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#46 - David Ansen: Movie Critic

Film critic David Ansen has had one of the most unique and influential careers in modern entertainment history.

He joins his high school classmate Bob and Suzanne in a revealing and engaging conversation that starts with a childhood growing up in Beverly Hills as the son of a Hollywood industry insider. You’ll hear about David’s early fascination with movies and how even as a pre-teen he began documenting that interest as the ultimate “list maker.”

Going from undergrad writing studies at Harvard, to life on a commune, and then to writing about movies for Boston’s The Real Paper, David then found himself recommended as film reviewer at Newsweek by no less a luminary that legendary film critic Pauline Kael.

During his 31-year career at Newsweek, David Ansen became one of the most powerful voices in modern film criticism. His lifelong love of movies was matched by an insightful worldview and a writing style that made many of his reviews more entertaining than the movies he reviewed. When David Ansen wrote favorably about a movie, people bought tickets. A negative review would often have the opposite effect, although in this conversation David humorously reveals the one film he describes as “an unkillable movie.”

With unique industry knowledge and deep analytical perspective, David talks about today’s rise of quality TV shows as compared to the trend toward major studio “franchise” movies which fail to capture his attention.

After a career as Senior Editor at Newsweek and writing numerous television documentaries about Hollywood legends Greta Garbo, Groucho Marx, and Elizabeth Taylor--winning the Ace Award for All About Bette Davis—David moved on to work with The New York Film Festival, the Sundance Film Festival, and recently served as Artistic Director of The Los Angeles Film Festival.

His newest assignment as Lead Programmer for the 2016 Palm Springs International Film Festival guarantees his ongoing influence in the world of serious filmmaking.

If you like movies, you don’t want to miss this revealing conversation with David Ansen.

Direct download: 46-DavidAnsen-FINAL11.17.15.mp3
Category:Movies -- posted at: 6:48pm PDT

#42 - Producer Hawk Koch


Look up “Hollywood Royalty” in your Webster’s Dictionary, and you just might find the name and face of Oscar Nominee, Golden Globe Winner, and movie producer Hawk Koch on the page.


In this podcast interview with Bob & Suzanne, Hawk talks about his unique childhood on movie sets with his father, Howard W. Koch, one of the most prominent film producers of his generation.  Hawk describes how school vacations spent on movie sets led to his passion for film making and to an inspiring career working with legendary directors like Robert Aldrich, Sidney Pollack, Paul Mazursky, and Robert Wise. 


It wasn’t long before he evolved from being “the kid” on Hollywood soundstages to getting hired as the production assistant on Sidney Pollack’s This Property Is Condemned, where he quickly proved himself as someone who could “get it done.”


After a stint as a rock & roll road manager for iconic performers like The Supremes and The Dave Clark Five, Hawk returned to Hollywood as an assistant director on movies destinedto become : Rosemary’s Baby, Chinatown, and Barefoot in the Park.  Hawk candidly recalls how he rose through the Hollywood ranks to work closely with iconic film stars like Warren Beatty, Jack Nicholson, Jessica Lange, Mickey Rourke, Faye Dunaway, Paul Newman, Dustin Hoffman, Robert Redford, and Kirk Douglas.


You’ll hear how Hawk’s passion for the entertainment business continued to propel him up through the ranks as the producer of dozens of critical and box office hits, including The Pope of Greenwich Village, Heaven Can Wait, Wayne’s World, Primal Fear...and the list goes on.


Hardly resting on his laurels Hawk Koch works hard to "pay it forward" as he vigorously supports the Hollywood film industry. He’s currently President Emeritus of the Producers Guild of America, and has served on the Board of the National Film Preservation Foundation.  Hawk most recently served as 2012-13 President of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, and continues to produce the movies we love.


Direct download: Podcast_42-HawkKoch-FINAL6.14.15.mp3
Category:Movies -- posted at: 9:36pm PDT

#39 - Stuart Benjamin: Oscar Nominated Producer & Grammy Winner

Stuart Benjamin—a longtime family friend of Bob and Suzanne—shares the highlights and deteails of his award-winning career as a major film, television, music, and theatrical producer in this revealing podcast interview.



You’ll hear Stuart describe the path of a Harvard-educated lawyer who juggled two careers at once, working his “day job” as a partner in a prominent Los Angeles law firm and eventually discovering his true passion as the producer of high-quality motion picture and musical entertainment. 



With college classmate and film director Taylor Hackford, Stuart formed New Visions, Inc. and produced some of the most memorable feature films of his generation.   Their first short film production, Teenage Father, earned Hackford an Oscar and threw open the gates of Hollywood studios as the pair delivered critical and commercial hits like Against All Odds, White Nights, La Bamba, and Everybody’s All-American, working with stellar casts that included Jeff Bridges, Rachel Ward, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Helen Mirren, Lou Diamond Phillips, Dennis Quaid, and Jessica Lang.



