With a mix of sincerity and silliness, leading independent film producer Ted Hope was saluted Thursday night at the Hamptons International Film Festival by an leading group of filmmaking colleagues and industry friends. The event, presented in conjunction with indieWIRE, ranged from toast to roast as M.C. Rosie Perez, filmmakers John Waters and Todd Solondz, fellow producers Christine Vachon, Jason Kliot & Joana Vicente, Anthony Bregman, Scott Macaulay, Ross Katz, This Is That colleagues Anne Carey and Diana Victor, and former Good Machine business partner James Schamus stood to speak about Hope (others including Hal Hartley and Ang Lee sent taped messages). It was the Hamptons fest's 3rd annual Industry Toast, previous recipients include Sony Pictures Classics' Marcie Bloom and Picturehouse president Bob Berney.
At the intimate event that welcomed just 100 guests to East Hampton Point, Rosie Perez kicked things off by mocking Hope's trademark nasal voice and distinctive laugh, comparing the producer to SpongeBob SquarePants. Then personally thanking him for inspiring her, she offered sincerely, "This industry is tough -- its great to have somebody who loves it as much as Ted Hope."
Anne Carey saluted her business partner's "persuasive charm," praising him as a man who is patient, vigilant, and never settles, while Anthony Bregman, who recently left This Is That to form his own company, praised Hope for both his work and his life. "Ted as a producer is Ted as a person," Bregman toasted, "For me, Ted set the standard for how a producer should work and how a producer should live." Meanwhile Good Machine Ross Katz alum saluted his former boss as a mentor.
Producer of more than 50 films, Hope's career began in New York City' emerging indie film scene in the early 1990s. He first made a name for himself while working on the Hal Hartley films "The Unbelievable Truth" (1989) and "Trust" (1990), then formed Good Machine with James Schamus in 1991, creating one of New York's leading production companies. Films from the company included movies by Ang Lee ("The Wedding Banquet" in 1993 and "The Ice Storm" in 1997), Nicole Holofcener ("Walking and Talking" in 1996 and "Lovely and Amazing" in 2001), and Todd Solondz ("Happiness" in 1998 and "Storytelling" in 2001), among many others.
"We were looking for autonomy," Ted Hope explained simply when asked by indieWIRE why he launched the independent film production company This Is That in 2002. Being independent is a status that he has maintained throughout his career. Hope has said that the ability to say "what you want, how you want, while still reaching the audience you desire", is as essential to his process as it is to his worldview.
After Good Machine was acquired by Universal Studios to create Focus Features, Hope launched the new company with colleagues Anne Carey and Anthony Bregman. Their films included Julian Goldberger's "The Hawk is Dying" (2006), screening at this year's Hamptons fest, Jeff Feuerzeig's documentary "The Devil and Daniel Johnston" (2005), John Waters' "A DIrty Shame" (2004), Tod Williams' "Door in the Floor" (2004), Nicole Holofcener's "Friends with Money" (2006), and Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu's "21 Grams."
During that key turning point in his career, Hope also lead a group of independent producers in a successful 2003 battle against the MPAA over the use DVD screeners in awards season campaigning and produced Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini's award-winning "American Splendor the same year.
"I owe more to Ted than anyone else here does," James Schamus said humbly as the evening drew to a close, citing Hope as a catalyst who not only drew the leaders of New York's indepenent film community to the Hamptons for the evening event, but many years ago brought Schamus together with longtime creative collaborator Ang Lee. In a taped message, filmmaker Lee saluted Hope as both, "the spirit of Good Machine and the spirit of independent filmmaking."
Hope's upcoming projects include Hal Hartley's "Fay Grim," Jesse Peretz' "Fast Track," Tamra Jenkins' "The Savages," an untitled project by Alan Ball and a new film from Todd Solondz.
"I really believed I would never get to make movies," Hope said, his voice crackling during a speech that was filled with emotion at the end of the night. "I thought it was some club you had to get admitted to," he said, adding later, "I am thankful I got to make movies, I hope it keeps on happening."