While producer Cathy Schulman may have seen her share of ups and downs, nothing compared to winning an Academy Award for Best Picture for the probing race drama, "Crash" (2005). Prior to her Oscar win...
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From the time she was a child, Schulman had the drive to succeed. After losing her father, a laser surgery instructor at Yale University, to a car accident when she was 18, Schulman attended Yale, studying playwriting. She staged a few of her productions in New York, but a friend convinced her to find a more lucrative job in the film industry. She first worked as an assistant for producers Earl Mack and Michael Taylor, contributing to such films as "Blue Steel" (1990). After two years with Mack and Taylor, Schulman moved to Los Angeles to work for Barbara Boyle at Sovereign Pictures. She moved up the ranks from assistant to executive, helping with the release of such international productions as "Cinema Paradiso" (1988) and "My Left Foot" (1989). After four years, Schulman left the confines of Hollywood and took in the crisp mountain air as co-director of programming at the Sundance Film Festival.
It was at this time that Sundance board member Tom Rothman asked Schulman to join the Samuel Goldwyn Co., where she worked in acquisitions and production, becoming involved with "Much Ado About Nothing" (1993), "The Madness of King George" (1994) and "The Perez Family" (1995). She moved on again, this time to Savoy Entertainment where she met Betsy Danbury, then head of physical production, who was later instrumental in making "Crash." After Victor Kaufman, CEO of the floundering company, dropped the axe on his employees, he had Schulman hock their remaining slate, which included "A Simple Plan" and "American History X." Once again, Schulman did the executive shuffle and landed at Universal Studios, where president Ron Meyer put her with producers Michael Lobell and Andrew Bergman. Though Schulman got her first opportunity to experience big budget studio features, she was unfortunately saddled with the likes of "Striptease" (1996) and "Isn't She Great?" (2000).
In 1998, Schulman and managers Rick and Julie Yorn began forming an idea about starting a production-management company. But former CAA head Michael Ovitz stepped in and wooed Schulman to his newly formed Artists Production Group, putting her right to work on a slate of low-budget indies, including Edward Burns' off-putting "Sidewalks of New York" (2001). Then, almost as fast as it began, the honeymoon between Schulman and Ovitz was over. In 2000, APG began to crumble, thanks to a takeover by Vivendi-Universal of Studio Canal, with whom APG had a deal. According to Schulman, all projects she had in development were tossed aside. She was called into an audit interview with Vivendi and - according to Schulman - unwittingly revealed the company's accounting details. Ovitz learned of Schulman's mistake and fired her. In turn, she filed a wrongful termination suit against Ovitz. She lost and was forced to pay $3.6 million during arbitration, later vacated in 2004.
While the stress and aggravation during the bitter trial with Ovitz took its toll, Schulman was also forced to file bankruptcy, leading some in the business to question her business judgment. Her taste and acumen as a producer, however, was never questioned. Schulman continued making films, though on deferred payment thanks to a deal with financier Bob Yari, who held a tight grip on the purse strings with the newly formed Bull's Eye Entertainment, maker of low-budget, high-quality features, including "Thumbsucker" (2005) and "Crash" (2005). When Schulman returned from Prague after filming "The Illusionist" (lensed 2005), she discovered that "Crash" had become a financial and critical hit. But she remained unpaid by Yari, who was himself upset that he was denied credit by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, keeping him from accepting alongside Schulman and writer-director Paul Haggis.
After her Academy Award win, Schulman filed suit against Yari. But by then Yari was disconnected from Bull's Eye and Schulman continued to do what she did best - make movies. She also ventured into television production, developing pilots for "Crash" and "Emily's Eyes," a Lifetime procedural about a star FBI agent trying to right the wrongs of her CIA operative parents.
From classic movie palaces to the state-of-the-art IMAX screens.