Reel Life


Gill Holland (independent film producer)

Income: $30,000 (last year)

Health insurance: paid by parents

Rent: $900/mo.

Utilities: $50/mo.

Phone: $300/mo.

Food: $1080/mo.

Transportation: $170/mo.”

I figure I make two dollars an hour,” film producer Gill Holland says, though he has at least eight films in the works and sold his first feature for $l.7 million. “I didn’t make millions. With the investors getting over a million and the crew, cast, and equipment deferrals, there wasn’t a lot left. Film is so labor-intensive. I could have made more money working at McDonald’s.” He tosses back his hair, which he wears in a long flip, and surveys cinéBLAST! Productions—his Soho “clubhouse” where 10 people are talking on the phone in what looks like a continuous narrow kitchen in a ground-floor tenement—and lists some of the films: Dear Jesse, Spin the Bottle, Remembering Sex, Desert Blue with Christina Ricci, Spring Forward with Ned Beatty. His first feature, Hurricane Streets, which won three Sundance awards, is about poor young people, as so many indies are. “People make what they know,” Holland, 33, says.

Holland’s life is like an indie—he’s struggling financially, girls like him, and everything he does is in downtown Manhattan. That is, except for summering some weekends in a “swank pad” in Amagansett where he sleeps on the floor with 13 people.

People sleep on the floor of his Soho apartment, too. “European movie stars crash at my house all the time.” He is rarely home because he is making deals at Cafe Noir, or under the umbrella table in the concrete patio in back of his office. “Or I crash some film-related event where there’s free food, or convince someone to take me out—Raoul’s, Balthazar, Odeon. Sometimes I feel like I have to pay so people will think I’m a successful producer.” Holland grew up “more or less,” in Davidson, North Carolina, “a town of 2000, where my father teaches Scandinavian drama and translated two volumes of Chinese poetry. He’s huge in North Carolina.”

As Holland tells the story, he came to New York for four days five years ago to visit friends and never left. “I got sucked into the New York wave. New York just gives you this freedom. I’d never considered anything artistic as a viable career path.” He has a law degree. For a few years he had a real job in a firm in Paris. “I took two-hour lunches every day and went to the movies. Soon I realized I should be the one creating problems and having other entertainment lawyers react to them.” He got to New York, “interned at film companies for six months before I got a full-time, paying gig at the French Film Office. All the people who went to Cannes had to submit through me.” He subsequently produced three cinéBLAST! compilations of short films on video. People told him he should be a producer because he had a big Rolodex. He made $15,000 his first year. His dream is to make $50,000, though that could sextuple in five minutes.

“For now, I’m your classic case of credit card debt. I have to take advantage of New York, so I spend money knowing the interest I pay is my life tax. I have l2 cards. I could buy a small house with my life tax, maybe not in New York but in rural America. I really can’t tell you how much I owe. Some Norwegian newspaper—I’m half Norwegian—printed my debts and my mom almost had a heart attack. Norwegians don’t believe in credit.”

Once Holland coproduced a film with Godard about patients in a mental institution, because one of the French film actresses who was sleeping on the floor of Holland’s apartment starred in Godard’s last film and “Godard would call all the time. At first it was, Oh, bonjour, Mr. Godard, just a moment. Next thing I knew he was a silent partner on Inside/Out, the film I was working on. One time he wrote me a check. I didn’t take it to the bank. It was from Jean-Luc! It was in Swiss francs. I thought it was just $200. But then I found out it was worth, like, $l000.” Then what? “I photocopied the sucker and cashed it.”