Interview With Shelby Stone

Shelby Stone is a producer behind several critically acclaimed HBO films such as Lackawanna Blues and Life Support. Her films have garnered Golden Globes, Emmys and many other nominations. The former New Jersey native got into filmmaking as a way to avoid law school and to our benefit the entertainment industry has kept her allured ever since.

The following is my Q&A with her:

1. What's your process for picking projects? What elements need to be in a script to make you say "I have to produce that"?

My process is simple and possibly infuriating - I know it when I see it. I love stories and when one gives me that "feeling" I act on it.

2. Do you think that minority filmmakers are doing a good job of exposing their audiences to a diverse array of film genres? If not, what kinds of films would you like to see emerge?

I'm having some trouble with this question, I think minority filmmakers are making all kinds of films (I see a lot of films from an array of film festivals - both big & small) these days. Some minority filmmakers are making films that speak to their particular ethnic group and some are making movies that are broader, which is as it should be. Look at the wide array of films from directors such as Spike Lee, Wayne Wang, Tim Story, Rahmin Bahrani, George C. Wolfe and Darnell Martin - each of them have made some amazing films both within their specific ethnic groups as well as "mainstream" films featuring casts which resemble all of America.

3. Have you noticed a difference in how black films are received domestically vs. internationally?

Hasn't everyone? One of the great conundrums and topic of endless conversation is the disparity between the popularity of African American entertainers & musicians and films that feature African American subject matter and casts. We're always told "there is no foreign" and it can severely curtail one's ability to get a project made as well as the budgets that are available.

4. A current trend in Hollywood seems to be drawing from the wells of already existing properties such as book adaptations (i.e. Twilight) and remakes of popular foreign films (i.e. Internal Affairs). Have you considered producing any foreign films?

Particularly something out of Bollywood since it has a thriving film industry. Of course it's very interesting to adapt a foreign film for an American audience. I've made many movies based on books & plays and look forward to the challenge of doing the same with a film.

5. Upon your entrance into the filmmaking business were there any core beliefs that you promised yourself to stay true to no matter what Hollywood threw your way?

LOL! We all learn by our mistakes and that is true of me as well...that said, I'm extremely proud of the body of work I've produced over the years.

6. What advice would you offer aspiring producers trying to make their mark in Hollywood? Especially in regards to those trying to break into the made-for-TV cable market.

Be willing to start as an assistant. Whether that in an office, for an agent or manager or being a PA - It's amazing how much you can learn by working your way up - keep an open mind & heart and it's amazing what you can learn.

7. Anything else you'd like to share?

Read everything you can - scripts, journals, etc. See as many movies and or TV shows (depending on what you're area of interest is) as you can. Attend seminars . Go to conferences. The more schooled you are the better.

[Photo 2 by Evan Agostini/Getty Images.(L-R) Shelby Stone, Queen Latifah and V.P. of HBO Films Sam Martin]