Producer Mary Aloe
We spoke by phone Friday, Oct. 3, 2008, about her new film "Battle in Seattle."
Mary: "This is a great film but with limited... P&A (prints and advertising), it's hard to get people in."
"It's one of the best reviewed films in the nation right now."
"I was watching the Tonight Show. Kevin Farley was on. He is in An American Carol. He's also in one of my movies. I did not produce An American Carol.
"Charlize had just been on the Tonight Show talking about Battle in Seattle. Jay Leno said he loved the movie. Jay said how do you get corporate America [to support Battle in Seattle which is anti-corporate]?"
Luke: "I like that this movie is about people who believe in things greater than themselves."
Mary: "Harvey Weinstein said to me that this was an important film that makes people want to do good."
"Many of the protesters that were in the battle in Seattle in 1999...came to openings. To hear them and that we got their blessing and that we tried to keep it real... It takes extraordinary backbone to do what they do and to risk themselves like that. I don't know how many people in America are willing to do that but we got to meet a lot of them during filming and that was exciting."
Luke: "People who have passion are so much more interesting."
Mary: "I live my life on passion but it is not the same passion as these protesters have."
"Many of the stars that were in this movie went from driving big SUVs and Mercedes to Priuses. I know it changed everybody on this set."
Luke: "What is your greatest motivating passion?"
Mary: "To do more movies that affect people, that are thought-provoking."
"We just paid for the rights to the prequel to The Passion of the Christ. It's Mary, Mother of the Christ. We're going to be doing that for MGM in Morocco."
Luke: "Would you be able to produce a movie with an ideology the opposite of your own, say, An American Carol?"
Mary: "Huh? Not that one."
"I did Cabin Fever 2, a horror movie sequel from Lions Gate. It was a money deal."
"Our movie Battle in Seattle screened at the Democratic convention in Denver. Stuart and Charlize were out there for Obama. It was also screened in Washington D.C. for staunch Republicans."
"Somebody just brought me Bhutto's story."
Luke: "Do you ever think about the social and professional consequences with producing a movie that would be unpopular with your peers?"
Mary: "I'm not that thinking about that."
Luke: "Out of everything you do as a producer, what do you think you do best?"
Mary: "Understanding the art of igniting passion. I understand and structure financing really well. I mitigate investor risk. The art of the deal is what I do best."
"We got stars to do this movie (Battle in Seattle) for virtually nothing."
I interviewed producer Mary Aloe by phone February 8, 2002.
Mary Aloe: "I was looking at your fax [pitching an interview] and I recognized the name of Roger Gimbel among others. He was my dad's best friend before my dad passed away from Leukemia."
Luke: "How did you get into the entertainment industry?"
Mary: "I started out as a reporter while I was going to USC [but never graduated]. A group of us started a rockn'roll magazine called ROCK that went to about 35 countries. It was fun. It was the 1980s and I was hanging out with David Lee Roth, Berlin, Sheila E and all those people. I also interviewed movie stars and television shows.
"When I was 22, I wrote one story for the National Enquirer. It wasn't for me. It broke my heart. I interviewed Ted Turner's ex-wife and she started to break down in tears. Working for the Enquirer was like selling your soul to the devil.
"I worked as a book publicist for Jeremy Tarcher, now a subsidiary of Putnam Publishing. I represented many books that showed up on Oprah, Larry King, CNN, such as Timothy Lear's Flashbacks, Women Who Love Too Much, Love is a Drug...
"When I got these authors on talkshows, I ended up having to write the theme of the whole segment and putting together the panel, to get my author on the show. Otherwise, they said no to my authors. I ended up doing that so well that Montel Williams and Geraldo offered me jobs producing. I moved to New York and my first show was Geraldo. I moved to Hard Copy, freelanced for 20/20 [ABC news magazine show], A Current Affair. All those news magazine tabloid shows.
