Sam Pressman Talks ‘The Crow’ Reboot, Continuing His Father’s Legacy And Why Industry Should Look To Embrace AI

Growing up as the only son of Ed Pressman, the prolific Hollywood independent producer behind more than 90 major productions including Wall StreetAmerican Psycho and The Crow, it’s fair to say that the film business has always been in Sam Pressman’s blood. 

“As a little kid, I got to be on set a lot and feel that beautiful sense of live shoots,” says Pressman, now CEO of Pressman Film, which was established by his late father in 1969. “Movies are deep inside of me, but I didn’t always believe that I would go into film. I really loved it more as an art. I remember taking a silent film class in my freshman year of college where we watched the really tough silent documentary Man With a Movie Camera and we studied it as a cultural phenomenon – it was fascinating.” 

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But his father’s love of the independent film community and his pioneering ability to carve out an abundant business outside of the Hollywood studio system proved highly contagious. Now, nearly eight months after the revered veteran producer passed away peacefully, Sam Pressman is readying to steer the company into a new chapter that will honor his father’s legacy in the indie sphere whilst also exploring savvy ways to exploit the company’s rich IP library and embrace the possibilities that new technology, such as AI, can bring the indie world. 

It’s clear the young exec, who recently worked alongside his father to produce Daliland with Ben Kingsley, has a deep love and affection for his father when he speaks with Deadline over a Zoom interview from Toronto. “Getting to work for my father and learn from him was the greatest privilege and opportunity,” he says. “I just felt like when there were opportunities to go into other directions, I thought the best thing I could do was give my energy to him.

“I loved how my father would talk about the late 1960s and say back then how he believed that film would change the world. He had such reverence and he would say that every film was a miracle and that movie theaters are the cathedrals of our time.” 

But, he notes, his father was cognizant of how fast the film world was changing – “he was always looking forward” – and continually “valued people’s opinions,” traits he is sure saw Ed sustain such a historied career in the notoriously unpredictable independent film space. 

“He thrived on empowering artists and believing that his role as a producer was to be the ally and the champion of the filmmaker,” says Pressman, whose father was a frequent collaborator with the likes of Oliver Stone, Abel Ferrara, Werner Herzog and Terence Malick. “So, that ethic is really at the core of what I want to continue at Pressman Film.” 

And there’s plenty of work to be done at the small, L.A.-based production outfit. Paula Paizes serves as COO and Head of Business Affairs, while Kelly McKee, who has been with the company for more than a decade, is Head of Production and Max Loeb is Director of Development. Sam’s mother, Annie Pressman, whom Ed met on the set of Stone’s first financed feature The Hand, contributes to the company’s publicity and marketing strategies whilst also working across special projects for the business. 

On the production slate, the company is one of the producers of the long-gestating reboot of The Crow, which Deadline revealed just snagged an eight-figure domestic deal with Lionsgate. The film, based on James O’Barr’s original graphic novel, is directed by Rupert Sanders and stars Bill Skarsgård and FKA Twigs. It charts the story of a brutally murdered man who comes back to life as an undead avenger of his and his fiancées murders. Producers are Victor Hadida, Molly Hassell, John Jencks and the late Samuel Hadida and Ed Pressman.

The Crow has been a very central and integral part of our company and I’m really proud of the progress and the work that has been done,” says Pressman. “I think the movie is just going to blow people away. Our partners want to approach it in a very 360 way, whether it be video games, an animated series or a universe, but it’s got this cosmic legacy that can expand beyond a singular story.”

He adds, “We’re finally at a point where we can really explore those other avenues because it’s such a unique property in that it is not a studio film, it’s not a Marvel film – it’s kind of an anti-Marvel film. I have the highest hopes for that and I really love what Molly Hassell has done in pushing it up the hill and Rupert Sanders is such a visionary.”

Other projects on the books are the Antoine Fuqua-directed The Street, penned by Goodfellas scribe Nicholas Pileggi, which is currently at a second draft stage with another writer (which Pressman won’t reveal due to the WGA strike). That thriller is set against the backdrops of New York and Shanghai. 

Then there’s the long-gestating The Monkey Wrench Gang, an adaptation of the 1975 Edward Abbey novel, set to be directed by Catfish duo Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman, which Pressman describes as “the holy grail” project. The story follows a group of environmental activists’ fighting the over-development of the 1970s American West. 

The company is also diving into how it will exploit its rich IP library, looking at properties like Ferrara’s Good Lieutenant, American slasher title Christmas Evil, and opportunities for remakes of Brian De Palma’s Sisters. “We’ve been doing some really cool stuff that I can’t quite divulge but there are a number of avenues that, when the writers strike is over, we’ll be able to push forward on.

“We’ve had a lot of fun going through the library looking for these hidden gems that can make great TV series or anime adaptations or stage plays – there are some interesting things brewing in that regard.” 

He’s also keen to develop something based around his grandfather, Jack Pressman, known as the “King of Marbles,” who founded the Pressman Toy Corporation. That company was an innovator in licensing games from popular media. 

A forward thinker like his father, Sam Pressman is fascinated with AI and how it can be used to benefit storytelling. At Tribeca in June, he launched the short film In Search of Time co-created by Pierre Zandrowicz and Matt Tierney, which they claim was the first AI-generated film to play at a major festival. 

Combining imagery from an iPhone with open-source AI platform Stable Diffusion, it created a meditation on memory and loss in honor of his father. 

“We were talking about memory and how our access to memory in this digital world has influenced the mind space that we are moving in, so it’s tangible to look at an iPhone and watch your memory at a beach with your family or a concert but somehow that doesn’t actually reflect how memory works,” Pressman says. “We wanted to explore what would happen when you blend animation with footage made on an iPhone.”

It’s a realm that he’s keen to explore as he takes Pressman Film to new heights. “I think using technology to mine new ways of telling stories and build these crazy tunnels is incredible. I really believe that there are exciting and new ways that we can attract a younger audience and curate a hundred plus years of film history into a way that connects and engages audiences. It’s not about AI replacing things I think. We’re human and these utilities will be tools that filmmakers and storytellers can use. We need to, in some ways, embrace learning about it rather than categorically rejecting it out of fear. My hope is that it will allow humans and artists to make more and be able to be independent artists.” 

Whatever the new chapter for Pressman Film, it’s clear that Ed’s fearless attitude and loyal values will still be at the core of the company going forward. 

“It’s tragic that I don’t get to work with my dad anymore,” says Pressman. “But I felt like he really prepared me and always made me feel like I would be able to continue what he started. I want to be humble and approach the industry like my dad did early in his career by building alliances and not necessarily thinking first and foremost about money, but really about how the story is king and how the core of what we’re doing is a privilege.” 

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