Producer Randall Emmett

Born March 25, 1971, producer Randall Emmett already had 19 feature credits to his name when I interviewed him in his office April 10, 2002.

Brash and fast talking, Emmett is in the mold of such producers as Avi Lerner, Joel Silver, and Don Simpson.

Randy: "I grew up in Miami, Florida. I had no entertainment connections in my family aside from a distant cousin, Jerry Bruckheimer. I had always known about him. My mother grew up with him in Detroit.

"I started in the acting thing when I was young. I went to New Worlds School of the Arts high school in Miami. I got a hold of a video camera and got into making my little video shorts.

"I spent my first college year at Delphi University in Long Island. I had a full scholarship for acting. I became mesmerized by the process of production. I loved being in that magical environment. In summer, I worked as a PA on the [1991] movie The Hard Way, starring Michael J. Fox and LL CoolJ. I slept with my walkie talkie. It was the coolest thing in the world. As a PA, I got to lock up streets. I thought I'd arrived. I thought I was the big baller of PAs. At that point, I knew I had to be in movies.

"I wanted to go to film school and the only one I could get into was City College of City University of New York. I had no idea it was on 138th Street in Harlem. Here was this white Jewish kid from Miami, living on the Upper West Side. 'Oh, 138 St. It's just up 50 blocks. But once you pass Columbia University, it's a culture shock. I grew up in a sheltered environment. I had an 11:30PM curfew. I was a little momma's boy. And now I'm on a subway in Harlem and I'm in gangland. That was my growing up year. I was one of the few Caucasians at the school.

"When I look back on it, I was crazy. I'd stay in the editing room until 10PM and then walk a quarter of a mile to the subway. But that quarter-of-a-mile was gang infested. I guess I was blessed that nothing happened. It was extreme.

"Then I transferred to the School of Visual Arts on 23rd Street. I graduated in 1994. Everybody there wanted to be a director. I liked taking people's money and then budgeting it. These kids would have $15,000 and they would blow it. They'd never finish their projects. I became known as the production manager/producer. Every weekend for two years I was out shooting with these seniors. We did about 14 short films.

"We made a feature (Eyes Beyond Seeing) for $76,000. We went out to Long Island for four weeks. I put the crew up in a dorm. I had to have a star in the movie and the biggest one I could get was Henny Youngman. I called local TV stations to come out and cover us. We sold it for domestic release to UPN and we sold it foreign as well. And I knew that I wanted to be a Hollywood producer.

"I was in my dorm room drinking a 40 [ounce beer] and eating a slice of pizza, with three dollars in my pocket, when Jerry Bruckheimer returned my call. I remember what he said to me. He asked me what I wanted to do. I told him and then he replied, 'People will tell you what you do best. Instead of you deciding what you do best, people will tell you. And you'll find your thing.' And I found it in producing.

"I moved to Los Angeles. I worked as a development intern for Jerry Bruckheimer. I got a taste of Hollywood. I got to go to the editing room of Bad Boys and watch [director] Michael Bay. Unfortunately, I was jaded, because this was the highest level for a producer. I knew this was where I wanted to be but I didn't know there was a whole [spectrum] between Jerry Bruckheimer and nothing.

"One of my best friends was Mark Wahlberg. I met him the day I moved to LA. We hit it off. He loves film. I love film.

"Aaron Spelling wrote me a letter of recommendation and I took that to ICM with other letters of recommendation and I got my first assistant job, working for talent agent Nick Stein. Agencies are the nucleus of the business. If you want to learn how to be a producer, you need to go to an agency. That's where everything starts.

"I worked for Nick over a year. Then I left to work as a personal assistant to Mark Wahlberg for two years, leading up to his appearance in Boogie Nights. After 18 months, I left to work in foreign sales. I'd get on the phone and cold call people.

"A bunch of us producers started around the same time - Matt Rhodes, Tucker Tooley, Vincent Newman, David Glasser... We're all good friends. We all came up together. We'd all been burned by fake money guys. We'd met people who said they had $400 million to invest...

"Then I met my partner George Furla. He's a financier from a Wall Street background. I remember when he came into the room. He proves that you can't judge a book by its cover. I'm more of a stylish wear-it-on-the-sleeve kinda guy. My partner wears sweatpants and a T-shirt. If he's going to meet with the president, that's what he wears.

"He sat down in the room and I thought, 'Oh no. Another bullshitter. Another guy who knows a guy whose uncle in Kansas has $400 trillion.' I said, 'This movie's [1999's Speedway Junkie] going. I need this amount of money to hold the actor. I need this amount of money to hold the script.' Maybe a total of $30,000.

"He reached into his pocket, no contract, nothing, and pulled out crumpled up checks. They were balled up. And he starts writing checks. I thought it was a joke. He gave me three checks and then said, 'Ok, we've got to work out the deal.' I thought the checks would bounce like the NBA but they all went through. We opened up production offices and made the movie.

"During the production of that movie, we decided that we should partner up. We have a similar work ethic. Different people. I'm loud and obnoxious and in your face. George is reserved and calculating. If I go over the top, he's there to pull me back. And if we need to step forward, I'm there to say, 'Let's go.'

"George took us public [in year 2000. Emmett/Furla is owned by Familyroom Entertainment.]. We've made 19 movies."

Luke: "Someone told me that you're a mini Joel Silver."

Randall: "I've heard that a lot. I don't know Joel personally. To me, that's the biggest compliment in the universe. People say that I'm a mini Don Simpson. If I could have one tenth of the success that either of these producers had, I could die happily. Yeah, I yell and scream a lot. But it is all for a movie. I don't go down the street and yelling at the guy selling hot dogs. I'm yelling because I am a perfectionist and I want that movie to be the best. I have a partner who will sometimes say, 'Get back in your cage.'"

Luke: "What are some of the things you've learned from producing movies?"

Randall: "If you are fighting from day one with someone over little things, it will only get worse. These are not the type of people you want to work with.

"My biggest lessons have come from being fucked over. It's a good learning curve. But for me to say that there is anything bad about this business, about making movies, I'd have to reconfigure my answer. There is nothing bad about this business. I love making movies."