Todd Black and Jason Blumenthal, Producers

Kevin Goetz sits down with two prolific and respected producers in the business – Jason Blumenthal and Todd Black. As partners at Escape Artists, Jason and Todd have produced an incredible array of award-winning films spanning over 20 years. From critical and commercial hits like The Pursuit of Happyness, The Equalizer franchise, Seven Pounds, and Being the Ricardos, they have cultivated a reputation for making character-driven films with soul and meaning. In this wide-ranging discussion, Jason and Todd provide rare insight into their creative process, recall memorable stories from set, and share lessons learned over their decades-long careers. They also open up about their anxieties around test screenings, how audience research has shaped their films, and their criteria for choosing projects.

Jason Blumenthal’s Superpower

Jason believes his superpower is being able to “create something from nothing” when developing film ideas.

The importance of character-driven movies

Todd emphasizes having likable characters that audiences connect with as the key ingredient for successful films.

If you can like a character when you’re watching a movie that you’re either rooting for or rooting against or connecting with in some way, wither because you can relate with them, or you want be like them, or you admire them, or they’re sexy, or they’re whatever, nine times out of ten, you’ll have a successful movie. There has to be a likable character or characters.

–Todd Black

Nerves and gastrointestinal issues before every test screening

Both Todd and Jason discuss their intense anxiety and physical symptoms before every test screening. Despite the nerves, the trio discuss how important the test screening process has been for the success of their films.

Will Smith’s insight on why endings matter most to audiences

After a test screening of The Pursuit of Happyness, Will Smith surprised the audience and gave Jason a valuable piece of advice about the importance of a good ending.

Jason Blumenthal on talking to Will Smith at a test screening:

And I remember hearing the thunderous applause. And there was a little moment where Todd, Will, and I are just off into a corner. And he looked at both of us, and he says, “you know what, when they tell you they like a movie, they’re telling you they liked how it ended because they don’t remember how it started. And when they walk out of that theater they say they loved it.”

Tune in to hear Jason Blumenthal and Todd Black offer invaluable insights into producing in this wide-ranging conversation with host Kevin Goetz. The pair explain their creative ethos, share how test screenings have shaped their films, and recall sage advice received over their decades-long careers. Their passion for the test screening process illustrates a deep commitment to the audience above all else. With candor and humor, Jason and Todd impart hard-won lessons about the importance of likable characters, owning mistakes, and maintaining integrity in Hollywood. Their openness provides a rare look inside the art and craft of great producing.

Don’t Kill the Messenger, hosted by movie and entertainment research expert Kevin Goetz, brings his book Audienceology to life. This bi-monthly podcast takes a peek behind the filmmaking curtain as Kevin talks with famous filmmakers, studio executives, stars, and other creatives about movies, filmmaking, audience test screenings, and much more.

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