Tea reels in film students

Film producer Pamela Koffler ’87 has vaulted into the upper echelon of film production with such credits to her name as “One Hour Photo” and “Boys Don’t Cry,” but she told 30 audience members at a Tuesday tea at Whitney Humanities Center that she and her production company, Killer Films, are far from Hollywood stereotypes.

“Superficiality really pervades the perspective of making a film in L.A.,” she said.

What distinguishes Koffler, who lives in New York, and Killer Films Co-President Christine Vachon from their competition is their dedication to the director — an idea that is central to the company’s objectives, Koffler said.

“We really create an environment where the filmmaker is as unimpeded as possible in order to enable the filmmaker’s specific voice and vision to be carried out without a consensus of voices giving input,” Koffler said.

This unique approach is made possible through Killer Films’ beginnings in small, low-budget, independent films, she said. While the company is now producing films more identifiable to the mainstream consumer, the subject matter is still provocative and often not in alignment with typical market trends.

“Our scripts are typically a huge leap of faith,” Koffler said.

Koffler spoke of the financial challenges faced by Killer Films and other small-time film companies, describing the pursuit of investors willing to gamble on a vision.

“I’m not a film buff or a major or anything,” Josh Ehrlich ’07 said after the tea. “But I can see how it’s a struggle to get something different [onscreen].”

Koffler described how she and Vachon took the plunge into “Boys Don’t Cry” with first-time director Kimberly Peirce.

“Peirce came to us with an unfinished thesis film [from her masters’ work at Columbia University] and a clear obsession with telling the story,” Koffler said.

After over a decade of work in the independent film industry, Koffler and Vachon finally achieved financial success and critical acclaim.

“It was an overnight success 10 years in the making,” Koffler said.

After the tea, aspiring filmmaker Adam Davenport ’06 gave Koffler a copy of his short film. About half of the audience members were involved in the Film Studies Department.

“There is this myth around campus that no one from Yale works in the film industry which I am trying to dispel. Although Yale isn’t a film school, I feel there is an unmatched creative environment. This [talk] gave me a lot of hope,” Davenport said. “I was really struck by Killer Films’ commitment to the voice of the director.”

Koffler’s latest project is a collaboration between Killer Films and HBO Films called “The Ballad of Bettie Page,” a film about a 1950’s pinup girl who was not only one of the first sex icons in America, but also a target of Senate investigations for bondage photographs. For Koffler, this crossover into cable television is a way to bring a “fairly arty” film to a greater audience.

“More people will see it on a Sunday night than in a two-week run in arts centers in four cities, which sadly is the fate of most independent movies,” Koffler said.

Koffler is the 2004 recipient of the Yale Film Studies Progress Award for her work in the independent film industry.

Pamela Koffler ’87 speaks to aspiring filmmakers following her Tuesday afternoon talk at Whitney Humanities Center, in which the foundation and growth of her production company, Killer Films.
Timothy Polmateer
Pamela Koffler ’87 speaks to aspiring filmmakers following her Tuesday afternoon talk at Whitney Humanities Center, in which the foundation and growth of her production company, Killer Films.

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