Todd Haynes

Todd Haynes is one of the most interesting personalities of the current independent cinema scene. Born 1961 in Los Angeles, the screenwriter and director is considered to be the pioneer of the 1990s coined “New Queer Cinema”. Haynes continually succeeds in undermining traditional narrative structures with his uncompromising and often sublimely erotic films. His directorial debut, the science fiction drama POISON, garnered the main award at Sundance in 1991. This master of semiotics has since picked up more than 46 international awards, including the Special Jury Prize at Cannes for his glam rock homage VELVET GOLDMINE (1998), the Special Jury Prize at the Mostra in Venice for his Bob Dylan biopic I’M NOT THERE (2007), and an Academy Award nomination for FAR FROM HEAVEN (2002).

Donald De Line

L.A. based producer Donald De Line scored his first major hit with the 2003 heist thriller THE ITALIAN JOB. De Line’s continued success includes Ridley Scott’s BODY OF LIES and John Hamburg’s I LOVE YOU MAN. In addition to his producing career, De Line has held positions as a studio executive, serving as President and Vice Chairman of Paramount Pictures, and President of Touchstone Pictures. Among the films under his aegis were PRETTY WOMAN, Wes Anderson’s RUSHMORE, Tim Burton’s ED WOOD, and the blockbuster ARMAGEDDON. De Line believes in hard work and the power of keeping oneself well- informed about everything going on in film business. His career proves this philosophy is a key to success. 

Harrison Ford

Harrison Ford ist einer der erfolgreichsten Schauspieler Hollywoods. Seine Karriere startete er in der „New Hollywood“-Ära Ende der 1960er Jahre mit kleineren Rollen in Filmen von George Lucas oder Francis Ford Coppola, bevor er mit der Rolle des Han Solo in George Lucas’ STAR WARS (1977), dem ersten Blockbuster der Filmgeschichte, auf einen Schlag weltberühmt wurde. Mit seiner Darstellung des Archäologen und Abenteurers Indiana Jones in RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK (1981) und den Nachfolgefilmen der Franchise machte sich Harrison Ford zur Ikone einer ganzen Kino-Generation. An der ZFF MASTERS berichtet Harrison Ford von seinen Erfahrungen als Schauspieler.

David Flynn

Born in Dublin and educated at Trinity College, David Flynn began his film career working as a production assistant on BRAVEHEART (1995). He was a founding partner in the LA-based management/production company, Chaos Management, producing SERAPHIM FALLS (2006), starring Pierce Brosnan and Liam Neeson. Flynn’s other credit’s as producer include Rodrigo Cortés’ BURIED (2010) starring Ryan Reynolds and the critically acclaimed documentary RESTREPO (2010), which won the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival. Flynn currently works as an agent representing filmmakers, writers and producers, and he currently represents the Swedish director Daniel Espinosa, director of SAFE HOUSE (2012), who will also be appearing at the festival. In the ZURICH MASTER CLASS we want to get an insight into Flynn‘s work as an agent. To what extent does he foster the careers of directors and other filmmakers? How can agents assist and support directors’ careers?

Benh Zeitlin

Born and raised in Queens, New York, Benh Zeitlin began his career as a filmmaker at the tender age of 6 when he and a friend made their own Batman film. He continued making films growing up before attending Wesleyan University, where he majored in film. After graduating, he helped start the Court 13 independent filmmaking collective and moved to New Orleans where he made short film, such as GLORY AT SEA (2008), following Hurricane Katrina’s devastation of the city. His debut film, BEASTS OF A SOUTHERN WILD (2012), co-written with Lucy Alibar, was critically praised and awarded with the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival, the Camera d’Or and the International Critics’ prize at Cannes. We will focus our discussion on Zeitlin’s debut. What inspires the 29 year old filmmaker? What drove him to create this particular film, narrated by a little girl? We will ask him about his artistic vision; the symbolism, the archaic imagery and the music he chose to convey the spirit of freedom in the film.

Jerry Weintraub

Jerry Weintraub is one of the last Hollywood legends, although his career actually began in music. As one of the biggest concert promoters of the 70s, Weintraub worked with such luminaries as Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra and Bob Dylan. Conveniently – given his musical upbringing – Jerry’s first hit as a film producer was with 1975’s country and gospel music themed, NASHVILLE, directed by Robert Altman. With his next film as producer, DINER (1982), Weintraub helped launch the careers of a new generation of acting talent, including Mickey Rourke, Kevin Bacon and Ellen Barkin. Some of Weintraub’s most commercially successful films include the original version of THE KARATE KID (1984) and the OCEAN’S trilogy (2001/2004/2007), directed by Steven Soderbergh and starring George Clooney, Matt Damon and Brad Pitt. His future projects include a film about the life of notoriously flamboyant pianist Liberace, starring Michael Douglas and Matt Damon and a planned Hugh Hefner biopic, written by Peter Morgan (Frost/Nixon, The Last King of Scotland.)

