We had the good fortune of connecting with Justin Bell and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Justin, is there something you can share with us that those outside of the industry might not be aware of?
To be a producer you don’t have to be a “Type A” personality, or independently wealthy, or someone who hobnobs with celebrities on weekends. While these qualities can’t hurt, the beauty of producing is there’s room for all kinds of personalities, perspectives, and skill sets. It’s a complex job. There’s many ways a producer can succeed in Hollywood. Some producers have great story taste – they have a knack for finding/developing scripts, and building relationships with writers and literary agents. Other producers have a deep understanding of production – they can budget, schedule, and know qualified crew, vendors, and are savvy with equipment. And yes, there’s definitely a group of producers who are sophisticated with money – they know how to raise it and maximize it. I even know producers with marketing and publicity backgrounds, and it’s their close relationships with distributors that separate them from the pack. That said, producers can be good at more than one thing. There’s always opportunities for producers to learn and grow. For example, I started my career more on the creative development side of things, packaging studio projects for Academy Award-winning producer Edward Saxon (THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS). But once I started producing independently, I gleaned from the line producers and UPMs I was hiring, and started to oversee day-to-day operations of productions as well. Ultimately, my #1 producing strength will always be my nose for story. Yet, this second (and acquired) skill set often serves me in my career. My advice to aspiring producers is this: don’t be overwhelmed by the giant task of producing – play to your strengths and surround yourself with other producers with complimentary skill sets. Producing is a team sport!

Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.

I’m the owner of a full service production company – Justin Bell Productions LLC – and I both creatively produce and line produce a mix of film, television, and commercial projects. I enjoy the variety that managing a diverse portfolio brings. No day looks the same when you’re involved in everything from ideation and pitching, to writing, to financing, to casting, to budgeting/scheduling, to on-set management, to editorial and post production… all the way through marketing and distribution. While my diverse interests and experiences may confuse some folks in terms of what exactly I do, I’m ultimately in the business of leadership and problem-solving in a creative field. The process of conceiving and then executing on an idea is an absolute thrill! I never get tired of it, as every project has different teams, challenges, and creative goals.

I like to produce film and television that’s about… people. That may sound obvious, but you’d be surprised how many movies and shows are about other things, such as explosions or spectacle or selling merchandise. I enjoy the occasional sensory overload of a Transformers movie as much as the next person, but that’s more as a consumer of entertainment. As a maker of entertainment, I put my efforts into stories that advance human connection, empathy, and spiritual exploration. That doesn’t mean that I only produce dramas. Movies about people can span any genre – from comedy, to horror, to sci fi, etc. At their best, movies and TV shows open audiences to new worlds, new experiences, and new understandings. That’s what happens to me when I watch great entertainment. And I strive to offer up that same gift to others. My hope is that when people see my body of work that they’ll see deeper human themes as a through line…

THE HYPERIONS is a lo-fi superhero movie, but it’s ultimately a story about a father (Professor Mandulbaum, played by Cary Elwes) and a daughter (Vista, played by Penelope Mitchell) finding forgiveness.

ELSA & FRED (starring Shirley MacLaine and Christopher Plummer) is an octogenarian comedy, but also a call to risk being loved.

FULL OF GRACE is a Biblical film, but more of a “what if” scenario where we’re immersed in Mary of Nazareth’s final days and her lasting impact on the Apostles.

In commercials (which is half of my time), there’s a general impulse out there to make the campaign solely about the product or “the big sell”. These project kick-off calls tend to start by looking at data and statistics and guidelines – which is fine – but my first question is always “What’s the story you’re trying to tell?” Even when selling something, I strive to put stories about people first. I don’t take off my filmmaker goggles in branded entertainment. I’m always looking for ways to make campaigns more personal, more relatable, and more impactful. This could be because of the way I got into commercials in the first place. I creatively produced two NBC TV movies that P&G and Walmart paid for through product integrations. Narrative story came first in those movies, and I’ve just never stopped making it my first priority in branded work. In fact, it’s the only way I know how to do it.

Sometimes the commercials I produce are simply cinematic and fun. Like this recent ad that I line produced for Playstation’s Atomic Heart game and Tiger House Films, featuring Jensen Ackles. I gain a lot of technical know-how on these types of projects – coordinating stunts and special effects, tinkering with the latest camera equipment, etc.

But the commercials that I am the most proud of are the ones where human insights are the focus, such as…

This Bose spot featuring pop star Charlie Puth (produced for 160/90 & WinniePeg Productions) as he offers insights on why and how he makes music…

This commercial for Ontario International Airport, which offers the audience new eyes on “why” people travel.

A commercial for a robotics company, that tracks a veteran’s journey wearing prosthetic legs.

If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I’m the father of two elementary school-aged children, so I stay busy with kids activities such as dance practices, taekwondo, and Cub scouts. When I do find time to host friendsI enjoy showing them around Silverlake/Echo Park, as I’m a bit of an east side culture vulture. A perfect day with friends might start with casual hangs at LAMILL Coffee, followed by classic arcade games (like Galaga) over at Button Mash, then stretch out to Koreatown for dinner at Road to Seoul, then, of course, Karaoke at Pharaoh. I also ride dirt bikes, and frequently take friends off-roading in Santa Clarita – it’s a hobby that allows me to disconnect from work and enjoy nature.

The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I’d like to give a shoutout to the late Lawrence Turman, the Academy Award-nominated producer of THE GRADUATE who I was lucky enough to count as personal mentor and teacher. Larry was the director of The Peter Stark Producing Program at USC, where I earned my MFA in Motion Picture Producing. He also authored what I consider to be the greatest book on the entertainment business, “So You Want to Be a Producer”. Whereas most books about Hollywood are filled with doom and gloom, Larry’s book (much like his personal interactions) is an open invitation to pursue the excitement and challenges that await you in Hollywood. For anyone working in entertainment (or considering working in entertainment), I encourage you to read Larry’s book to soak up his inspirational message. Best career advice Larry ever gave me – “Trust your taste, because that’s the only thing an artist truly has.”

Website: jbellproductions.com

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/jbellprods

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jbellproductions/

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/@justinbellproductions7790

Image Credits
Ed Saxon & Justin Bell on the set of Elsa & Fred Justin Bell, Eric Groth & Andrew Hyatt on the set of Full of Grace Hannah Goebel & Justin Bell on set at Blue Cloud Movie Ranch Sarah Moshman & Justin Bell on set of a LeapFrog commercial Larry Turman & Justin Bell at USC’s Peter Stark Producing Program graduation Justin Bell on set of Deloitte commercial (photo by Stephanie Alcaino) Amit Gupta & Justin Bell on set of an LG commercial Justin Bell and Cary Elwes on set of The Hyperions (photo by Brian Zager)

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