William Rosenfeld is an independent producer at Such Content who’s referred to himself as “a recovering writer.” He’s been involved in the production of films like Crisis starring Gary Oldman and Mudbound starring Jason Mitchell. He co-founded the company with producing partners Robert Kapp and Riaz Rizvi during a time when cinema audiences were declining and he wanted to address that. It was more than the explosive uptake of streaming services.
“I wanted to capture audience attention and imagination. I want my films to become classics rather than content that lives on the internet,” he said. He’s also interested in making documentaries that engender positive change through real life stories or stories based on pressing issues.
His new company Such Content is mainly focused on film and television, although William also produces shorts and podcasts to boost their footprint in the media landscape. Although film is where his heart is, Rosenfeld acknowledges that television content reigns supreme in the current business climate. “Television has surpassed film in its ability to tell interesting stories and delve into character.”
Producers are still interested in material that makes an impact at the box office, but Rosenfeld cautions against producing an endless stream of overly-familiar, repetitive stories told with the same perspective on our screens.
“We’re interested in something that uniquely stands out like Once directed by John Carney. I’m looking for content with energy, art, and creativity,” he articulated. A good producer will amplify this content across multiple platforms in order for it to attract more attention and ultimately make it commercially viable.
Rosenfeld believes that writers should create short films and podcasts both as valid content in their own right, but also so they can be adapted into future films and television shows. “These formats can also serve as calling cards for market projects for new filmmakers.”
Television is arguably the most viable commercial platform right now. “TV has established infrastructure to get a project on screen as fast as possible.” Granted, viewers have a stunning array of TV shows to watch, but viewers will always be there.
Even social media and smartphone platforms can host ultra-short content which can generate industry interest which can be adapted into a TV series. “We currently have a TV project in development engendered from an Instagram star.”
How Makable Is Your Film Or TV Show?
Apart from telling a captivating story with rich characters and a strong voice, writers are advised to assess the “makability” of their projects. This relates more to newer writers who don’t yet have access to high budgets and other filmmaking resources. Rosenfeld suggests that writing stories in contained spaces with few locations is one approach to consider. “It’s the typical Cabin In The Woods thing.” However, a sensational script will transgress budgetary constraints, so these rules can be bypassed as was the case with Rosenfeld’s The Kill Room.
William restricts the amount of incoming projects he’s open to considering to focus on his live films and television shows. “Most of my new projects are by referral rather than by unsolicited queries.” That said, not all agent and management referrals are created equally. Many are keen to keep their clients’ work in circulation for as long as possible, so they will offer projects sitting around for a while regardless of quality or market viability.
“We still source material the old-fashioned way. We look at news stories and old books (new books are snapped up almost immediately by bigger entities). We also look for genre and format gaps in our development slate.”
Stories can come from anywhere. “Our head of security on the set of The Kill Room has an atypical, unique, human soldier story to tell.” Films like Born On The Fourth Of July generally explore one side of the story while films like American Sniper are propagandized.
Rosenfeld typically works in the $2-10 million budget range to control investor risk although that range isn’t set in stone. “When budgets creep over the $25-30 million range, we’re probably not going to get involved.”
Although William doesn’t accept too many queries, he still takes occasional general meetings with promising writers. General meetings are just that rather than discussing a particular project.
“Producers want to see what you’re like as a person. I want to know if you take suggestions.” However, always have your pitches on standby in case you’re asked what you’re working on and asked for an impromptu pitch. Alternatively, a producer may be looking for something more specific such as YA romantic comedy if they have an actor in mind. Finally, if none of your scripts are a good fit, a producer may ask you to develop one and write a promising idea with them.
- Do you think that talkies will kill silent films? No, I think they’re going to kill the talkies.
It’s a fool’s errand to slavishly chase expected trends in the film and television market. “The market chases the next shiny object. Then there’s a glut of it until the next shiny object comes along.” Rosenfeld believes that chasing trends are often at the expense of character and story. Genre films will always have a place on our screens, so it’s vital that these stories are told with a new and fresh perspective to keep audiences excited. Parasite and The Quiet Place are good examples in the horror space that resonated with audiences and the box office alike.
William reinforces some common advice offered to writers. “Write every day whether you’re inspired or not. Complete the first draft and send it out. While you’re waiting, move on to the next one. Eventually, something will land.”
In conclusion, William Rosenfeld isn’t tied to any particular genre or platform. He prefers quality stories over quantity. “I prefer projects that feel like events. When you are experiencing them, you feel like there’s no other place in the world you’d rather be.” The excitement of a communal cinema-watching experience should make you feel like you’re part of a secret that you want to share with everyone you know. “They should feel like a rock concert with cheering at the start and a standing ovation at the end.“
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