Frank Darabont

Born in France and raised in the United States, Frank Darabont became involved in filmmaking at the age of 20, making his feature length directorial debut withTV movie, BURIED ALIVE (1990).

Darabont is arguably best known as director of prison drama THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION (1994), starring Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman, and based on a short story by Stephen King. The film was nominated for seven Academy Awards including Best Film and for Darabont’s Adapted Screenplay.

Darabont’s relationship with King’s work continued with adaptations of his novel THE GREEN MILE (1999), which he scripted, directed and produced, and his novella THE MIST (2007).

He was also the executive producer of the first series of zombie drama series THE WALKING DEAD (2010), for which he directed the pilot episode, and L.A. NOIR (2013), a new series for TNT.


Frank Darabont will talk about his work as an author, director and producer; the topics interest him and how he chooses his projects. We want to know what fascinates him about writing, about cinema, TV and films in general.

Christine Vachon

Independent Spirit Award and Gotham Award winner Christine Vachon founded the short film production company Apparatus together with Todd Haynes and Barry Ellsworth in 1987. In 1991, she produced Todd Haynes’ feature debut POISON, which won the Sundance Film Festival’s Grand Jury Prize. Her New York independent production company Killer Films, which she founded together with Pamela Koffler in 1995, has released over 45 films including SAFE, KIDS, the Academy Award winning film BOYS DON’T CRY, FAR FROM HEAVEN and I’M NOT THERE, which won an award at Venice Film Festival. In 2011, Killer Films produced HBO’s five-part mini series MILDRED PIERCE, which was directed by Todd Haynes and nominated for an incredible 21 Emmys. 2015, they also produced Todd Haynes marvelous drama CAROL.

Paul Haggis

Haggis’ Public ZFF Masters offered an insight into the multifaceted work of the Canadian screenwriter and director, who was not only involved in Oscar-winning productions such as MILLION DOLLAR BABY and CRASH, but also wrote the screenplays for the latest James Bond films CASINO ROYALE and QUANTUM OF SOLACE. Haggis began his career working on various TV formats, including the successful ABC series thirtysomething. How did he make the jump from writing TV series to the big screen? And how does he manage to combine his double role as a screenwriter and director with such success?

Charles Ferguson

Qualified political scientist Charles Ferguson received an Oscar in 2011 for his controversial documentary film INSIDE JOB, which analyses the 2008 economic crisis. He also received a nomination three years previously for his first documentary film NO END IN SIGHT, which highlights the situation in Iraq after America’s invasion in 2003. Ferguson also worked on a project about Wikileaks founder Julian Assange.

Jennifer Fox

Jennifer Fox is an internationally sought-after director, producer and camerawoman. Her debut film BEIRUT: THE LAST HOME MOVIE (1987) was screened in 20 countries and has won several prizes, including the Sundance Festival’s Best Documentary Film in 1988. The New York Times and other publications ranked the AN AMERICAN LOVE STORY series, produced, directed and shot by Fox, amongst the top-ten series of 1999. Jennifer Fox’s six-part FLYING CONFESSIONS OF A FREE WOMAN celebrated its premiere at the 2006 Amsterdam International Documentary Film Festival. She produced PROJECT TEN: REAL STORIES FROM A FREE SOUTH AFRICA for South African TV. Another work of Fox was RINPOCHE: A FATHER & SON STORY centers on an exiled Tibetan Master and his son and took her 20 years to complete.

Vilmos Zsigmond

Academy Award-winning Vilmos Zsigmond’s filmography reads like a mini Best of American Masterpieces from the last decade. Born in Hungary, Zsigmond migrated to the USA in 1957 carrying 35 mm recordings of the 1956 Hungarian revolution, and established himself as one of his new homeland’s most important cameramen within the space of a few short years. He celebrated his Hollywood breakthrough after collaborating with the most influential directors of the 70s: Robert Altman’s anti-Western McCABE & MRS. MILLER (1971) brought him his first BAFTA nomination. With several Academy Award nominations and an Oscar for Steven Spielberg’s science fiction film CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND (1977), Zsigmond was one of America’s greatest and most renowned cameramen. His image language has shaped innumerable films including OBSESSION (1976) THE DEER HUNTER (1978), HEAVEN’S GATE (1980) and YOU WILL MEET A TALL DARK STRANGER (2010). He died 2016 at the age of 85.

