A Q&A With Criterion President Peter Becker and Producer Kim Hendrickson

A few weeks ago I went to a screening of City Lights and with it a Q&A session with the Criterion President, Peter Becker, and one of the Producers, Kim Hendrickson. When I learned of the opportunity, for me, it seemed like a pot of gold, the unattainable and unimaginable thing. However once the interview began, the interviewer stated to the audience that it was Criterion’s fifth time being there to talk with them, but whatever it was exciting for me nonetheless. Along with me was my mother, who I knew would enjoy City Lights. She had seen a few films Criterion had released and she was generally interested in learning more about the company. Overall, I was extremely thrilled to hear what they had to say about their company and how they run it.

I’m not lying when I say I was impressed with them. For some odd reason I was excepting the President not to know that much about film?? Like, about the films and how they go about things at Criterion?? Which is completely ridiculous because it’s Criterion. But then again I suppose I expected that because Criterion is still a business. From the questions asked, I received a better impression of Becker because he answered majority of the questions; Hendrickson answered one or two but she typically handed off the questions to Becker because she said he would be better able to answer the questions. Whatever; I liked both of them and they both supplied an abundant amount of information for a newbie like me.

I learned so much in that hour Q&A session: about their whole history and how they began (it wasn’t until DVDs came about that their business started to boom because they previously released their films on laserdisc), Citizen Kane and King Kong were their first releases, they don’t set budgets for their restorations, they literally scour the globe for the best prints possible, talk to experts on whatever film they’re restoring, etc . For example, Hendrickson was in charge of the Bergman/Rossellini set that was recently released and she explained to us that there are, like, 7 or 8 different versions of, I think it was Journey to Italy? One of the cuts they were trying to locate they didn’t find until 3 months before the the DVD’s release and when they did, and saw it was better quality than what they had, they obtained it and restored on it, 3 months before release!! And they research everything, even down to the correct title of the film. The debate over whether to title it Journey to Italy or Voyage to Italy was a concern of theirs; they researched and, I don’t recall what document it was that they found that they said it was to be called Journey to Italy, but from that they decided that they couldn’t call it Voyage to Italy (I’m almost positive it was something Rossellini signed off on). They also explained the role of the Producer; one Producer is in charge of one release and then, within that Producer’s group, there are various other people who work on restoration, cover art, writing, contacting, etc. So I decided that my dream job is to be a Producer at Criterion.

I actually asked them a question too! I was dying to ask them this question, and wasn’t going to, until I noticed that all the questions asked for far (8) were asked by men {btw no other women asked questions throughout the entire thing}; there was no way that Q&A was continuing without a woman asking because I knew there were women there who had questions; I mean, come on girls, let’s represent! We know about film and love it just as much as the guys! Plus, I was sick of all these snobby college film students asking, “Now why do you release The Rock and not this outstanding film {that I haven’t heard of~~ sorry I’m not A++ yet}” ((FYI, Criterion doesn’t get to pick what they want, people come to them and ask them to consider their/a certain film)) So I raised my hand and the interviewer called on me and I said, in my best speaking voice, “Are there any plans to rerelease Nights of Cabiria and how does the rerelease of an out of print film work?” BECAUSE I CAN’T JUST ASK ABOUT CABIRIA; THAT’S SO SELFISH. Becker answered my question and said right now Studio Canal has the rights and there’s this thing with Lionsgate and it’s back and forth and it’s really a question of rights. But he said, “The time the ink sets dry on an agreement we will get right to work on Nights of Cabiria, I promise.” LOL I’m sure those snobby film guys were like, “Wow, this chick is such a joke,” but hey, Cabiria my girl. Anyways, so I was told personally! Now let’s just hope that time comes sometime in the next five or ten years.

However, apart from the Q&A, there was another important thing I learned. After Becker and Hendrickson were done talking, they came down from the stage and I went up Hendrickson to ask if they had any requests for Buster’s films since they just released Safety Last! and had Chaplin films. While I was waiting to ask her, a girl at the college asked her about internships at Criterion. The girl looked nice and smart enough, but her posture just struck me. You have to understand, Hendrickson had this very confident posture and was extremely sure of herself; as someone who wants to become more confident about what I believe, she became my role model and basically will be forever. So this girl came up and asked her, “I was wondering about how to apply to internships at Criterion because I’m at the end of my four years of school…” and sort of trailed off on that and where Hendrickson started to answer. She was a tall girl but she had her knees bent and was fumbling with her hands, and in combination with her sweet-ish/shy voice, just came off as, I’m not sure how to describe it, but just not confident, but also how I could see myself introducing myself! I think lately I’ve been much better and have a much more confident introduction but all I could think was, “I don’t want to introduce myself like that; no one will ever take me seriously. They wouldn’t even consider me.” And I thought that because I wouldn’t have taken her seriously! So it was this “Aha!” moment: I can’t be all shy and wishy-washy in an area like this, even if it is film studies. Perhaps I need assertiveness even more so in film studies! From a quick survey of my physical features, I believe I do have the face and build (well, that could be worked on lol) that, with the right makeup and clothes, I could achieve that confident look and build a confident demeanor. And not just demeanor, but the actual thing. I need to stop caring what people think of me and defend my opinions because my opinions, like those people, do have logic and reasoning behind them. It really does not matter is someone completely disagrees with me, So that is one of my goals as I learn more about film; it’s why I’m back on this blog to be honest.

I could probably go on and on about that night but I think I covered the basics and my thoughts on it. The movie was awesome, shown in 35mm and, yes, my mom did love it. I’ve decided that working at Criterion is my dream job {why not aim high?} and it’s comforting to know that I have a dream goal. Which means I should start now to achieve that dream, and now means finishing my Some Like It Hot paper…

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2 thoughts on “A Q&A With Criterion President Peter Becker and Producer Kim Hendrickson

  1. filmgeekwatching November 24, 2013 / 1:11 am

    Sounds great! I am glad u enjoyed it..I am thinking of working at my local museum cinematechque…It’s not easy as the event I went have many grown-ups!

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