SPAA Fringe 2008: Lessons from Mary and Max
By Simon de Bruyn
Mary and Max producer Melanie Coombs revealed to Fringe delegates she set personal rules such as reading all contracts, always being up front with investors and completion guarantors and always persisting with desired casting choices, in order to quickly solve problems during the massive 57 week shoot.
She also used the opportunity to showcase several amusing behind the scenes videos from the film’s website.
In an illuminating session, punctuated with screenings of funny behind the scenes clips made for the film’s website, Coombs said she also implemented a flat management structure for the shoot – despite fears it wouldn’t work – to make the crew feel valued, and met with director Adam Elliot each week to share their experiences on the project, to make sure they were both getting what they wanted.
“The saying goes that nature abhors a vacuum but nature also abhors a united creative team. Adam and I made a habit of meeting each week and making sure our experience was what we wanted it to be," she said.
"The producer and director need to protect and support each other, and need to ensure the primary relationship in the film is with each other."
She added that persistence was vital, as it was for her when she was chasing Philip Seymour Hoffman for the voice of Max. They went to him first but he passed, so they chased a whole host of actors such as Billy Crystal and even Seth Rogen before returning to Hoffman again. It was only on the third approach that he said yes.
Coombs said Mary and Max would be finished by Christmas, and said they were currently in talks to get the film’s trailer attached to Baz Luhrmann’s Australia in cinemas in late November.
The film is set for domestic release on April 9, 2009.