Barry Gifford

The unearthly worlds of the Lynch’s universe in LOST HIGHWAY (1997) and WILD AT HEART (1990) do not arise exclusively from the gloomy fantasies of a certain David Lynch: The US American author and screenwriter Barry Gifford made his name penning the screenplays to the above-mentioned masterpieces. Gifford’s tales of the American dark side are not limited to the screenplays for such films as PERDITA DURANGO (Àlex de la Iglesia, 1997) or CITY OF GHOSTS (Matt Dillon, 2002), but are also encompassed in his multi-published, widely translated literary works, including the series of novels ‘Sailor & Lula’, the first volume of which ‘Wild at Heart’ formed the basis of Lynch’s namesake film.

Brad Simpson

Brad Simpson was a producer at the New York-based production company Killer Films and made his name working with challenging content matter in such films as BOYS DON’T CRY (1999) and FAR FROM HEAVEN (2002). Following a long-term collaboration with Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Simpson is currently working on promising future projects after developing the production company Apparatus Prods. together with his business partner and MONSTER’S BALL director Marc Foster. Despite being in the early stages of his career, the producer’s experience already encompasses independent film production and – with DIARY OF A WIMPY KID (2010) – an insight into the American studio system.

Adrian Grenier

The multi-talented Adrian Grenier, himself the focus of paparazzi activity, turned the cameras on this group of celebrity snappers for his film TEENAGE PAPARAZZO (2010). This ironic and playful response to stardom and his own fame is typical for him, who is best known in his homeland for his role in the TV series ENTOURAGE. TEENAGE PAPARAZZO was Adrian Grenier’s second documentary film. In addition to his activities as a director and actor, he is also the star drummer of his band ‘The Honey Brothers’ and produces his own film projects.

Terry Gilliam

In 1969, Terry Gilliam became known as the only American member of the much-loved television show Monty Python’s Flying Circus. Together with Terry Jones, he co-directed his first feature film MONTY PYTHON AND THE HOLY GRAIL in 1975. He went on to direct the films TIME BANDITS, MONTY PYTHON’S THE MEANING OF LIFE and BRAZIL with Robert de Niro, for which he also received an Oscar nomination for best original screenplay. THEFISHER KING followed in 1991 and brought Gilliam a Golden Globe nomination for Best Director. Subsequent to his depiction of an unsettling futuristic scenario in TWELVE MONKEYS (1995), he adapted Hunter S. Thompson’s 1971 novel Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Gilliam held a Master Class prior to presenting his latest film THE IMAGINARIUM OF DR. PARNASSUS with Heath Ledger, Jude Law and Johnny Depp at the Zurich Film Festival.

Dale Launer

Born in 1952, the US American Dale Launer is a director, producer and one of Hollywood’s best-paid screenwriters. He first attracted world attention to his comedic talent with his screenplay for the film RUTHLESS PEOPLE(1986). He celebrated his own directing debut in 1992 with the romantic comedy LOVE POTION NO 9. He also wrote and co-produced the witty courtroom comedyMY COUSIN VINNY, which brought Marisa Tomei an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress. Following a long break, Launer directed, produced and wrote the screenplay for TOM’S NU HEAVEN.

Michael Keaton

US-American actor Michael Keaton was born 1951 in Pennsylvania. He came to the world’s attention with his embodiment of Batman/Bruce Wayne in BATMAN (1989) alongside “Joker” Jack Nicholson. In 1992, the celebrated actor donned the batsuit for a second time in Tim Burton’s BATMAN RETURNS. He performed in a broad spectrum of genres during the 90s: the film adaptation of Shakespeare’s MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING (1993), Ron Howard’s comedy THE PAPER(1994)and as Ray Nicolette in Quentin Tarantino’s cult film JACKIE BROWN(1997). The Golden Globe nominated actor came to Zurich in a new role, namely as a director, with the director’s cut of his debut film THE MERRY GENTLEMEN (2008), which celebrated its world premiere at the festival.

Randal Kleiser

Kleiser, born 1946 in Philadelphia, studied at the University of Southern California and received international recognition through the most successful musical film of all time:GREASE(1978). This was followed by such films as THE BLUE LAGOON, FLIGHT OF THE NAVIGATOR, HONEY, I BLEW UP THE KIDSand the film adaptation of Jack London’s novel WHITE FANG. Of particular personal significance was his AIDS themed film drama IT’S MY PARTY. He won an Emmy Award for his TV film THE GATHERING in 1977.

Morgan Freeman

Morgan Freeman’s talent and versatility as an actor finds appreciation wherever he appears on screen. He has received four Oscar nominations and won the award in 2005 for MILLION DOLLAR BABY. Morgan Freeman can indeed look back on an extraordinary career, characterized as much by passion and discipline as by integrity and style. Clint Eastwood once called him „the world’s greatest actor“. How does he maintain this performance diversity and continually find new potential? And what attracted him to directing and producing in the 90’s? These were just some of the questions he clarified in our first public master class.