The producer’s job
To appreciate Bruckheimer’s achievements, you
should first understand exactly what a producer does,
something even some in the business don’t know.
According to guidelines from the Producers Guild of
America on who can get a “produced by” credit, the
producer hires the creative team—the director, writer
or writers, co-producer, cinematographer, unit production manager, production designer and principal
cast; participates in location scouting; approves the
final shooting script, production schedule and budget; supervises day-to-day operations of the producing team; has on-set consultations with the director
and key creative personnel; approves weekly cost
reports; and serves as the primary point of contact for
financial and distribution entities. And much more
on postproduction leading to the release of the film.
But before any of that can take place, the producer’s primary, and some might say most important, function is finding stories worth telling.
Bruckheimer equates finding a good story with
being struck by lightning—his company’s logo is a
tree being hit by lightning—and claims it’s a gut reaction. His track record proves that his gut works more
often than not: His films have earned more than $15
billion worldwide. He has had as many as 10 television series airing during one season, which is, according to Disney (with which he has a producing deal),
“a feat unprecedented in nearly 60 years of television
history.” His work has garnered more than 200 award
nominations and won scores of awards, including
Academy Awards, Emmys, Grammys and Golden
Globes, and he himself has received many industry
prizes for his accomplishments.
Jerry Bruckheimer is not just a producer; he’s a
showman. Although he has become known for
high-octane action-adventure franchises—Pirates of
the Caribbean (Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger
Tides, the fourth film in the series, is due in 2011)
and National Treasure (a third film is in development)—he is also responsible for Flashdance and
Remember the Titans, and The Amazing Race and
the CSI series on TV, among many, many others.
Considering all his accomplishments, you might
Bruckheimer with Nicolas Cage and director
Jon Turtletaub on National Treasure.
Jerry Bruckheimer with Jake Gyllenhaal, star of
Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time
expect to encounter a man wearing his ego on his
sleeve, the epitome of the stereotypical Hollywood
bigwig, boldly huckstering his projects and commanding the room. When The Connection sat down
with Bruckheimer in June as he was preparing for the
release of The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, the live-action fantasy adventure inspired by the animated segment
from Disney’s Fantasia and the poem that sparked it,
he came off as low-key, quiet, reserved and humble.
There is an old joke that goes “Where does an
800-pound gorilla sit? Anywhere he wants.” When
Bruckheimer was asked exactly when he felt like
that proverbial gorilla, his answer was direct.
“I don’t feel it,” he says. “I never, ever felt it. I
fight hard for what I believe in, but I don’t come in
and try to command the room or force myself.”
The film’s the thing
Making movies was a Bruckheimer goal since
his childhood in Detroit, hanging out at the Mercury
Theater, an iconic old film palace.
“I used to go all the time,” he remembers. “I
loved it. I’d go to matinees; I’d go to everything
I could. I fell in love with that magical screen.”
But he took a circuitous route to Hollywood,
as other filmmakers have, by entering the world
of advertising. After producing commercials in
Detroit, he moved to New York’s Madison Avenue at
the age of 23.
“I felt it was a way to get in and learn something
about filmmaking,” he recalls. “I was always a still
photographer, so I understood film. I may not have
understood motion, but I understood film. So that
was a way to learn.”
A conversation with his advertising mentor
pointed to Hollywood as an option.
“She said, ‘You know we had another producer
here. He left and he’s producing a movie in Hollywood.’
Really? It was like a light bulb went off: ‘Well if he can
do it, so can I.’ ”
Despite making a living in advertising, Bruck-
heimer followed his heart, with a fortuitous break.
“A commercial director I had been working
with sold a script to [Twentieth Century] Fox and he
• CSI: NY (2004–present)
• Cold Case (2003–2010)
• CSI: Miami (2002–present)
• The Amazing Race
• CSI: Crime Scene Investigation
Prince of Persia: The Sands
of Time and The Sorcerer’s
Apprentice, as well as other
Jerry Bruckheimer productions,
are available at Costco and on
OCTOBER 2010 ;e Costco Connection 29