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6 Career Tips from Oscar-Nominated Producer Maria Gracia Turgeon

By May 13, 2021No Comments

On Wednesday, May 12th, WeScreenplay hosted a Cocktails and Conversations panel with Maria Gracia Turgeon, who currently sits on the jury for the WeScreenplay Shorts Competition.

Maria is a Canadian producer and two-time Academy Award nominee, who co-founded Midi La Nuit with producer/director Annick Blanc. She has produced numerous award-winning short films, including BROTHERHOOD, THE COLOR OF YOUR LIPS, and FAUVE 

The talk was inspiring and very informative, especially for screenwriters looking to take their career to the next level. You can catch the entire event here, but we also pulled some of the key moments and shared them below.

Cinema is a Way to Connect with People

Maria started the event by talking about her career, working on different sets in Canada and making valuable connections, which led her to where she is now. She also talked about her passion for filmmaking:

“For me, cinema is such an amazing way to connect with people in a larger spectrum… I think I have always been drawn to ways to express yourself. Going into a movie and diving into another universe, immersing myself into the life of somebody else… I think that’s something that really attracted me.” 

Getting a Producer Involved Early On is Beneficial

As a producer, Maria likes to be involved on a project very early on. From the script stage all the way to distribution and award campaigns. She talked about the benefits of developing the story thoroughly before production. 

“I think of myself as a creative producer. I like to get on board as soon as possible, in terms of like, whenever there’s a treatment or a first draft of a script — or sometimes it just started as an idea. I’m really, really involved in the writing process, bringing the idea together…”

Find a Distributor Even if All You Have is a Script

Maria also recommended finding a distributor before the festival circuit as distributors can facilitate the process and having a distributor means your film is already vetted. 

“In my case, I always approach the distributor with a script. I don’t wait for the film to be done.”

She also went on to say researching distributors online and watching the credits of shorts films you’ve seen and admired are a great way to find distributors you might want to partner with.

Take Advantage of Buzz

When it comes to film festivals and film premieres, Maria recommended hiring a publicist and using social media to promote your film to take advantage of the momentum your film might have during the festival circuit.

Being a part of an Oscar campaign for a short film, she said a publicist and a social media specialist were extremely valuable in promoting the film and making sure Oscar voters knew about the film. 

Make Your Opening and Closing Scene Stand out

Maria said she usually reads the scripts twice. The first time she doesn’t try to analyze and only thinks about whether or not she liked it. The second read is about really analyzing it and trying to understand the original feeling she had. 

“I have to say that the first scene is really important, whether you read it or you watch it. I’ve been watching a lot of shorts too and within 30 seconds you can say if the film is going to be good or bad. Within the first page you can say if it’s going to be good or bad. The ending, in terms of… have you closed the film? Is it satisfying? Do we finish still asking ourselves millions of questions? Or do we feel like this story is done?” 

Ask Questions

Maria closed the event with this great advice to anyone looking to get into producing:

“Ask questions! We are often shy to ask questions and to say I don’t know.”

One of the things I love about the business is that producers are willing to help people. Don’t be a lone wolf, get out there and get answers. 

Have a great short film script? Enter it into the WeScreenplay Short Script Screenwriting Contest!

Julia Camara is an award-winning Brazilian screenwriter/filmmaker. Julia won a Telly Award for the sci-fi found footage feature Occupants. Julia’s feature directorial debut In Transit, won Best Experimental Film at four different festivals. Julia’s other writing credits include Area Q and Open Road.