Stuart describes the Hollywood studio development process and the growth of New Visions into a creative powerhouse that went on to release another half-dozen movies and award-winning soundtrack albums. 


The natural outcome of Stuart’s lifelong passion for music—with music playing a central role in the success of a majority of his movies—was a long and lasting friendship with the legendary Ray Charles.  You’ll hear Stuart describe his relentless, decade-long struggle to produce Ray, which earned six Academy Award nominations, including his own for Best Picture.  The soundtrack for Ray won Stuart a Grammy Award and sales of more than 4,000,000 albums.



Turning his attention to live theatrical production, Stuart discusses differences between working in movies, television, and theater.  With his production of Louis & Keely Live breaking records in Los Angeles, he’s currently developing the compelling story of Stax Records in collaboration with soul singer Tasha Taylor, daughter of the iconic blues legend Johnny Taylor.



Stuart Benjamin has built a career in the mold of Hollywood’s great impresarios...and he generously shares the secrets of his success for us all to follow.


Direct download: Podcast39-StuartBenjamin-FINAL-5.1.15.mp3
Category:Movies -- posted at: 9:47pm PDT

This interview features acclaimed film scoring mixer Dennis Sands as he talks about his rise to the highest ranks of “behind the scenes” Hollywood legends.

Dennis describes his first gig working at MGM Recording Studios as we learn the true meaning of “working your way up from the bottom” and of being in the right place at the right time...if only by always being there. 

As Dennis tells his story of becoming a recording engineer for major artists like Ella Fitzgerald, Oscar Peterson, Count Basie, Big Joe Turner, and Sarah Vaughn, and then to his founding Hollywood’s Group IV Recording Studio you’ll learn how dedication to his craft, and “being a nice person” have been the keys to his amazing career.

You can actually feel the love Dennis has for his work when he describes the collaborative energy he shares with composers like Alan Silvestri, John Williams, and Danny Elfman...as well as with film directors like Tim Burton and Robert Zemeckis.

The conversation touches upon some of the more than 300 major feature films to his credit, and you’ll hear the appreciation Dennis has for his four Academy Award nominations (Forrest Gump, Back to the Future, Contact, The Polar Express), as well as for his multiple Emmy and Grammy nominations and wins.

Dennis Sands truly opens up professionally and personally, sharing his excitement over the cutting-edge installation of Dolby’s Atmos in his Sound Waves SB studio, the only one of its kind.  For those who hope to learn the keys to the success in Hollywood and how to follow in his footsteps, this podcast is pure gold.

After hearing this episode, you’ll agree that the life of Dennis Sands is truly... “an outstanding achievement”.


Direct download: Podcast37-DennisSands-FINAL-2.28.15.mp3
Category:Movies -- posted at: 3:41pm PDT

#31 David Gray: From The Kinks & Steeley Dan to The Oscars

From his early days in small town New England as an "electronics nerd", always tinkering with the family record player and stereo receiver, David Gray's professional career began as the guy repairing damaged speakers at the local drive-in movie theater for pocket change piecemeal wages.  David was an entrepreneurial "hippy" in college, promoting campus concerts and booking up-and-coming folk singers and rock bands...who all depended on his sound system technical skills.  While still in college, 19-year old David found himself on a national tour with The Kinks, where one of his jobs was repairing the band's beer-drenched sound gear. In this podcast, you'll learn what it takes to actually make a world-wide Rock & Roll tour a reality, as David recalls his gigs as concert tour sound engineer for Mahuvishnu Orchestra, Steely Dan, Linda Rondstadt, The Kinks, and Frank Zappa's Mothers of Invention. David tips his hat to the live performance talents of  The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, and shares the reason why they were so great in concert. With "life on the road" behind him, David was one of the early engineers drafted by Dolby Sound just as Star Wars put the company on the map.  He then found himself working on movies ranging from Sex, Lies, and Videotape and 200 Motels to mega-hits Die Hard, Flashdance, Footloose, and Predator. Always at the intersection of talent and technology, David has been recognized by The Motion Picture Academy as one of the industry's leading innovators in bringing film sound and music into the 21st Century.   David shares details of the recent introduction of Dolby's Atmos  and true "3D sound" to movie theaters around the world,  and gives genuine inspiration to anyone looking to break into the tech world of "movie sound".

Direct download: Podcast31-DavidGray-FINAL10.20.14.mp3
Category:Movies -- posted at: 12:47pm PDT