Producer Tyler Mitchell On The Funny Business Behind The Angriest Man
Brooklyn was as crucial an actor as Mila Kunis and Robin Williams in “The Angriest Man In Brooklyn.” (photo credit: Lionsgate)
The script for “The Angriest Man in Brooklyn” had been circulating through Hollywood for nearly ten years prior to producer Tyler Mitchell’s involvement. Co-producer Bob Cooper (Amistad, John Tucker Must Die) kept the project alive in development. Stars Robin Williams and Mila Kunis had read the script – about the day a man is told he has one day to live – and expressed their interest. The foundation was set, but the structure still needed to be built.
“From a practical standpoint, I saw it could be made for a specific budget,” said Mitchell. “Getting financing is always challenging, and this was especially so. The layers of studios and financial teams had to come together at a crucial moment and not negotiate against each other to get the film made.”
Mitchell has a knack for organizing data and understanding numbers that helps clearly define a film’s budget, but he landed in this career coincidentally. During his freshman year of college, the Duke University economics major took a road trip to California to visit a friend working at Universal. The excitement of being behind the scenes and viewing production offices inspired Mitchell to do some research into film production. He noticed many of his favorite films had the same producer behind them. Although he had no connections in the business, he met Barry Levinson at a party and took advantage of their ten second interaction, asking Levinson what it takes to make a good producer. “Understand the mechanics of the set” was his answer.
Taking the advice to heart, Mitchell adopted a holistic view of the business as he pursued opportunities. He interned with producers Arnold Kpelson, Jim Jacks and Sean Daniel, took a job as a director’s assistant on “The Whole Nine Yards” and joined the agent training program at ICM. Working under Ken Kamins, EVP and Head of International Operations, Mitchell observed the financial planning on films including “Gangs of New York“, “Traffic” and “Gosford Park.”
Mitchell left ICM to join upstart FilmEngine as VP of Production/Head of Development and landed a four year, first-look production and financing deal with New Line Cinema, resulting in his work on “The Butterfly Effect” and “The Incredible Burt Wonderstone.” Mitchell teamed with producer Robert Kravis and writer Jason Smilovic to form Dark & Stormy Entertainment, producing TV series “Kidnapped” and “My Own Works Enemy” as well as pilots for five consecutive seasons for NBC, FOX, CBS and The CW, Mitchell is currently a partner at Landscape Entertainment, which was the production company behind “The Angriest Man in Brooklyn.”
In drafting the budget for “The Angriest Man in Brooklyn” Mitchell did consider a number of locations including Toronto, however with 80% of the movie shot on location, it was essential to accurately portray the character of Brooklyn. Mitchell credits help from the Mayor’s office, unions, teamsters, police department and primarily, his line producer/co-producer Kathryn Dean, in keeping the budget on track while utilizing often costly NYC locations.
“I knew her work on ‘Winter’s Bone’ – she’s super talented,” said Mitchell. “She knew everyone in New York. We were shooting on the Brooklyn Bridge, had countless street closures, she was instrumental in that, and getting the budget down to a place that worked.”
Mitchell also secured a director he knew he’d have a great rapport, similar vision and collaborative partnership ; Phil Alden Robinson (Field of Dreams, Sum of all Fears). Mitchell credits Robinson with rounding out the acting team, and making the unconventional endorsement of actor Peter Dinklage to play Robin William’s brother. Through the aid of HBO, the team was able to coordinate Dinklage’s scenes during periods when the actor had open windows in his “Game of Thrones” schedule.
As Mitchell continues to forge a successful path as a producer, he’s found the corner stone to building a successful project is finding material that he connects with and engages him. Once a project is in place, he not only defines the budget but also determines the best studio to entrust with the script, agencies who will champion the project, actors for key roles, and director to bring the pieces together. He’s found establishing a trusting nature with full disclosure and discussion about creative needs and budgetary restraints protects the entire foundation of the project.
“I go in with specifics about the budget and I’m prepared to give the director everything they need,” said Mitchell. “We talk about the scenes they want the most time for or a specific piece of equipment they want and find the trade-offs. If they want three cameras one day, they may have to find a scene to cut.”
Mitchell confesses his first love is comedy. He was obsessed with the writing on “Saturday Night Live,” “In Living Color” as a youth, and loved watching “Caddyshack” and “The Blues Brothers.” While he’s produced a range of projects, he tends to drift naturally towards comedy, a subject matter he’s happy to devote years of his life to as each script goes through the lengthy development process. He’s also received some additional perks in working in the comedy field.
“In the past year, I’ve worked with Steve Carell and Jim Carrey on ‘Burt Wonderstone’ and now, Robin Williams,” said Mitchell. “Robin’s also from Marin County, and it was just great to meet an icon and chat about our home town. That really stands out for me.”