The Idyllwild International Festival of Cinema 2012 (IIFC) plans to honor longtime Hollywood producer, director and production manager Mike Moder with its 2012 Lifetime Merit Award. The award will be presented at the festival’s conclusion.
Moder will have a lot to share both with festival audiences and attending young filmmakers while he is in Idyllwild. Of his time in the business he said, “In 50 years, you have to do something. I was a budget guy. I believed the money you spent should wind up on the screen.”
Moder said that is not the case today where budgets are inflated by adding producers who receive credit but do little or nothing to advance the film as well as adding duplicative and redundant personnel.
“Now there are just too many people,” he said. “When I produced, I drafted a budget based on how many days I needed to shoot and what crew I would need. That was the money I needed to make the movie. The rest could be used to hire the actors.”
Moder related leaving as producer on the 1999 epic “Anna and the King” after he had secured Emma Thompson in the lead role and budgeted for shooting at the actual royal palace in Bangkok. Disagreements with the director over casting Jodie Foster instead of Thompson at an additional $10 million tariff over what Thompson would have been paid, money Moder believed would not show up on the screen, led him to leave the movie.
“I thought it was time to hang it up,” he related. The end result was a very expensive failure with Foster cast as Anna and a budget $23 million more than Moder had projected.
Moder, who started in television in the early 1960s with “Wanted: Dead or Alive,” “The Rifleman,” “The Big Valley,” and “The Wild Wild West,” as assistant director (AD) moved on to the big screen as AD on “Little Big Man,” “Jeremiah Johnson,” and “Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore.” In the 1980s Moder moved up to executive in charge of production on television’s “Perry Mason,” “Jake and the Fatman” and “Matlock.” He received an Emmy Nomination in 1998 as producer for “Cinderella,” a new version of the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic. He then went on to run Viacom’s operation at Universal Studios. He also served as executive producer on two very successful movies, “Crimson Tide” with Denzel Washington and Gene Hackman, and “Beverly Hills Cop” with Eddie Murphy.
Moder said he has been in the business long enough to have seen it all. “I’m one of the few people who’s worked with John Wayne,” he recalled. “He was always on the set, not hanging out in his trailer. Everybody who worked with him loved the guy.”
Moder has many stories from his years in Hollywood. He’s very affable and his professional life could itself be a movie. He’ll be available during IIFC 2012 to share what he has seen and experienced while working in movies and television, how the business has changed, and what advice he thinks young filmmakers might benefit from — “Put the money on the screen” being his most salient suggestion.
Incidentally, his son, Danny, is married to Julia Roberts.