Five Questions With Get Out Producer Ray Mansfield

It only took one trip to Los Angeles for Ray Mansfield, BS ’00, to go home, pack all his things in his trunk, and move to Hollywood. When he arrived, fresh out of college and with little professional experience,he only knew one person.

After graduating with his radio-television-film degree, Mansfield worked various production gigs and learned the ins-and-outs of financing, contracting, and negotiating films, eventually co-founding his own production companies, Bopopolis Bros. Film Factory in 2004 and Movie Package Co. in 2009. In 2016, he partnered with co-founder Sean McKittrick to form QC Entertainment, sprinkling some nutrition in the popcorn, as he says, by producing socially-conscious entertainment. Together, they went on to produce their most successful endeavor yet: Jordan Peele’s directorial debut and four-time Oscar nominee Get Out.

You’ve produced The Messenger, Get Out, Band-Aid, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies—that’s a pretty wide range of genres. How do you select films to produce?

More often than not you’re picking a partner. For us that oftentimes can be more important than the actual pitch. We generally ask a couple of questions: Has this been done before and does it need to exist? It doesn’t matter what genre it is, but is this a good version of that thing for the audience that’s going to respond to it? We’re not driven by it [needing] to be comedy, [needing] to be horror, [needing] to be drama. We’re driven by human stories, originality, and the partnership.

I’m sure it’s more fun to delve into these different genres too.

Yeah, I think it’s partially why you become a producer in the first place. It’s the position that you kind of have to know something about everything to do the job effectively. For entrepreneurs and independent producers today you have to have a real sense of business that is equal to your sense of story. And if you don’t know how to get your movies made, which requires an incredible amount of experience and essentially an MBA, and [requires] you to be as capable sitting in a boardroom as you can be in an editing room, it’s tough to make a living now.

What about Get Out made you so sure to take these leaps with it? Jordan Peele said it was the movie that no one would produce—what made you want to produce it?

You’re betting on a person more than an idea. Sometimes you can tell when somebody just has an immense amount of talent and Jordan is one of those guys. He is a guy who has a vision, has a sense of conviction, but also is always open and always ready to talk through questions and comments and other people’s ideas.

He’s very collaborative in nature that way and not a lot of filmmakers are, particularly first time filmmakers who feel this sense of having to be very rigid with their demands because people are taught you’re supposed to be this authoritarian figure on a set, which I think [is] the wrong way to teach people.

What have the past couple of years been like for you?

The momentum really got rolling when [McKittrick and I] put our skill sets tother. We took our projects and put in 12 hours a day out of production and 18 hours a day in production, all day, every day, weekends, and holidays, and we’ve just been going for it in a full out sprint for the past couple of years.

Get Out helped, but most of the projects you’re seeing like Black Klansman and things like that, we were developing prior to when Get Out got out of production. We happened to have these projects that we responded to and it’s sort of beginning to build a brand for us as entertaining but somewhat socially-conscious filmmakers that aren’t leading with a didactic message but leading with entertainment. What we say sometimes is we like to sneak some nutrition in the popcorn we’re serving. We don’t want people to think they’re going to get lectured. We want them to think they’re going to a recreational activity that’s relaxing. And then they get to walk out with something to talk about and think about.

What advice would you give to aspiring filmmakers?

I think the number one characteristic you can have is belief in yourself. I think a lot of people instead of [being] encouraging and giving people positive reinforcement either don’t help or will try to keep you down. The overriding characteristic that I think fueled me was I never doubted that no matter what it was I needed to learn, I could learn it. It wasn’t a plan—it was just survival. There’s no magic to it. If all these people learned it, then chances are so can I. It’s just a matter of focus and intent.

Photo via Flickr/Creative Commons.

 

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