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James Schamus

James Schamus

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Also Known As: James Allan Schamus Died:
Born: September 7, 1959 Cause of Death:
Birth Place: Detroit, Michigan, USA Profession: executive, screenwriter, producer, film theory professor

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

One of the major players of the American independent film scene in the early 1990s, James Schamus has gradually been moving toward the mainstream through a series of collaborations with Taiwanese director Ang Lee. The California native, who is on faculty at Columbia University, entered the films as a producer on Raul Ruiz's short "The Golden Boat" (1990). He became involved with Apparatus, a production company founded by indie filmmakers Christine Vachon, Todd Haynes and Barry Elsworth and served as executive producer of Haynes' acclaimed "Poison" (1991). He and Vachon have collaborated on several acclaimed films including Tom Kalin's "Swoon" (1992), a retelling of the Leopold-Loeb murders, Haynes' "Safe" (1995). about a woman with allergic reactions to her environment, and "Office Killer" (1997), photographer Cindy Sherman's feature directorial debut.Around the same time he began his association with Apparatus. Schamus became involved with the creation of the Independent Television Service (ITVS), where he helped to develop and oversee several productions, most notably Haynes' "When Dottie Gets Spanked" (1993). Nearly simultaneously, he was working as a script reader at New Line where he made the...

One of the major players of the American independent film scene in the early 1990s, James Schamus has gradually been moving toward the mainstream through a series of collaborations with Taiwanese director Ang Lee. The California native, who is on faculty at Columbia University, entered the films as a producer on Raul Ruiz's short "The Golden Boat" (1990). He became involved with Apparatus, a production company founded by indie filmmakers Christine Vachon, Todd Haynes and Barry Elsworth and served as executive producer of Haynes' acclaimed "Poison" (1991). He and Vachon have collaborated on several acclaimed films including Tom Kalin's "Swoon" (1992), a retelling of the Leopold-Loeb murders, Haynes' "Safe" (1995). about a woman with allergic reactions to her environment, and "Office Killer" (1997), photographer Cindy Sherman's feature directorial debut.

Around the same time he began his association with Apparatus. Schamus became involved with the creation of the Independent Television Service (ITVS), where he helped to develop and oversee several productions, most notably Haynes' "When Dottie Gets Spanked" (1993). Nearly simultaneously, he was working as a script reader at New Line where he made the acquaintance of Ted Hope. With Hope, Schamus founded Good Machine, a production company, in 1991, under whose auspices over twenty films have been produced. Schamus (often in tandem with Hope) went on to be involved in a variety of other productions, many of which have earned festival and other awards. Among them are Alexandre Rockwell's "In the Soup" (1992), Tom Noonan's "What Happened Was..." (1993), Edward Burns' "The Brothers McMullen" (1995) and "She's the One" (1996), Nicole Holofcener's "Walking and Talking" (1996) and Bart Freundlich's "The Myth of Fingerprints" (1997).

But it is for his associations with Ang Lee that Schamus has become best-known. He served as producer and was credited with additional scenes on Lee's "Pushing Hands" (1992), a well-made examination of the clash of cultures between a Chinese-American whose non-English speaking father comes to live with him. Their second teaming, with Schamus sharing screenplay credit, resulted in the Oscar-nominated foreign film "The Wedding Banquet" (1993), a comedy about a gay Taiwanese-American who tries to outsmart his parents by staging a bogus marriage ceremony. The following year, "Eat Drink Man Woman" also received an Academy Award nod for Best Foreign Film. With 1995's "Sense and Sensibility", Schamus and Lee hit pay dirt. With a screenplay by actress Emma Thompson (who also starred), the film earned rapturous reviews and seven Oscar nominations. Schamus furthered his own reputation as a screenwriter with his masterful adaptation of Rick Moody's novel of 70s angst and ennui, "The Ice Storm" (1997). Again Lee helmed with a steady hand and meticulous eye for detail. Schamus' script was awarded a prize at the Cannes Film Festival. As a follow-up, he adapted another novel, Daniel Woodrell's "Woe to Live On", a coming-of-age story set at the end of the Civil War. Produced under the title "Ride With the Devil" (1999), it featured a cast of rising young actors including Skeet Ulrich, Tobey Maguire and singer Jewel in her motion picture acting debut.

