The Business of Making Movies with Shaun Greenspan

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Shaun Greenspan has been to the theaters at AMC Sarasota 12 a whopping six times this week, buying a ticket for the same film with every visit—Skin. The latest film from Academy Award-winning writer-director Guy Nattiv, and elaboration on his award-winning short of the same name, Skin stars actor Jamie Bell (Billy Elliot, Rocketman) as a violently racist and notorious skinhead trying to turn his back on a life of hatred and transform his future. Based on a true story, the film premiered at last year’s Toronto International Film Festival before being released this year by A24. And it marks Greenspan’s first credit as associate producer.

Filmmaker and co-founder of Sarasota-based TriForce Pictures, Greenspan’s involvement with the film began right here in Sarasota, at a “Six & A Mix” networking event organized by the Sarasota County Film & Entertainment Office. There, he met Jenny Halper, director of production and development for Maven Pictures. Greenspan pitched a film he was working on and gave his info. Halper said they’d be in touch. Greenspan was skeptical. “I’d heard that before,” he says.

Three days later, Halper called about Skin. The shoot was in five weeks. The shoot needed cash. She sent a copy of the script, the short film it was based on and what’s called a “lookbook”—a rundown of the talent involved and the director’s vision. Greenspan read it all. He was moved. He was sold. He put his own film on hold and jumped on board to raise money for the picture. “Not only am I Jewish, I’m a human being,” he said. “I want to be a part of this in any way that I can.”

Because Greenspan still believes in the power of film as a force for change and cultural lever to move the world. “Every film affects me,” he says. “Every time I watch, I’m learning about people.” Even if the world of the movie is bizarre or unrealistic, a well-written character still finds its roots in a common humanity that the audience can empathize with. At times, Greenspan likens it to sociology or psychology. “It’s the study of people,” he says. “That’s what I really like about movies.”

Still, it’s also a business, and Greenspan learned a lot about raising money for a major motion picture. Most important? “A ‘No’ is never a ‘No,’” he says. “It’s a ‘No, for now.’” Persistence and passion come together in equal parts, and an associate producer has to not only believe in the project, but be able to sell it as economically viable. Greenspan developed his own evaluation model, factoring in artistic concerns such as quality of writing but also financial realities such as whether or not the requested budget is realistic for the project and whether the talent involved has a profitable track record. Skin ticked all the boxes and Greenspan managed to raise the money needed right here in Sarasota.

But his involvement took him around the world, traveling to the Toronto premiere and following the film to its subsequent showings at the Berlinale film festival and Tribeca Film Festival, networking along the way as his next project looms on the horizon.

Currently, Skin is still in limited release, theater-wise, but viewers can also find it on DirectTV.

Pictured: Shaun Greenspan walking the red carpet for the European premiere of

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