by Jane Morson, Executive Producer, “Awakening” and “Stiletto”
This morning I was reminded that February 25th is George Harrison’s birthday, which prompted me to write the blog that I’ve been promising to write for months now – as a tribute to the single most important influence in my decision to become an Executive Producer and partner in Hesperidian Productions – that is, apart from Kyle Thomas, my talented and inspiring business partner.
For those unfamiliar with the story of George Harrison’s entry into filmmaking as Executive Producer, let me summarize in a few sentences. George was a huge fan of Monty Python and eagerly followed all the details of pre-production on “Life of Brian.” When funding for the film fell through at the last minute, George mortgaged his house and his office to make the project happen, creating Handmade Films in the process. “It was the most expensive movie ticket ever bought,” Eric Idle frequently claims.
Unfortunately, I don’t have the wealth or influence of an ex-Beatle; it would certainly be handy in growing Hesperidian Productions, if I did. But at a critical time in the formation of our company and in the pre-production planning for our first film, “Awakening,” I realized that even with my modest means, I COULD fund our first short film (without mortgaging my house). With that realization, came a second one: I wanted to make the project happen, both for its own sake and as a foundation upon which to build the Film Department.
A few months later, having co-conceived of the story for “Stiletto” and helped with several drafts of the screenplay, I once again made the financial commitment to make “Stiletto” a reality. The first day on the set – seeing the crowd of extras and crew, the three-ton grip truck and the actors poised to film the first scene on the courthouse steps – I looked around and realized that, with my modest investment of funds, I had made this amazing creative enterprise happen. It was exhilarating and humbling at the same time. The months of location-scouting, casting, research and rehearsal were a fantastic experience in and of themselves, but the moment that it all came together on location – on a grander scale than “Awakening,” but tiny when compared with a typical studio production – that moment was one of the happiest and most fulfilling moments of my life.
As an admirer of George Harrison, the musician, the spiritual seeker, the humanitarian, and, yes, the moviemaker, I think of him often when facing the challenges that producing presents. I often jokingly refer to George as “the Patron Saint of Executive Producers” and proudly wear my George earrings or George button on the set or at company meetings.
I should add that, like my mentor, I want Hesperidian Productions to achieve financial success and I, personally, want to minimize my tax liability. Of all of the Beatles, George was the most concerned to understand the finances of the group; and, as author of the song, “Taxman,” he effectively voiced his protest at the 95% tax rate levied by the British government on the group’s earnings. As a businesswoman and Executive Producer, I want our films to make money and well understand the value of the tax deductions that my investment makes possible.
So, today, on George’s 69th birthday, I pay tribute to him as a role model for the creative life I’m now leading and for inspiring me every day in my work. And I encourage others, whatever their individual inspiration, to pursue their inclinations – whatever their age, their means or their artistic talent – and make their dream of a creative life a reality.
“Life of Brian” Executive Producer, George Harrison, made a cameo appearance with his friends, the Pythons.