Academy Award–nominated producer Sarah Green ’81 spoke to the Emerson community on December 3 in a well-attended event as part of the Bright Lights series. Sponsored by the Department of Visual and Media Arts, the series brings screenings, discussions, and presentations from industry professionals to Emerson.
Green was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture in 2012 for Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life. She sits on the National Board of Directors of the Producers’ Guild of America and has received an Emerson Distinguished Alumni Achievement Award. Her recent project with director Jeff Nichols, Mud, starred Matthew McConaughey and Reese Witherspoon and was nominated last month for two Independent Spirit Awards. The film received the Robert Altman Award for Best Ensemble Cast.
Green was introduced by Assistant Professor Miranda Banks of the Department of Visual and Media Arts, who led the conversation during which Green answered questions and shared stories from her successful producing career.
To start the evening, a selection of trailers of Green’s more prominent films was shown to familiarize the audience with her work. The reel included clips from Karyn Kusama’s Girlfight, David Mamet’s State and Main, Julie Taymor’s Frida, Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life, and Jeff Nichols’ Mud.
“I don’t know how I got here exactly, but I can tell you it had a lot to do with passion,” said Green.
While attending school in Boston, Green began going to see films more frequently. She found herself enthralled with the magic of cinema and transferred to Emerson after two years of engineering school.
“I found my way into production,” she said. “It was all fueled by passion.”
Today, Green must be picky with the projects she chooses to align herself with. “A project has to get under my skin and hold on and gnaw on me at night,” she said. “It has to hold up under that intense scrutiny, and if it holds up…I know that’s the project I have to work on.”
She told the audience that the success of a project depends greatly upon the people attached to it as well as the strength of the original idea. “It takes a lot of us to make a movie, [and] it takes a really clear vision,” she said.
As far as the content of her projects, Green recognized a pattern. “I’m kind of obsessed with coming of age,” she said.
Producing wasn’t always the end goal for Green. At Emerson, she was first interested in cinematography. “The film department was like a dozen people then,” she said. “The great news was that I could do anything and everything.”
She did, and she urged aspiring producers in the audience to do the same. “Do everything you can on a movie,” she said. “It gives you enormous perspective. It helps you understand how a story gets told by everybody.”
Currently, Green is in post-production on Malick’s two upcoming films, The Knight of Cups and Untitled Project V. She is also in pre-production on Jeff Nichols’ film Midnight Special.
“Somehow in the last few years, there’s been too many things I couldn’t say no to,” she said. “It’s been a lively time.”