He made it in Hollywood

Howard Rosenman is a veteran film producer who teaches seminars on how to survive in Hollywood as a writer, producer, or director. Howard Rosenman is a veteran film producer who teaches seminars on how to survive in Hollywood as a writer, producer, or director.
By Matthew Gilbert
Globe Staff / April 10, 2010

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Those who can’t do, teach? Nope, not when it comes to Howard Rosenman, veteran film producer, Hollywood insider, and actor (in “Milk’’). He does, and does more, and teaches, too. Rosenman has spent some 35 years putting together movies such as “The Main Event’’ with Barbra Streisand and “The Family Man’’ with Nicolas Cage. One of the first openly gay Hollywood producers, he has also been responsible for two important documentaries, the Oscar-winning AIDS-quilt story, “Common Threads,’’ in 1989 and the Emmy-winning “Celluloid Closet’’ in 1995. But Rosenman still finds the energy to lead seminars called “The Hollywood Sell,’’ in which he shares his “Entourage’’- like war stories and his advice about getting a foothold in Hollywood. His four-hour class comes to Boston today, starting at 10 a.m. at the Stuart Street Playhouse. (

Q. Why teach? Aren’t you busy enough?

A. It’s like a rush of adrenaline. I love giving back to young students. Just watching them when I tell my stories. Just looking at their eyes. The hunger for it. You’re like a rock star!

Q. What has been the high point of your career so far?

A. “Common Threads.’’ When we won the Oscar. And the making of “Common Threads’’ was gigantically resonant for me. Vito Russo, who wrote “The Celluloid Closet,’’ which I later filmed, was one of the people we were following from the time of his HIV infection to the time he ended up on the quilt. He was a very good friend of mine. And so every time I see that movie I don’t stop crying.

Q. To us, Boston feels like it’s becoming a film town. Does it seem that way in Hollywood?

A. Yes. That’s one of the reasons I’m coming there. It’s a film center. Emerson College for years has been a film factory for executives, producers, artists. And then you have Ben Affleck and Matt [Damon] and “Gone Baby Gone’’ and Clint Eastwood [who directed “Mystic River’’ in Boston]. Boston has a great aesthetic. It has a great infrastructure. And you have those tax incentives. And so it has become one of the foci of the film world in America.

Q. What’s the one big message you want everyone in your class to get about making it in Hollywood?

A. It’s tenacity, It’s not rocket science. If you’re disciplined and organized and respond to the tools that I’m giving you, you too can actually make a movie, whether you’re a producer, a director, or a writer.

Q. When you tell your war stories, you probably have to be cautious, right?

A. I pretty much don’t say anything that’s going to hurt anybody, or reveal a secret that I may know that’s current. Most of my war stories are looking back to movies that I made — and I don’t really care at that point.

Q. OK, then. Barbra. Spill.

A. She’s very exacting. The bigger the star, the more narcissistic they are. They wouldn’t become stars if they weren’t like that.

This interview was condensed and edited.

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