For Fred Baron, Executive Vice President of Feature Production at 20th Century Fox, the decision to go into the film industry took root during his childhood in New York. Baron remembers driving with his parents for 30 miles to see The Graduate, and a recent edition of the Producers Guild of America’s Produced By magazine describes how Baron and his younger brother would screen movies loaned to them by a neighbor working at Paramount, in their basement.
“Why did I decide to pursue a film career? When I was in college, students did not arrive on campus with a plan centered on how to succeed on Wall Street or law school,” says Baron. “We were the last of the ‘hippies’ who wanted to figure out who we were. Luckily, my game plan involved doing something I have really liked.” And what Baron likes is being the creative force that brings movie scripts, directors, actors, and budgets together in a resulting orchestral-like performance—and memorable experience for moviegoers. He remembers how his English and literature background at OWU set the stage, and how professors such as Emeritus Professor of English Charles Weiss intrigued his students—Baron being one of them. “I advised my daughters to learn as much about the world and other academic disciplines as possible. Anyone can be a technical film maker, but at a school like Ohio Wesleyan, you meet people who can help you tell a story,” he says. And at a college like OWU, you meet lifetime friends, such as Baron’s cadre of Ohio Wesleyan buddies who recently celebrated their five-year class reunion at Baron’s Palm Springs home.
“We were a crazy, long-haired, soul-searching bunch that wanted to figure out “who we were,” recalls Baron. “And, we’ve all done well in the lives we have chosen.” For Baron, it is a life complete with a loving and supportive family, but also a career that—competitive and demanding as it is—allows Baron to satisfy his creative vision and love for film. In a nutshell, his responsibilities at 20th Century Fox focus on the preparation, production, and delivery of films, from receiving movie scripts to hiring directors, producers, actors, designers, and editors. Baron is also a producer of films and TV, such as the award winning Cable TV series “Tales from the Crypt,” and Moulin Rouge (winner of a Golden Globe for best picture and PGA’s Darryl F. Zanuck Producer of the Year Award) with Baz Luhrmann. Baron spent more than a year with Luhrmann in Sydney, Australia, working on the film with the actors, including Nicole Kidman and Ewan MacGregor. Baron shares how experiences he had “on location” in Sydney, with the actors, director, crew, and writers were like none else, sparking his creative juices.
A big challenge, explains Baron, is making tent pole films that are bigger and better, with less money- at times 30 percent less than the other major studios. With Fox since 1990, Baron has overseen production of numerous films including: Ridley Scott’s Prometheus; Knight and Day; Date Night; The Day the Earth Stood Still; Live Free or Die Hard; Borat; Kingdom of Heaven; I, Robot; The Day After Tomorrow; Last of the Mohicans; Grand Canyon; Edward Scissorhands; Hot Shots!; Broken Arrow; Romeo and Juliet; Alien: Resurrection; and Bulworth.
“We travel the world to find the best locations to make our films as cost effective as possible,” says Baron. Those locales could be in Canada, Iceland, Bulgaria, or Hungary. Yet the Fox brand also demands quality and style for each movie, so decisions are always based on what is best for each movie. Baron’s typical day? Well, there are none. He may trouble shoot via Skype or phone with a movie crew in Europe one morning, then switch to Sydney for another round after that, followed by more problem solving with a director in Japan.
“My job is to support the “troops in the field” so we all can succeed; it’s like moving an army or circus,” says Baron, adding that “Success, for me, is working with amazing and talented people, and then going home and having a relaxed conversation with my photographer wife,” says Baron. “I’m lucky that I am working in one of America’s great industries.”