Producer Jesse Hope on A Love Song |

Dale Dickey in A love song by Max Walker-Silverman. (Photo: Alfonso Herrera Salcedo)

Max Walker – Silverman’s A love song pits a pair of reconnected childhood sweethearts – both now widowed – against the backdrop of an intimate American West. Shot in rural Colorado amid the COVID pandemic, the film required precautions beyond what was stipulated in new union guidelines at the time, requiring everyone involved to come in and form a “bubble” for the duration. from production. Senior producer Jesse Hope discusses the difficulties and benefits of such an approach and how his experience working on sets with directors like Quentin Tarantino and the Coen brothers prepared him to take the reins.

Director: Tell me about the professional background that led you to produce this film, your first? What professions within and outside the film industry have you had and what professional experience has best prepared you to be a producer?

Hope: I’ve had an eclectic career in the film industry since graduating from college in 2013. I started out as a production assistant for the Telluride Film Festival and Sundance. In 2014, when The Hateful Eight production came to my hometown of Telluride, I worked my way up as a set assistant, then as a set designer, as Quentin Tarantino’s personal driver (for two days, before being questionably dismissed), as an office assistant, and finally as a special effects technician. After The Hateful EightI joined IATSE 480 and was lucky enough to stay busy working for great directors such as the Coen brothers, Taylor Sheridan and Eva Longoria-Bastón. Before producing A love songI produced Left-handed / Right-handed and Summer Chuj Boys with Max while at NYU.

Outside of my experience producing shorts with Max, my on-set experience as a special effects technician better prepared me to be a feature film producer. As a union technician, I have witnessed firsthand the implications of decisions made from above. Film sets have the potential to be safe, creative and collaborative spaces, but unfortunately, in my experience, this is the exception and not the rule.

Director: How did you come into contact with this filmmaker and end up producing the film?

Hope: Max and I grew up together in Telluride. He and my brother Greg spent their childhood chasing me on their skis. I taught them everything they know. We started making movies together while he was in NYU’s graduate program, and we’re learning together.

Director: How long did it take to produce the film, and if you could break it down into stages, time periods, what were they?

Hope: All told, it took about a year and a half to produce the film. Max had been thinking about the idea for a long time, but the script came together in less than a month. Pre-production took about three months. Principal photography, one month. Max edited the film on his laptop for about six months, cleaned it up with Affonso Gonçalves for a month, then traveled to Mexico City to complete the sound, color and visual effects for a month. The submissions and preparation for the festival took a few months.

Director: Have you had any significant or influential mentors or support organizations that have been instrumental in your development as a producer?

Hope: Dan Janvey will say that Max and I are the main producers of this movie, but he’s a humble liar. Dan is the producer we all wish we had. He brings care and honesty without ego and we would have hit a wall without him.

Director: What was the most difficult aspect of producing this film?

Hope: We fired A love song in the fall of 2020, when our understanding of COVID was very limited. There were plenty of councils that had recently come out of unions and guilds that were very helpful, but filming in rural Colorado presented some unique challenges. Bringing in cast and crew from across the country safely was a very difficult problem to solve.

Director: What element of the film are you most proud of, or perhaps most excited about, as a producer?

Hope: We decided that the only way to ensure the safety of our cast and crew was to create a “bubble” at our filming location and accommodation in Norwood. To create the ‘bubble’, we required everyone who would live in company accommodation or work on site to self-isolate for seven days in Telluride and complete testing before moving to Norwood. It meant that our friends and family supported us while we were cut off from the world. It also meant that our little team of tough guys traveled to Telluride and spent a week locked in a room alone in one of the most beautiful places in the world.

When we moved to Norwood, after all tests were negative and after months of moving skeptically around strangers, we slowly started to come together. And that brief little moment of being able to feel safe around relative strangers and befriending each of them was more than I could have hoped for.

Director: What surprised or unexpected you during the making of the film?

Hope: It even takes more than a village. We have a great community back home that helped us get this thing off the ground, but it took an outpouring of support from around the world to end it the right way.

Director: What are the challenges facing young producers entering the business at this unique historical moment? And what could or should change in the film industry to make production a more sustainable practice?

Hope: I think the biggest challenge facing producers and the film industry in general is an unhealthy relationship with work. Cinema is an art and a profession. We are all lucky to do what we do, but everyone involved deserves safety, respect and fair pay. It’s harder than it should be, but worth the fight.

Director: Finally, what advice would you give to a future young producer who is about to embark on his first production?

Take deep breaths. Everything collapses and reconstitutes itself.


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