Local Arts

Charlotte-Oscar connection #2: This on-the-rise producer aided ‘Skin’

Andrew Carlberg
Andrew Carlberg Courtesy of Andrew Carlberg

Movie credits really should have a category called “fixer.” He’d be the guy who roused investors when money fell short, wrangled permits when plans changed at the last moment, recruited talent and soothed people if feathers got ruffled.

He’d be Andrew Carlberg.

The former Charlottean has worked in film, TV and Broadway in the 12 years since graduating from UNC Chapel Hill. But the bland description “producer” doesn’t tell you much.

Take “Skin,” this year’s Academy Award-nominated short narrative about a white racist dad, who stirs up trouble when a black man shows kindness toward his son.

Carlberg got the call after the script had been written, as filmmakers were deciding when to shoot. He responded to a Facebook post by producer Jaime Ray Newman, who knew him through the L.A. theater circuit; she needed him for various producing chores, including day-to-day troubleshooting known as line producing.

“Sometimes I help develop projects from the beginning,” he says. “On some, I just assist with casting. Sometimes I assist with financing. Sometimes I come on board after it’s shot, and I guide it through post-production. I’m a producer in every sense.” (Though if “Skin” wins, Newman and Guy Nattiv will accept the prize; Oscar rules let only two producers collect that trophy, and a dozen worked on this 20-minute film.)

The Internet Movie Data Base lists Carlberg as producing 14 projects, both short and full-length, over the last three years. It doesn’t say when he sleeps.

“Usually from about 3 a.m. to 9 a.m.,” he replies. “My most concentrated work gets done between 11 p.m. and 2 a.m., because so little is incoming.”

His friends might have foreseen this hubbub back at Providence High School (class of 2003), where he developed a love for theater. (“Romeo and Juliet,” his first play there, became his initial Broadway credit: He was associate producer on a 2013 version with Orlando Bloom and Condola Rashad.)

An internship through UNC’s communications program got him a job as assistant to “Castle” producer Laurie Zaks. That detective show, he said later, required days that were “24/7 with an asterisk: You work around the producer’s schedule, assisting her with everything from her schedule to phone calls to details related to the show. I’d manage anything that would cross her desk: publicity events, writers’ submissions, all the content that came in.”

By watching a producer, he learned to become one. As he prepared to set up his own shingle at Western Skies Productions, he wrote a producer’s manifesto in 2011 that lays out the job requirements for anyone following in his still-fresh footsteps: Exercise good taste. Protect your directors and actors. Respect the stage. (“There is no filter, no editing. It is where you can show your skill in the purest light.”) Distinguish among roles, especially when working with an actor who’s on the producing team but also stars in the project.

“I look at myself as a creative producer and love championing artists and work,” he says today. “No matter what happens, when things go south, they need a mainstay to have their back.”

In 2013, after he produced writer Neil LaBute’s feature “Some Girl(s),” Variety put him alongside the likes of Mindy Kaling and Joseph Gordon-Levitt in an article celebrating “Hollywood’s new leaders.” The spotlight was on him, and “things started to come in pretty fast.”

Now he spends half his time developing new material and half jumping into projects already underway: “I’m always looking for the next great thing, but I get sent more than I could read myself. That’s part of the freelance world. (He no longer accepts unsolicited material; it comes through agents or contacts he has made.)

“I always have to be thinking about what my summer’s going to look like, what fall’s going to look like. I have gotten myself into situations where I say ‘Yes’ and the work becomes too much, so you delegate what you can and bounce back and forth. You have to plan so that, if something falls through, you’re not reliant on that one thing.”

He also makes time for nonprofit work, whether establishing The 4th Wall at Geffen Playhouse to bring young people to live theater inexpensively or producing fundraising events for the I Have a Dream Foundation — Los Angeles (which he came to through Zaks’ participation) or the National Breast Cancer Coalition. For those he might stage a theatrical show or put together an auction, mining contacts and managing personnel and vendors for something that’s over in a day.

So why does he like shorts, which bring neither high-paying jobs nor wide audience attention?

“Anyone could think, ‘I’m too busy to do a short,’ but that work leads to bigger things,” he explains. “I met Jennifer Morrison (star of the Emmy-nominated “Once Upon a Time”) on my first feature, produced a short she directed, then produced the first feature she directed (‘Sun Dogs’). My relationship with Neil LaBute started with a short and led to a feature, and that turned into a series (‘Full Circle’).”

Though Carlberg is just 34, he has a sort of early-midlife bucket list. He wants to get back to Broadway, where he last co-produced the revival of “Side Show” in 2014. He has a roster of actors and directors he wants to work with, though he keeps those names to himself.

“The industry changes so much that you mostly want to roll with the punches,” he says. “So many things have happened that were not part of my plan but have been rewarding or lucrative or both.

“I haven’t produced a studio movie yet, though I hope that’s on the near horizon. Establishing a company that provides a good many people with a great place to work – I want to do that. In the broader sense, I just want to keep making things that are bigger and better.”

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