It’s always fun to hear more about a film’s journey especially when it’s based on a book; I became the producer of this property in 2008 and it’s been a journey to get it made over the years. I never gave up. Producers can’t give up. It’s what we do. The Hollywood Reporter gave the director and I the opportunity to share some of the history about this wonderful film. – Julia
A few snippets:
How long did it take you to produce The Magician’s Elephant and were there any challenges to getting it completed?
Julia Pistor: I first read the book in 2008 and developed it as a live-action film. The film didn’t get made, but I was committed to it for years believing deeply in the potential of Kate’s book and Martin Hyne’s adaptation. When I mentioned the script to Netflix in 2018, Melissa Cobb remembered reading the book to her daughter when she was a child. We decided together that the property would be best served in animation. Animation really allowed us to deliver on the nuanced themes and heart of the story while also delivering on the left-of-center comedy, characters and larger-than-life, whimsical adventure. Just as we were greenlit, however, we were sent home due to COVID! So, the biggest challenge was learning how to make this film remotely from our living rooms.
Wendy Rogers: COVID certainly presented a challenge for team collaboration. I missed being in the room with artists and animators, but it is amazing how we adapted to the forced remote working style and “zoom life.”
On working with our amazing team…
How did the female-led team assemble for this and do you feel like your perspective and your creative relationships strengthen what people will ultimately see on screen?
Rogers: When I first met Julia to pitch for the project, we realized we were very aligned in the emotional heart, themes and tone of The Magician’s Elephant. We have developed a strong friendship and creative partnership. Julia is a very experienced and remarkable producer. I’m incredibly grateful to have such an amazing producing partner for my first time directing.
Pistor: Kate DiCamillo has always been an advocate for female voices and was kind to let me be involved in taking her beautiful book and turning it into a movie. I think from the beginning we’ve aspired to have female leadership on the adaptation. It’s important to me as a producer to give women a voice in the movies I make. Netflix Animation was also very clear that they wanted to give women directors opportunity in their animated films and thus introduced me to Wendy early on. Wendy and I forged a partnership that I think is unique to two women working together as producer and director. I think we have shared experiences working in the industry — both positive and negative — and were able to support each other honestly because we spoke of these challenges honestly together. We were also able to have honest conversations with Netflix Animation leaders and our executives (who have been women) in the same manner.
It set a tone for the type of production we wanted, the type of communication we wanted among our teams. We pushed for a vulnerability that allowed for everyone to do their best work and be open to new ways of working and thinking. Many of our production leadership applied to work on our film —leaving other projects — because they wanted to work with Wendy, a female director, to support her in her first film and to learn from her as a leader in the industry. It was also important for us to mentor the women on the film, to share our experiences with them as they grow into the next generation of producers and directors. Everyone on this film, regardless of gender, brought heart and kindness to their work. That is not related to being a woman or a man. But there is no denying that qualities that are important to us as women leaders helped elevate the film.
Read the full interview on The Hollywood Reporter.
I’m so excited to share that The Magician’s Elephant will premiere on Netflix on March 17, 2023.
Watch the trailer: