March 12 2009 12:00 AM

Andrea Meditch


Andrea Meditch
is the executive producer of the Oscar-nominated documentaries “Man on Wire” and “Encounters at the End of the World.” She was recently hired at Michigan State University as director of its Film and Media Arts Initiative.

How did you get into filmmaking?
 I worked at Discovery Communications for a number of years. I helped launch their Web site in 1995, and I became the editorial director there. I was director of development for Discovery Channel for a couple years as well. When Discovery decided it wanted to create documentaries that were big enough to possibly succeed in theaters, I helped launch and grow that. That’s how I formally got into it. But I’ve been a nonfiction storyteller all my life in whatever medium.

What made you want to tell stories?
I was trained as a linguistic anthropologist and was interested in what kind of social impact mass media has. What I realized was that the stories that were the most compelling to me were stories about the world we live in, about our similarities and our differences and about the passions we bring to our various projects and how we can share that with other people. I found myself gravitating toward being in a position where I could bring stories to a broader public. The medium wasn’t as important to me as getting at some of these stories.

What is your particular involvement with a film as executive producer?
In the films I have worked on, my involvement has tended to be fairly broad.
I work fairly closely with directors and the producer to really craft how the story is going to be told, how the characters are, to really develop it. To some extent, I see my role as just to help the director and producer tell their story in a way that reaches the audience they want it to reach. The next step is to get it placed for distribution, and that involves everything from theatrical distribution to DVD to broadcast. So it’s really the lifecycle of the project.

You’ve got two films up for Oscar nominations. What’s that like?
It’s very exciting to have this happening. It’s hard to believe. What can I say?

What’s it like working with [“Grizzly Man” and “Encounters at the End of the World”] director Werner Herzog?
He is brilliant, and
open and so thoughtful. Sometimes you’re not sure where he’s going with
something, but he’s usually right. He thinks about the world we live in
and humans’ relationships to the natural world and about passion and
madness and truth in ways the rest of us don’t. People assume he’s a
madman, but he’s thoughtful and quite gentlemanly. He’s a real

Tell me about what you’re doing at MSU.
It’s a part-time position, so I’m going to be working out of East Lansing and also my home base in Washington. One thing I’ll focus on is connecting the university to the new burgeoning film industry in Michigan, helping to craft how the College of Communications Arts and Sciences participates in growing that economy and looking at how that industry can attract and keep some of your brightest students. The other thing is to pull together the many creative communications activities happening on campus right now and create a network that ties industry to what is happening on campus.

Do you have any advice for up-and-coming filmmakers?
Think about what your story is and why other people want to see it. Get clear on that before you start looking for outside funding. You need to do your research about who might be interested in helping you fund your film. This sounds really obvious, but most people don’t do it. If you feel you have a way to tell a story that can move a bigger audience, then you really need to take a hard look and analyze that audience and think about how you’re going to get to them.