Category: GEMA, GEMA Alumni Spotlight

Title:GEMA Alumni Spotlight – Lawrence Grey (L’98), Principal, Grey Matter Productions

Lawrence Grey (L’98) is a content creator and film producer, responsible for dozens of hit movies across all platforms. From his years as a studio executive at Fox & Universal, to building his own production banner, Grey Matter, he focuses on intellectual property that can play globally, with an emphasis on quality and originality.

 

What was your first “big break”? Or, what is the most significant experience you have had that has made your success possible?
I was a junior executive at Fox Searchlight helping my friend Jason Reitman produce his film, Thank You For Smoking, under the radar. When it premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival, we tried to acquire it but lost it in a bidding auction to Paramount Vantage. My bosses still wanted me to find a way to win so I stayed up all night with Jason and his father Ivan and the lawyers and agents and we found a way to get a deal done. It was a big coup for a young kid. I had spent $8m on a film my bosses had not seen and was able to do the impossible and get the film – and we gave Reitman a first look deal.

What is the most challenging part of your job? What is the most rewarding part?
Getting a movie made – any movie – is an extraordinary challenge. Even the victories along the way present insurmountable obstacles. It’s never, “Congratulations the star is making your movie”, it’s more like, “The star wants to do your movie but their agent isn’t supportive and the studio doesn’t want to pay them and they’re not even available anyway.” So, you thread a thousand needles and the better you do your job the more everyone thinks it was easy and things just worked themselves out. A fellow producer said the only positive emotion a producer ever feels is relief. There’s definitely something to that.

What is something current you are working on that you are excited about?
I am producing a family Christmas action movie with Amazon that is very original and has enormous potential. It’s about how Santa Claus’ magic bag of toys gets stolen and he has to pull off the greatest heist of all time to get it back. Alan Richson of Reacher plays this master thief who has to work with a bunch of amateurs including elves and such. It feels like it has all the makings of a big holiday hit.

How is the ever-changing media landscape affecting your industry?
It used to be a film would open successfully in theaters and we all knew exactly what it made and have a good sense of why – some combination of the IP, the concept, the director, star, etc. It gave a clearer path toward creating and selling new projects. Now movies mostly launch on streaming platforms where the metrics are confidential and it’s hard to gauge whether something is a success and why. There is a lot more of trusting your own instincts and ferreting information from inside the streamers.

Are there any ways that you feel Georgetown especially prepared you for your career?
I felt Georgetown Law had a great combination of academic rigor and pragmatic career-oriented preparation. Being in DC there were a lot of working lawyers, judges and professionals on the faculty. There were many law clinics with multiple specialties. A good deal of my friends and classmates got on the job experience while in school and jumped into Wall Street careers and started their own businesses right out of school.

What is your best advice to those who are starting out in your field?

To anyone wanting to begin a career in film production, I would assess whether it is truly a calling rather than something that seems fun or glamorous. There are many easier career paths but none as rewarding if this is what you are meant to be doing. I would also encourage them to see themselves as their own filmmaker and start making things as soon as you can.

Trait You Most Admire in People:

My most successful business interactions are with partners who are direct, honest and transparent. I appreciate someone who can give me the tough news and there’s an opportunity to work through challenging issues.

Favorite App, Website, Podcast or Social Platform (other than related to your own company):

In the course of my job I probably use StudioSystem more than any other app because it gives me info on all production projects and representation. I am starting to have some fun with ChatGBT though…

Favorite Georgetown Professor:

Richard Gordon was a real influence for me. He started an entertainment law seminar at Georgetown in the 70s when there were only a handful of such programs. He took a real interest in me as a student and helped me navigate my way through the waters of Hollywood. He was an extraordinary man.

Favorite Georgetown Restaurant or Bar:

The Irish times near campus was an institution on Thursday nights during first year. Heaven and Hell in Adam’s Morgan to let loose on the weekends.

Favorite Georgetown Memory:

There are so many amazing memories. I was just thinking about our first evening gala event at Corcoran Gallery. We met our classmates for the first time and everyone was suited up and trying to get face time with the faculty. I remember feeling so fortunate to be among this impressive group and would need to step up my competitive game.