In 2000, Schamus and Ang Lee teamed on the critically- acclaimed "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon", which mixed a pulp story filled with breathtaking martial arts with a sweeping, epic romance. Utilizing the iconic stature of Hong Kong stars Chow Yun Fat and Michelle Yeoh counterpointed with rising talents Zhang Ziyi and Chang Cheng, the film held appeal to both males and females. Schamus who contributed to the screenplay, produced and even penned the lyrics to the love theme, earned Oscar nominations in all three categories, although he had to be satisfied with the film taking home the Best Foreign Language statue as well as three technical awards.

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Filmographyclose complete filmography

CAST: (feature film)

1.
 Hulk: The Lowdown (2003) Featuring
2.
 Artists and Entertainers (2001) Interviewee
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

:
Became involved with Aparatus, a production company founded by Christine Vachon, Todd Haynes and Barry Elsworth
1988:
Co-founded the Independent Television Service (ITVS); also served as coordinating producer for fiction
1990:
First producing credit, "The Golden Boat"; directed by Raul Ruiz
:
Met Ted Hope while both were working as script readers at New Line
1991:
First collaboration with Todd Haynes, "Poison"; served as executive producer; film produced by Vachon
1991:
With Hope, founded the production company, Good Machine in January
1991:
Initial producing collaboration with Hal Hartley, "Ambition"
1992:
First collaboration with Ang Lee; "Pushing Hands"
1992:
Served as executive producer of Tom Kalin's "Swoon"
1992:
Co-produced Hartley's "Simple Men"
1993:
Produced and co-wrote Lee's "The Wedding Banquet"
1993:
Through ITVS, was coordinating producer of Todd Haynes' acclaimed short, "Dottie Gets Spanked"
1994:
Re-teamed with Lee for "Eat Drink Man Woman"; served as associate producer and co-writer
1995:
Executive produced Edward Burns' feature debut, "The Brothers McMullen"
1995:
Was an executive producer on Todd Haynes' acclaimed film, "Safe"
1995:
Was one of the co-producers of Ang Lee's Oscar-nominated adaptation of Jane Austen's "Sense and Sensibility"
1996:
Served as a producer of Burns' second film, "She's the One"
1997:
Co-produced "The Ice Storm" with Ted Hope and Ang Lee; also scripted
2000:
Contributed to the script for Lee's "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon"; earned Best Screenplay and Best Song Oscar nominations
2001:
Produced "Buffalo Soldiers," starring Joaquin Phoenix and Ed Harris as US soldiers stationed in West Germany just before the fall of the Berlin wall
2003:
Produced and co-wrote the script for Ang Lee's feature adaptation of "Hulk"
2005:
Re-teamed with director Ang Lee to produce "Brokeback Mountain"; earned an Oscar nomination for Best Picture
2007:
Produced Lee's "Lust, Caution"
2009:
Re-teamed with Lee to produce "Taking Woodstock"
VIEW ALL MILESTONES

Education

Hollywood High School: Hollywood , California -
University of California, Berkeley: Berkeley , California - 1982
University of California, Berkeley: Berkeley , California - 1987
University of California, Berkeley: Berkeley , California - 2003

Notes

On working in independent films: "For people like me, as long as you've got a day job and you're already broke, it's not that risky. But I tell potential investors that they're out of their minds for even talking to me, because they probably won't get their money back." --James Schamus quoted in "A Film Scholar Conjures Up a Hit Machine" in THE NEW YORK TIMES, February 29, 1994

"When you get right down to it, producers like myself and the filmmakers I work with are essentially parasites--and I use that word lovingly, in the best biological sense. We are able to do what we do because Hollywood throws away more food at lunch than we can possibly eat at dinner. So we're able to pick up the leftovers, whether they be physical, like equipment and labs, or personnel, like creative young talent that wants to get into the system and can't. We use the system much the way any sockless, ponytailed cellular-phone-waving junior executive in Hollywood does." --Schamus in NEW YORK NEWSDAY, May 19, 1994

"I try to teach as little practical stuff as possible. My feeling is, if you're going to get anything valuable out of an education, it better be something unvaluable in the real world, something that gives you access to a point of view on your life and what you're going to do." --Schamus to NEW YORK NEWSDAY, May 19, 1994

Companions close complete companion listing

wife:
Nancy Kricorian. Literary agent.

Bibliography close complete biography

"The Aparatus Guide to No-Budget Filmmaking"

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