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October 10, 2014

Susan Downey @ SCA

By Kaiti Williamson

Producer/alum Susan Downey sat down for a Q&A conducted by Leonard Maltin on October 9th following a screening of her new dramedy, The Judge, for students in Maltin’s Film Symposium class.

Susan Downey in the lobby of Norris

Downey graduated summa cum laude in 1995 from the USC School of Cinematic Arts with a BA in Production and is a current member of the School’s Alumni Development Council. Since graduating, she has collaborated with some of the most accomplished talents in the industry including her husband and business partner, Robert Downey Jr. The pair founded film and television production company, Team Downey in 2010.

The Judge is the first film Team Downey has produced under their own independent banner through a first-look deal with Warner Bros. Pictures. The film explores the relationship between a big city lawyer who returns to his small hometown to defend his estranged father, the judge of the title, who is suspected of murder. It stars Robert Downey Jr. and Robert Duvall.

Throughout her career, Susan Downey has produced for a broad range of genres, including dramas, comedies, action adventures and horror thrillers. She originally worked for iconic producer, Joel Silver. Although Downey’s initial experience in the industry working with Silver Productions and Dark Castle Entertainment centered on concept driven material, she is actively developing more diverse content at Team Downey.

“While we still want to make very commercial and very accessible films at Team Downey, we want to do it more driven from characters, and that can take us across a whole range of genres,” said Downey.

Along with producing a diverse list of film and television content, Downey described the range of responsibilities she experiences as a producer, including managing location and scheduling changes and publicity. She told the students in attendance that the producer needs to make sure the intention of the scene is being grasped, and must help the director get all the coverage that is needed and capture the moments that are important, so as not to have any regrets in the editing room.

“You’re just essentially trying to get a couple steps ahead of any sort of issues that might come up,”said Downey. “This job is very, very encompassing. This is not the kind of job you ever just put down at night, especially if you’re in production.”

In regard to combining her personal and professional life by going into business with her husband, Downey stressed the importance of both trust and respect in any partnership as well as the need to put ego aside. She expressed appreciation for having a link between the production side and the talent side, although she emphasized the importance of respecting and providing space for the relationship between the actor and the director.

“Robert and I are really fortunate that we get to work together and we enjoy the creative process,”Downey told the crowd. “You have to love it or you’ll go mad.”