True Somebody :: Flower Films Producer :: Nancy Juvonen
By Lindzi Scharf
Who do I think I am? I'm the producer of Lindzi.com. I've worked as a freelance writer for years. I've interviewed celebrities like Britney Spears and James Franco. I recently produced a documentary on the future of the music industry. But in the larger scheme of things, I'm a nobody.
Meet a "somebody." Years ago I read about Nancy Juvonen and her production company, Flower Films, in an issue of Teen People. I remember thinking, "She's SO cool." Ms. Juvonen partnered with Drew Barrymore to co-produce "Never Been Kissed," an underdog tale, and the duo's positive vibes jumped off the magazine page! Not to mention I loved the film. (Who doesn't love stories where underdogs prevail!)
I kept up with the company's happenings. Flower Films went on to produce both Charlie's Angels films, the sci-fi thriller Donnie Darko, Duplex with Ben Stiller, and the box-office hit 50 First Dates.
While Ms. Juvonen made hit films, I made my way through high school and college. Now graduation and a move to Los Angeles is around the corner. In cleaning out my closet, I found that old Teen People article. Nearly a decade later, my career goals still relate to that one snippet from the ancient teen-targeted magazine. This time, instead of filing the article away, I took action. I contacted Ms. Juvonen and got a positive response.
The film industry is supposed to be tough on women, but Ms. Juvonen gave me hope. "I would welcome helping you see your dream come true best I am able!" she told me.
I spoke with her assistant who said Ms. Juvonen would call me when she had a few spare minutes.
I kept my cell phone nearby at all times. In class I was on call for "the call."
I was out of breath and hurrying up several flights of stairs to my apartment when my phone flashed a California number. The moment arrived.
"Hello?" (Breathe, Just breathe.)
I, a certified nobody, was talking to a professional somebody. Now was the time to step it up!
We talked about Flower Films. The company started with just Juvonen and Barrymore and small offices set up in 1995-1996. Now the enterprise includes a staff of nine people, an office corporate in nature, but dorm room in feeling with a "funky, free, and calm" atmosphere. Make no mistake. It's still an office. Blockbusters get made there.
My imagination began wandering. I pictured myself there. And then I remembered, I'm just a twenty-one-year-old film student in a Boston university and, what's more, I'm a woman.
But that's not necessarily a bad thing, Ms. Juvonen reveals. Being a successful woman in Hollywood is a "road that's been paved before." She says the industry is filled with dynamic characters; many are women. It's that dynamism that brings success and not gender. Moreover, she says it's not just one person who is "heading the crusade!"
Ms. Juvonen does not differentiate between genders. With her it's qualifications, not anatomical components. "Mother nature set it up for a reason," she says. She does not consider herself a woman working in a man's world but just someone else in the industry. After all, Hollywood is what you make of it.
When asked if aggressive women succeed more often, she states, "I know aggressive women who are successful as well as calmer types. Everyone approaches the industry differently. What it comes down to is confidence, instinct and vision."
People's reasons for entering the business are also decisive factors. Storytelling is what brought Ms. Juvonen to Hollywood. She identifies with stories that explore human nature, stories that show a character losing hope and regaining it, stories that make you laugh. John Hughes films.
To Ms. Juvonen films are like a love affair: easy to fall for. She admits the industry often views films as objects or products to be marketed. But to her, films are "not about moving a product forward," but rather the ability to connect with audiences. One has to find a balance between keeping the studio happy (via strong box office numbers) and going after visions. It can be done.
Everyone wonders about the future. Who will be successful? Does the past have any bearing? Don't those standardized tests and weekly quizzes in school amount to anything?
Ms. Juvonen says it's not everything. She wasn't an ever-focused over-achiever scholastically. Born in Marin County near San Francisco, she compares her grade school years to scenes from Dazed and Confused. After high school graduation, she road-tripped to the University of Southern California in her white VW bug where she studied Sociology and Cooperative Education. Here she laughs and confesses that schools should have kicked her out for poor grades, though she apparently managed fine.
After graduation she worked odd jobs. She spent time at a dude ranch in Wyoming, worked as a private flight attendant, even worked for "an artist trying to erase homelessness." Eventually Ms. Juvonen got her big break as an assistant to Clarence "The Big Man" Clemons, a member of Bruce Springsteen's "E Street Band."
From assistant to having assistants, she attributes a genuine desire to contribute to the industry and a willingness to work hard. It amazes her how little time people will give to make things work before giving up. Even in an assistant position one must "have fun. If the task is finding a specific kind of paper for your boss, make it a game. Search. Have fun with it," she advises.
I'm having great fun but forty-five minutes have passed. It's only fair to let the busy Ms. Juvonen get back to work. I thank her and realize our interview is over. But not before she asks me about my family, my background and, goals.
I suddenly know why Nancy Juvonen is a "somebody." She doesn't follow a set path; she creates her own. Her enthusiasm is infectious. And most importantly, she makes the other person feel like a "somebody" too.
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