Producers sure take a lot of flack. It's easy to take a cynical attitude toward producers, when you go to a film that is of questionable quality and it has a good dozen people listed as "Executive Producer, Associate Producer, Producer in Charge of Production, Consulting Producer" and you wonder why nobody was able to steer the ship in the right direction. How many of them were producers in name only? How many of them contractually were given a producer credit? What exactly did they do to help the director and writer's vision come to life?
But then there are the producers who do so much that a mere "Associate Producer" credit is being modest. Producers that were so responsible for the look, the feel, and the end result of a film that their contribution(s) can be directly linked to the success of the film. A good producer is like a selfless samurai, they help the director with all their responsibilities, make sure the director has the tools that they need to succeed, and even identifies the weak spots in which the director is unable to execute things and jumps in to help.
Those are the producers like Michael C. Gross.
It became evident over the years, through countless interviews and comments that he made, that Michael C. Gross came in to help Ivan Reitman with areas where he wasn't experienced. While Reitman had a knack for directing great comedic actors, animation and design weren't exactly in his wheelhouse and he realized that. Gross helped usher along the visual effects department, while also worked with artists to hone in the now famous "No-Ghost" logo that adorned the entry to a firehall, to countless costumes both on-screen and worn by fans, to every imaginable product, to this website. While he wasn't responsible for the concept like Aykroyd, the improvisation like Murray, or grounding it to relatable real-life like Ramis, it was more than evident that the presence of Michael C. Gross was essential to the secret formula that made Ghostbusters the phenomenon that it was and still continues to be.
His work with National Lampoon is iconic. His sense of humor distinct. He loved living his life by the Southern California beach (and of course, bikini season as result). When he was diagnosed with brain cancer, his mood understandably greatly varied. When I reached out to him to see if he was interested in getting all of his thoughts onto record, he declined and told me he was "tired of hearing himself talk." In a rare audio interview for the 30th Anniversary, he told Chris Stewart that he felt like a "has been," a man who had glory days behind him, but wasn't leaving a legacy. Chris, very rightly argued the opposite.
At age 70, he is gone far ahead of his time. A healthy Michael C. Gross would have produced incredible art, unforgettable humor, and countless surprises that we would have never expected. I for one was hoping that he would continue to defy the doctor's diagnoses and continue thriving through seeing another Ghostbusters film release and to enjoy the ride one last time.
From a fellow producer, from a fan, from someone who no doubt continues to benefit from his long stressful and sleepless nights in production and post, and from a kid who grew up coveting anything and everything in which the No-Ghost logo was adorned, thank you Michael. For being one of those unsung producers with a credit that didn't do justice to the impact that of which he was responsible.
For more on Michael, please visit the Telegraph for a recent and very comprehensive interview they conducted with him.