"It gave me a treasure chest of lawyers and publicists and real life stories. If you gave me Star Wars, I wouldn't know what to do with it. I just spoke in front of the Producers Guild of America about my forte - taking real life stories and turn them into features, TV series, cable events, TV movies and documentaries. I'm now producing my first documentary - The Lost Tapes of John and Yoko. It was shot by Yoko's ex-husband as part of a divorce settlement. The ten hours of tape were in a monastery for 30 years and I just got the rights to them. We're working with the production company A Band Apart, which did Good Will Hunting.
"While I was at Hard Copy, I got a story about a woman named Jackie McDonald. Jackie lost her daughter, who was raped and murdered. The police gave up on finding the murderer. Jackie searched for eight years, tracked him down and had him prosecuted. I've set it up as a movie.
"My business partner is Tom Colbert. There is no other team in the country like us. Tom runs the most prestigious news bureau in America. He has clients like People magazine, 48 Hours, 20/20, Good Morning America, The Early Show, The Today Show."
I found this bio of Tom on the net: "Tom Colbert served more than 10 years with CBS News before being recruited by Paramount Television to help create the syndicated show, Hard Copy. After two years as the program's Director of Research, he left to launch his own story-development business. His Hollywood-based research company, Industry R&D, has provided breaking stories to leading producers and publishers worldwide since 1992; a recent example is the feature film Fly Away Home. Colbert also supplies stories for police, fire and paramedic training, many of which have appeared as TV segments. In 1994, the NBC movie Baby Brokers portrayed Colbert's actual part in helping solve a historical surrogate-fraud case. "After hours", he has written for publications as diverse as The Washington Post and Spy Magazine."
Mary and Tom served as executive producers of the 2001 TV movie The Princess and the Marine. "Based on a true story, American Marine Jason Johnson (Goselaar) is sent on assignment to the Emirate of Bahrain. While there, he meets and falls in love with a spirited, lovely young woman, Meriam (Nichols), without realizing she is really a member of the Bahraini Royal Family. Meriam, who does not wish to consent to an arranged marriage, knows her love affair with Jason is dangerous, as he is a Mormon Christian and she a Muslim. Her parents would never consent to their match, and so Meriam and Jason race against time to escape Bahrain and make it to the United States, where they can marry. If Meriam is sent back, however, her life may be in jeopardy." (Imdb.com)
Mary: "Tom's company, Industry Research & Development (IRD), has over 550 small town news reporters feeding Tom news stories that he ends up feeding into a national arena. So I know the stories before they come out. He takes the stories and places them.
"The day before yesterday, I flew to Seattle for lunch. I met with a woman that just found a cure for MS. She's a former nurse who had MS and would not give up the fight. She discovered the cure and won the Nobel Prize. It's an Erin Brokovich type story. I get these stories first. Tom gives them to me.
"I have a deal set up at Showtime for a series about America's number one drug informant, Andrew Chambers. He was the DEA undercover guy for 16 years. African-American, funny guy, who walks the line between good and greed. I flew to New York to meet with Andrew. I set up a dinner with Connie Chung. We all had dinner together. Three months later, we timed it so that I was ready with the pitch. I'd alerted all the networks and studios. I knew that on Monday we had a Newsweek piece coming out. Tom had coordinated that. On Wednesday I had New York Times. On Thursday I had 20/20. After that, I had Spike Lee, Ice Cube, Laurence Fishburne calling me. I wanted a TV series out of it because he had over 450 cases. So that we didn't lose a lot of money, I took it directly to Showtime and put a show-runner on it.
"So that create a lot of heat and that just goes on and on. We just set up a series with the creators of Baywatch, Doug Schwartz and Michael Braverman, and Lions Gate. It's about a group of team firefighters. They are all-girl teams of firefighters. They all go to school together. They serve eight towns in Alaska that can not afford to pay firemen. They go out and go under the ice. They save kids from burning buildings. Tom just got them on the back cover of Readers Digest this month. We have People magazine coming out. So it creates a bidding war and a lot of interest.
