I am happy to announce the premiere of The Road to Cinema Podcast; a continuation of our YouTube series. This is an opportunity to speak in a relaxed, long-form conversation with some of the most respected figures in the film industry.
Our first podcast features the Producers Guild of America president Hawk Koch. As a producer and First A.D. (assistant director) he has worked with some of the biggest talents in Hollywood and has contributed to the making of some of the most celebrated American films of the 1970s and beyond.
Producer Hawk Koch is the son of producer Howard W. Koch who was instrumental in bringing to the screen the classic comedy “The Odd Couple” starring Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau, “Airplane!”, “The Manchurian Candidate”, and served as president of production at Paramount Pictures in the mid 1960s.
After working on a few low budget horror movies, Mr. Koch got to the set of a large scale studio production “This Property is Condemned” which starred Robert Redford, Natalie Wood, and directed by Sydney Pollack. When the first A.D. had to suddenly quit, a 19 year old Hawk Koch stepped up to the plate and assisted the newly christened first A.D. taking the position as second A.D.. This was a time in movies before production assistants. The only people running a set were the assistant directors.
Hawk Koch with Roman Polanski and Jack Nicholson on the set of “Chinatown”
Hawk Koch with Barbra Streisand on the set of “The Way We Were”
For those who have not ventured onto a film set, the first A.D. is one of the toughest jobs in filmmaking. While the director is dealing with the creative aspects of the production, the assistant director must schedule the entire shoot, organize the crew, and keep a general pace and “peace” among the crew so the production continues to move through out the day. The A.D. is right by the director’s side to ensure the shoot is efficient, the script pages are shot, and that every department is organized to the utmost detail.
Hawk Koch with Warren Beatty on the set of “Heaven Can Wait”
Having such an incredible understanding of on-set production led Mr. Koch to produce such quality films as “The Pope of Greenwich Village”, “Gorky Park”, “Wayne’s World”, “Losing Isaiah”, and Edward Norton’s directorial debut “Keeping the Faith”.
Hawk Koch on the set of “Wayne’s World” with Mike Myers, Dana Carvey, Rob Lowe, and Tia Carrere
Hawk Koch is the only second generation Academy president. His father, Howard W. Koch, served as the President of the Academy from 1977 to 1979. Mr. Koch’s leadership as the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences president during the 2012 to 2013 term led to innovative progressions in online voting for the Academy Awards, full member voting for the documentary and short subject categories, and the first ever all inclusive full membership meeting for every member of the Academy. He was also instrumental in putting together a week’s long celebration which honored the nominees leading up to the official Sunday night ceremony.
Producers are often the first people to develop a concept, find the property, work with writers on drafts of a script, and eventually gather all of the elements together to create the auspices for production. The respect for the art and craft of producing has sadly dwindled in the last decades because of the proliferation of the producing credit. The single “produced by” credit could be bought and sold during the financing and green light of a film’s production making way for a half dozen or more individuals credited as a producer. The question then became, “Who of those half a dozen individuals was the actual ‘David O. Selznick’ or ‘Robert Evans’ who developed the film from abject emptiness?”. Mr. Koch has fought many years as the president of the Producers Guild of America to reclaim the legitimacy of the “produced by” credit. In 2013, the battle was on. Now each and every “produced by” credit will receive a PGA seal of approval on screen through a strict arbitration process to determine the genuine producers.
Hawk Koch continues to produce films today with an unflinching passion for the business. Mr. Koch has what every extraordinary producer possesses; the continuing determination to bring a movie to life in development, on-set, and ultimately on-screen.
Subscribe to The Road to Cinema Podcast feed on iTunes and listen to our inaugural episode with producer and first A.D. Hawk Koch.
Click here to listen!