KINGSTON — Hollywood producer Susan Cartsonis came to the Hoyt Library in Kingston Friday and gave Wyoming Valley children and some parents a behind-the-scenes look at how an idea becomes a silver screen production.
She played scenes from “Aquamarine,” a movie she produced, to illustrate the movie-making process.
Cartsonis started off the presentation by playing the movie’s opening to give kids who had never seen it “the set up,” a term used in Hollywood. In “Aquamarine,” the set up ends when the protagonists, Claire and Haley, discover a mermaid in their pool.
“Aquamarine,” originally a book by Alice Hoffman, began when Cartsonis, with her production company Storefront Productions and 20th Century Fox, put together a crew to talk about what was going to happen in each scene and where they were going to film it.
They eventually chose Queensland, Australia. Cartsonis, along with the 200 people it takes to make a movie, spent two years there producing “Aquamarine.”
Before filming, there are seemingly endless meetings to finalize the script, test costumes, make props and rehearse each scene, she said. For example, a viewer might not know that the mermaid, Aquamarine, had five different tails of various shapes and sizes throughout the movie.
After detailing how the movie was made, Cartsonis answered questions from audience members. Kids asked her about mermaids and how she chose the costumes for the cast.
Started as script reader
Just as a script evolves into a film, so did Cartsonis’ career. Following her graduation from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, she began her career in the film industry as a script reader for Scott Ruden, producer of “The Social Network” and “It’s Complicated.” She eventually worked her way to becoming a senior vice president of production, and then created Storefront Pictures, her own production company, in 2002.
One of her most successful movies was the 2000 romantic comedy, “What Women Want,” starring Mel Gibson and Helen Hunt.
“It is hard, it is a lot of work. But it is a lot of fun,” Cartsonis said of her producing career.
Cartsonis, a resident of Los Angeles, has produced movies in and lived in Montreal, Austin and Chicago.
She is a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which means she, along with 6,000 others, votes each February on which movies win Academy Awards or “Oscars.”
In addition to producing, Cartsonis devotes her time to education. She teaches an Advanced Producing class at USC and is on the advisory board of Wilkes University’s Creative Writing Program, which brought her to the Wyoming Valley.
Cartsonis said she loves the energy and enthusiasm of students. “They teach you a lot about life and yourself,” she said.
Cartsonis hopes to transform another novel into a movie. She most recently started a campaign to raise funds to produce an adaptation of a young-adult novel titled “Carrie Pilby.”