The Producers of My Boyfriends’ Dogs
Marcy Gross and Ann Weston are the executive producers of MY BOYFRIENDS’ DOGS. Together, they have achieved much success and many honors, including “Best Television Producer of the Year,” awarded by the American Film Institute. Twice, they’ve been nominated for an Emmy: Outstanding Miniseries for “Billionaire Boys Club” and “Outstanding Television Movie” for the Hallmark Hall of Fame “A Place for Annie.”
I admit I’ve never quite been sure what a producer does (besides coming up with the money), or how a book or screenplay ends up as a movie. Marcy was kind enough to straighten me out and to give me a fun, lively, and informative interview.
DM: What exactly does a producer do?
MG: On a feature film, the producer is boss. On a television production, it’s the executive producers who are boss. They hunt for good ideas and stories, find the project, sell the concept to a network or cable, then bring on board everyone needed to make the movie.
Producers then work with the network or cable company in developing the movie. Certain things need approval. For example, when we were working on MY BOYFRIENDS’ DOGS, Hallmark felt the first script strayed too far from the book, and the original screenwriter wasn’t open to changing his script enough to please the company. That’s when we brought on Gary Goldstein; he went back to the book and kept the script true to that story. We were fortunate to get Terry Ingram, a wonderful director, and the cinematographer he’s worked so well with before, Ron Stannett. We hire the entire cast, also with approval from Hallmark.
DM: Wow! I admit I thought producers mostly had to worry about the money.
MG: Well, we’re the ones who pay, all right. We have to pay you, the author, for the rights to a movie version of your book. We have to pay the screenwriter and everyone else we need to get a project into development. Our line producer, Chris, does the budget and makes deals for the crew, including production designers, costumers, lighting, so many things. We get reimbursed, and our production partner will take over payments, but we don’t make money unless the movie makes it to production.
DM: How did you and Ann get into producing?
MG: It’s stupid really. I knew I wanted to work after the kids were out of the house. My husband was in the business, and friends—one friend was looking for a project to finance. Ann had been an agent, a manager, and an actress. We decided to see if we could find a good project to work on together—that was over 30 years ago. We looked around, called agents, and found a wonderful story in “Wild Horse Annie,” the story of Velma Johnston, who dedicated herself to protecting our wild horses. We had Betty White on board. The project sold fast, but never came to production; it was our learning experience. We’d bypassed the natural movie order by going straight to the president of the network, rather than going through regular channels. We just didn’t know how it was done. The following year, we sold 8 projects and made 3 movies in ’82.
DM: So if someone aspires to be a producer, what training would you recommend?
MG: Write. If you like to write, write and join the Writer’s Guild, where you’re protected and get benefits, something few producers get. Many executive producers are writers.
DM: How hard is it for a writer to get his or her book or screenplay turned into a movie?
MG: Years ago, a friend advised us to go into the television market and make movies for TV. We were able to produce 2 or 3 movies every year. But the market changed; ABC, NBC, and CBS rarely make original movies now, so the market is tighter. Ann and I have produced 26 movies and one miniseries, and we have to be passionate about the things we pitch. We may have from 30-40 stories we’re passionate about, including Wild Horse Annie.
DM: So I have to ask—what drew you guys to MY BOYFRIENDS’ DOGS?
MG: Ann picked up the book, read it, and said she fell in love with the book. I read it, and I adored it too, so we were both passionate about the project. We talked to your movie agent, Holly, and optioned the movie rights. Then we took the project to our Hallmark contact, and she loved it. But as we were in development and working out details, our Hallmark executive left the company, and we had to start all over. Fortunately, our new executive, Bart Fisher, was also passionate about the project. He worked hard and really got behind My Boyfriends’ Dogs. He’s been great. Everyone we showed the story to thought it was cute, but we’re all agreed it’s a perfect fit for Hallmark. And they’re excited about this one, which is why they switched the date to September, when they have a bigger audience.
DM: Any final advice for writers?
MG: It’s hard to get an agent, but there are places that take on scripts and send us loglines that may capture our interest. Keep writing! Without good writers, we won’t have good movies. Writers are the key.