentor, Steve Golin. “I have learned simple yet invaluable lessons from him including the importance of suiting up and showing up no matter what you are going through… and his immortal words ‘let’s not outsmart ourselves’ have had a profound effect on the way that I approach every aspect of what I do.”

By Danielle Mitchell / Intern Blogger