Producer Lori McCreary
I spoke by phone with producer Lori McCreary May 9, 2002.
Lori: "I grew up in the small town of Antioch in northern California. It was a blue-collar town with not a lot to do. My mother was a homemaker and an actress. She [Sharon Rich] gave up her career when she started having a family. She was in the women's version of Sea Hunt in the late 1950s. My father worked at DuPont for many years and then became a real estate broker.
"I have two younger siblings. My sister is not in the industry and my brother R. Dean McCreary is an aspiring actor and writer. We've just optioned one of his screenplays.
"When I was 14, Antioch got a large grant to build a state of the art theater. We had a computerized state of the art lighting board. I went back to Chicago to learn how to run it.
"Opening night, the computer didn't turn on and I had to run the show manually, which was not fun. I decided to study computers. I graduated from UCLA in 1984 with a degree in Computer Science. There were maybe four women in the program. And there was no one who was also in theater.
"I've always wanted to be in theater. I didn't have a connection to the movie world until 1985 when I saw the play Bopha, which I thought should be seen by more people.
"While in college, I co-founded a software company, Compulaw. We wrote software for lawyers. I was a programmer for years. I had a nice career going but I was bored. So I went to London to bring over a play with a lawyer friend of mine [Lawrence Taubman]. The play went into probate, so we ended up just seeing theater for days. And one of the plays was Bopha!.
"We came home and got a bunch of books on how to make movies. We learned how to option projects. We optioned Bopha!. A friend was a writers manager so she sent us over some writers. We got Morgan Freeman attached to direct and Danny Glover to star. We pitched the project around town and everyone said they loved the script but they turned us down.
"My partner happened to go on a blind date with Arsenio Hall's development person. She said we should send the script over. Arsenio was doing a big TV show for Paramount. They owed him a movie. This was right up his alley. Within the next couple of months, we were in South Africa scouting for the movie we shot in Zimbabwe.
"Even though my partner and I had not made a movie before, the studio left us alone to shoot our movie. This is the only movie that Morgan Freeman has directed. It takes a lot to direct a movie, particularly for someone who cares as much as Morgan. It's a year of his life. And he loves acting. That's his first love.
"We first called Morgan's agent to star in the movie. We sent over the script. His agent said he wanted to direct it if we could get Danny Glover to play the lead.
"I had a near-death experience in Zimbabwe during the last four weeks of pre-production. I had to come back to California and get fixed up. But I came back during the last week of prep and the experience put a good perspective on the whole thing.
"We brought together a diverse community of filmmakers. We had blacks and whites from England, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Australia and America all on one movie set.
"Zimbabwe was in a huge water crisis at the time. They generate their electricity through water. They gridded the country and depending on what grid you fell in, you had electricity two or three days a week. It wasn't always consistent with what they told us. We not only ran our set by generators but our production offices.
"I'd had an email account since the early 1980s. I came from the computer business. I was shocked to find that Paramount and other entities in the business did not have email and no way to electronically process production information. I ended up writing software to do our own production reports.
"We came in under budget. I'd wanted to make a deal so I could keep whatever we saved but studios don't make those kind of deals."
Luke: "How did you then come to form Revelations Entertainment with Morgan Freeman?"
Lori: "We hit it off. He became my mentor. We kept in touch. Back in 1993-94, I was a huge proponent of the internet when most people weren't sure what this thing was. I was talking to him about how I was going to the studios to talk about setting up websites. My belief is that the future of the entertainment industry is the intersection between TV and the Internet and feature films. It's going to be some kind of hybrid. We will not only be able to present movies digitally but we'll be able to use that product on different platforms. Morgan caught the vision. He said we should join up and do it together. We started the company in 1996."
Revelations first production was the 1999 TV movie Mutiny. "Fact-based story about 300 predominantly black sailors who were killed on July 17, 1944 while loading munitions on a ship in San Francisco. Three weeks later, 50 survivors were court-martialed for refusing to load another shipment. The men cited the Navy's lack of care for their safety." (Imdb.com)
Lori: "Mutiny came to us. NBC had been pitched a project and they came to us to executive produce it. I grew up near Concord, where this mutiny took place. I grew up with a lot of stories about what happened during this explosion.
"We sent the video to President Clinton and soon after Clinton, who said he watched the film, pardoned a guy (Freddie Meeks) involved in the mutiny. All the men were charged with mutiny and given dishonorable discharges.
"Under Suspicion was a passion project for Gene Hackman for many years. It got mired in a big rights problem. In France, rights are held by the creators, not only the producers. In America, if you want to do a remake of a movie, you just have to go to the original producer. But in France, you not only have to go to the producer but to the director and the writer. We had seven different entities we had to sign off to make the film."
Luke: "How has your vision for Revelations Entertainment changed over the years?"
Lori: "For many years, we tried to set up our own financing separate from the studios. And I found that I have a gem of a partner in Morgan Freeman who means a lot to people at the studios... And so we've weighted our projects more towards something that a studio will pick up.
"The primary reason that you don't do things with studios is that you lose control. But because Morgan is my partner, he comes with a certain amount of weight and control. We benefit from that.
"The climate has changed dramatically since 1996 when there were multiple players out there for independent film financing. Now there are three or four, slowly going down to one or two. And there's a question about payoff [going the independent route]. You can create a library and own a copyright but doesn't come back to you for 25 years, when the distribution contracts run out."
Luke: "What are you strengths as a producer?"
Lori: "I am most strong in technology. I have a vision on how to streamline production and capitalize on the digital front, which people will jump on as soon as Star Wars comes out. We're starting a big science fiction film this year with David Fincher that will be almost 100% digital. We'll build our sets digitally and motion capture our actors and shoot little real film footage."