At the Columbia Club a woman in the audience asked producer/screenwriter James Schamus about the state of independent cinema. Schamus (he most notably produced Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon; 2000 and The Brothers McMullen; 1995) answered with a quip about semantics: “yes, I am an independent producer, but can you show me somebody who call themselves a dependent producer?” Nowadays, Schamus said, independent means to go beyond production and is now all about marketing and distribution. “That’s always been the issue,” he adds, “bartering below radar.” Schamus is well known for having nurtured a successful partnership with director Ang Lee–together they produced eight feature films. He also teaches film at Columbia University. Asked to comment on his successful and prolific relationship with Ang Lee, Schamus replied “I can’t, because I patented it.”
In the audience were members of the Columbia community, including notably Annette Insdorf, Columbia film professor, author and producer. The Schamus talk (he is also co-president of Focus Features) was as expected: incisive, funny and prodigiously sharp.