Todd Garner was formerly the Disney co-head of production where he emerged from one of the most turbulent periods in that studio’s history and transitioned from executive to producer. He co-founded Revolution Studios and then started his own production company, Broken Road Productions. He has developed, overseen, executive produced, or produced more than 170 films for more than a dozen studios and streaming services, including 25 films and television shows under his Broken Road banner.
The science and art of audience testing
Todd and Kevin discuss some of the intricacies of audience testing. Kevin talks about what he calls the science and art of audience testing and moving the audience from simply liking a film to developing a love connection with it. Todd and Kevin both agree that it’s about more than just the numbers, it’s about making better movies.
Kevin Goetz on the desired audience reaction
It’s not all about the numbers, it’s all also about what people are saying, the quality of the response, and how they’re embracing it. Like any brand or any good brand, you have to have sort of a love connection with it. And no better example of that is a movie that you have to fall in love with it, and if you’re not going to fall in love with it, you’re what we call a fence sitter and we have to figure out how to move you to the love category.
Todd recounts his journey from doing sketch comedy in high school to studying art and economics in college to a job at a major bank, and how that led to working at the Arsenio Hall Show. He talks about how his combined business and art background provided the fertile ground for a career as a producer and creative executive.
Todd Garner on making people laugh
I’ve sat in theaters where people just laugh and if I can give somebody a couple hours of just real solid entertainment where you can just forget your day, I think that’s pretty valuable.
Words of advice from Jerry Bruckheimer
Kevin compliments Todd on the way he gets things done, and how much he admires how Todd has both the creative and business sense to be such a prolific producer. Todd mentions one of the best pieces of advice he ever received from his mentor, Jerry Bruckheimer, who said “I just make movies for me.” Todd talks about how that has guided his decision making, and how he strives to be emotionally connected to his movies.
The business of movies
Kevin and Todd discuss how movies are greenlit in the studio system and the economics of marketing and PR when dealing with a theatrical release versus a release on a streaming service. The pair discuss why comedies, particularly romantic comedies, are easier to produce on a streaming service. What follows is an insider’s perspective on the economic advantage the streaming services have over the Hollywood studios.
Todd on how the top producers get movies made
They’re supremely intelligent and they’re really good at development. That’s one thing. So just in the bigger overall picture why guys like those guys get a lot of stuff made is because they instinctively know what audiences are going to want. Even if it hasn’t been done recently or isn’t the popular thing at the moment, it becomes the next popular thing.
A wide range of mentors
Kevin asks Todd about his mentors, and who he looks up to in the industry. Todd talks about filmmakers who influenced him like Howard Hawks and Mel Brooks. He then talks about mentors who he worked with like Jeffrey Katzenberg, Jerry Bruckheimer, and Adam Sandler.
Memorable audience screenings
Kevin asks Todd about his most memorable audience screenings from the 500 or so they have worked on together. Todd talks about Kevin’s gift of analyzing what is going on behind the audience research numbers and improving the movie through the audience analysis. Todd relates a hilarious story from the Con Air test screening where someone couldn’t wait until the end to share their opinion on an uncomfortable scene.
Todd on Kevin Goetz and his audience research process
What you are so good at is saying what’s underneath the numbers. Like what is happening in your movie is this, they’re not understanding this, or they’re not connecting to this, or this ending isn’t connecting because you have a problem in the beginning of the movie. That is what’s been able for me to be so successful in my career, is being able to sit with you and listen and talk, get into the weeds, not just about the numbers.
Join Kevin and his guest, Todd Garner, the head of Broken Road Productions and a veteran producer and Hollywood creative executive with a remarkable gift for creating and nurturing mainstream, commercial motion pictures. Listen in on this candid discussion, and enjoy some insider stories on Kevin’s podcast, Don’t Kill the Messenger!
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.
For more information about Todd Garner’s upcoming projects:
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Audienceology Book: https://www.simonandschuster.com/books/Audience-ology/Kevin-Goetz/9781982186678
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Screen Engine/ASI Website: www.ScreenEngineASI.com