"We're not so interested in a bidding war. We did that on one of our projects, The Princess and the Marine. I would've liked more time to produce it. We wanted to do a feature. But if I had not done it right away, there were two other networks that would've ripped it from the headlines and done without us and squashed our deal. We made the deal in August  and we had it on the air for February sweeps . The press on the story was so enormous that we ended up having one of the biggest bidding wars in history for a TV movie.
"I met with the princess and the marine for lunch. We optioned their rights. We gave them a six figure deal. We then moved forward to get the deficit-financing and set up a deal. The networks could've just ripped it from the headlines but we had Oprah, Barbara Walters, Katie Couric, People magazine, 48 Hours... Nobody could compete with us. I had 12 studios and five networks vying for that and I had the rights.
"We prefer not to create bidding wars. It leaves a bad taste with people. Instead I place projects. I get the deficit-financing. I attach a famous director and a star. Tom does the media and I do the movies. I get the rights and then Tom takes it national.
"I have a big feature now with a wonderful director (Roland Jaffe) attached. It's the story of a kid out of Arizona who looks like Mark Wahlberg. A summa cum laude student, on the wrestling team, pre-med. He was looking for a father figure and thanks to the government, he found one in Sammy "The Bull" Gravano. And they started the biggest drug ecstasy ring in America. Now the kid is in Witness Protection."
I found this on Zap2it.com: "Oscar-winner Joe Pesci is in talks to star in a film about Mafia hitman Sammy "The Bull" Gravano. Gravano, who was an underling of New York crime figure John Gotti, abandoned the federal witness-protection program to deal the drug ecstasy in partnership with a group of wealthy suburban kids. Pesci's involvement in the film, titled Sammy the Bull, is conditional upon the project being developed as a theatrical release. The movie, which is set up at New Regency Productions, could become a TV movie, said Tom Colbert, a co-executive producer."
Mary: "I'm taking out a feature with Steven Seagal about an undercover cop named Valentine in the murder-for-hire world."
Luke: "How involved are you in these projects?"
Mary: "I produce from beginning to end. I'm on the set every day. I do all the casting sessions. I hire the writer. Tom and I are not rights chasers. We go in and option the rights but we will never give them up or sell them off. I have to produce. I'm in every single network pitch meeting. I'm in every single day of that set, I'm so committed to producing. It's not about just getting the money and having a bidding war. If it is television, we executive-produce it. If it is a feature, we produce it.
"The most important thing to me is that we are able to tell a story without exploitation. The story of this young Arizona man's story is that you better look closely at the infrastructure of your home. You don't know who your neighbors are. Your kid could look somewhere else for a father figure. The subplot is that the Witness Protection Program doesn't work.
"Our DEA guy on the one hand is a hero because he keeps drugs away from the kids. On the other hand, he lives life on the edge. He's not the greatest person in the world. Sometimes he has to break the law to break the lawbreakers.
"We don't work with the tabloids so much but we work with Readers Digest, Vanity Fair, People... Most producers get the story after it's broken. They see something on 20/20 for example. Tom and I already have the rights to the story before it's even placed on 20/20. We're placing stories in Rolling Stone. We're placing stories to create buzz, to prick the studio's ear... I have strong contacts at the networks. We have our point people when we walk in. We have agents and stellar attorneys that work with us.
"I also do music management. I have band named Docken which is on a 60-city tour with House of Blues now. We have a girls group getting signed with Universal. I have a music partner (Todd Waxler) who was the former director of Business Affairs for Virgin Records. But I focus more on film."
Luke: "Was it a difficult transition from producing TV talk shows to producing movies?"
Mary: "It was a natural transition."
Luke: "Getting up to speed on financing?"
Mary: "It hasn't been difficult. That's where I really shine. That's where deficit-financing comes in. That's what I do first. I go to the Columbia-Tri Stars, Fox Family, etc... I raise the money from a studio to pay extraordinary people for their stories."