By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
“I think it was a very successful partnership,” says Sighvatsson, choosing his words carefully. “And I always felt that a big part of the things I have managed to accomplish in America are due to my partnership with Steve. So I look back on it not necessarily with nostalgia, but with great fondness.”
After Sighvatsson left to head Lakeshore Entertainment in 1995, Golin and Propaganda produced The Game for David Fincher, Portrait of a Lady for Jane Campion, two films by Neil LaBute (Your Friends and Neighbors and Nurse Betty) and Spike Jonze‘s first feature, Being John Malkovich.
“You know, I grew up with a lot of directors,” says Golin. “I’ve been friends with directors for a long time. I try not to fuck people over, and I try to do what I say I‘m going to do, and pay people what I say I’m going to pay them, and do all those things that build up trust -- and it takes a long time to do that. My job is to back filmmakers. Postproduction is the place where I can have the biggest effect on movies. If I have to get involved during production, it‘s bad.”
In person, Golin is the opposite of eccentric, his New York intimidation factor effectively muted by the slightly rumpled, slightly comical persona he employs to allay skittish moneylenders and artistic temperaments alike. Those who have worked with him invariably cite his honesty and directness.
“He’s a great conduit between all the disparate kinds of people who get together to make a project work,” says Neil LaBute. “Business affairs, musicians . . . he‘s got a hand in all those worlds. But he doesn’t have six different faces that he wears. He doesn‘t slip into his heavy eye makeup with Marilyn Manson and then back into his Brooks Brothers shirt to talk to the attorney, or into a large plaid shirt to talk to me. He has this absolutely specific and unique taste, and yet it doesn’t guide his every move. He doesn‘t dress eccentric or drive a strange car or have a secret handshake. He has good taste -- and the good sense to be normal.”
“He’s really straightforward,” says Spike Jonze. “I think on the financial side, people are probably calmed by him because he‘s practical in terms of knowing what their situation is. And with filmmakers, he has opinions, but he’s also supportive. He‘s honest, and he genuinely cares.” Adds Malkovich screenwriter Kaufman, whose Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind Golin is currently producing for the newly formed Universal Focus, “I like his taste, and I like his honesty. He’s a direct, decent, honest person. I think that‘s rare in any position. People lie to you about everything, even about whether or not they like your work, just to keep in practice, or more, to keep you under their control, to have you on their side, or as a friend, or whatever they need to have you as. From the two movies I’ve been involved in with Steve, I feel like I trust him.”
“Look,” says Golin, “everybody‘s for good and against evil. Everybody wants to make good movies. But at the end of the day, Hollywood is a place where a lot of people -- a lot -- live by their word. A lot of deals get done here on your word. I think people in Hollywood are basically straightforward and honest, as much as the system allows. I really do. I mean, if I give my word, that’s it, and I expect the same from other people. And I‘m not disappointed too many times.”
In 1998, Propaganda was sold to Universal as part of owner PolyGram’s divestiture of its film assets, and then to Barry Diller‘s USA Films, before being taken over by a consortium of private investors in 1999, at the peak of the free-money bubble. Golin was summarily fired, and replaced by former William Morris agent Rick Hess. Two years later, the company collapsed. By then, Golin had formed a new company, Anonymous Content, which similarly sought to subsidize feature-film production with ancillary businesses -- commercials, music videos and talent management. The company currently enjoys a first-look deal with Universal Focus and a second-look deal with Ridley and Tony Scott’s Scott Free Productions. But despite Anonymous Content‘s innovative forays into advertising, such as BMW’s online series of short filmscommercial spots directed by people like Guy Ritchie, Wong Kar-Wai and Alejandro Gonzalez Iñarritu, the studios have only recently begun to respond to the company‘s material.
“We started at the worst possible time,” says Golin. “It was right at the end of the whole Internet bubble, stupid money, blah blah blah. The first year, there was a massive commercial strike for six months. The second year, there was a de facto writers’ and actors‘ strike. And then there was 911 and a big giant advertising recession. It’s been a tough time. And it‘s been five times the amount of work I thought it would be -- five times, without fear of contradiction. I honestly think you can’t count on what you could count on before. The business is a lot tougher. If I had it to do over again, maybe I wouldn‘t do it. I mean, I’m glad I did it now. But I couldn‘t do it again. I don’t have the energy.”