Gale Anne Hurd, executive producer of The Walking Dead, spoke with Media Bistro about her career in Hollywood.
Hurd, who received the Laura Ziskin Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2013 Athena Film Festival, gave some sage words of wisdom about her career and being a woman in the industry.
On having Roger Corman as a mentor:
Roger was my mentor and he allowed me to make the kind of mistakes that, if I made them while working for someone else, I would not have survived. He was a very difficult taskmaster and threw me into marketing knowing I knew nothing about it, but he allowed me to make mistakes. For example, I wasn't completely familiar with all of the lingo that people use to create key art for motion picture promotion -- ad slicks, posters, one-sheets -- and I would often get the layouts wrong because I didn't know the terminology. We'd end up having to redo them. Even though I learned quickly, I still made mistakes. But I negotiated with him before I took the job. I told him I would do it for six months and at the end of that period, I wanted to work on the set of a production, which was a piece of experience that I hadn't had working in the office. I'd worked in development, I'd worked in marketing, but I had yet to be on set. So it was good that I negotiated that in advance. And he lived up to his promises, even though I was far from a marketing maven.
On making her own rules:
I wasn't given a choice. It was, "OK Gale, I want you to be the marketing department starting Monday." (And this was a Friday). I had no training period, so the odds of my failing were pretty high, especially since I was taking the place of two people who had significant experience. I think you have to take some initiative and show that you have the potential to be a leader. I was about to take a position heading a department and negotiating with him proved that I had a degree of the skill set that I needed in that position. If you want to prove that you can take on more responsibility, take that responsibility and be willing to also take the consequences. I knew I wasn't prepared and I had that conversation up front with Roger. And, if it didn't work out, my fallback position was going to law school. I think it's really important to have a fallback position.
On her success and being a woman in the industry:
I don't think there's any difference. I mean, as a woman I think we need to get beyond any old gender roles. I know a lot of women who are very prominent whose husbands have taken on child rearing and their relationships work very well. So I think we need to get past the idea that there are particular roles that women have to undertake. Obviously, my personal life takes a backseat. I was lucky that much of the time my daughter was growing up, production took place in Los Angeles. Now she's in college and very few films and TV series shoot in Los Angeles anymore. It's a shame. But my compromises weren't as great then as they would be now.