March 26, 2015

Ron Meyer Visits SCA

Vice Chairman of NBCUniversal fields questions from students

Larry Auerbach with Ron Meyer

Ron Meyer’s unique blend of wisdom, wit, and raw honesty is always welcome at the USC School of Cinematic Arts. On March 25th, Meyer, the Vice Chairman of NBC Universal, spoke to a capacity crowd in the Ray Stark theatre in a Q&A led by Associate Dean and Head of Student Industry Relations Larry Auerbach. Meyer covered topics ranging from the theme park business, being a good agent, finishing Furious 7 after star Paul Walker’s death, and the gamble of making a Fifty Shades of Grey film. He also fielded questions from the capacity crowd of students.

Auerbach began the evening by asking Meyer how, as an agent at CAA, Meyer earned his reputation for keeping his clients happy when they may be competing with each other for the same jobs. “Not everybody wants to do the same job at the same time” said Meyer. “Not everybody is available at the same time. I liked all of my clients. I was in touch with all of them on a regular basis. I had a great client list. I represented a lot of people that could do similar roles in a similar age range. I think if anyone here wants to be an agent, it’s the hardest job there is. I’m serious. To be successful, it’s a 7-days-a-week, 24-hours-a-day job. If you’re representing talent, you have to anticipate what questions they’re going to ask you and what’s going on.”

Meyer addressed the notion that the entertainment industry is shrinking with a challenge to the students in the audience: “As content providers, we need to be better at what we do,” he said. “I think if we do our job the way we’re supposed to do it, people will show up. What’s changed is that you watch your TV where you want it; but you’re still seeing it and you’re paying for it. People are watching The Voice. They’re watching Scandal. They’re watching the finale of Mad Men. In one form or another, they’re watching the tube.”

Meyer told them about the unique situation he faced in finishing Universal’s next big film Furious 7 following the death of one of its lead actors, Paul Walker: “Furious 7 was a challenging film,” he said. “ We were about a quarter of the way through filming when he had his accident. We filmed a significant amount of his work, but as you can imagine, if you’re only a quarter of the way through, we didn’t get enough done. We used special effects. We had two of his brothers. When you see it, you have no sense that he didn’t finish the film. We couldn’t have made the film if we couldn’t have done it the right way.”

In a lighter moment, Meyer addressed Universal’s recent hitFifty Shades of Grey and the decision to greenlight a movie featuring content that could be X-rated, a designation that is traditionally hard to sell: “For those of you that are going to be in the film business, the truth is, we don’t greenlight a movie unless we know how to sell it,” he said. “If you can’t market it, then making it is a problem. They made a film that is still entertaining and accessible and interesting enough that it will make 500 million dollars worldwide. It will be Universal’s fourth-most profitable film in our history. It’s not our highest grossing, but dollar for dollar, it will be out biggest profit. And home video will be amazing.”