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Eyes Wide Open

Studio Chairman and Independent Film Pioneer David Linde ’82 Shares Thoughts on Charting a Future in Film

By David Fialkow ’15


David Linde ’82 (left) has been able to be involved in films, he says, from their “infancy as an idea or an early script, through production and distribution. And I’ve been incredibly fortunate to have been involved in myriad films in myriad ways and to really experience the commitment everyone has to the life of a film.” At right is JB Davis ’92. Photo by Elena Ruyter ’14

David Linde ’82 is living proof that a little bit of moxie and a lot of hard work can lead to a career in the creative arts—as he has demonstrated so powerfully in the film industry.

Linde, CEO of Lava Bear Films and former head of several Hollywood studios, has overseen the production and distribution of multiple Oscar-winning films, like Inglourious Basterds and The Pianist as well has having been a key player in such seminal independent companies as Miramax International, Good Machine, and Focus Features.

On campus in March, Linde depicted his journey and the future of the film industry to a full house in Science Center 101. Linde’s talk, moderated by JB Davis ’92, president of the Center for New Cinema, kicked off the Visualizing Media Futures Symposium, presented by the Department of Film and Media Studies and the Institute for the Liberal Arts.

As Linde explains, a spy spoof set at Swarthmore energized his initial aim to work in film. “The school gave us [Linde and friends] $500 to make a satire of James Bond on campus,” he says. “When we finished, we showed the film in Tarble, had a great time, and the film had a lot of success [on campus].” The original spawned a sequel his senior year.

But filmmaking wasn’t his initial career choice. “It was only after I decided not to pursue graduate school and instead to pursue something that I truly loved—being part of the movies—that my career began to take shape,” says Linde. “My start was largely knowing something about the legal world from my father and having lived abroad as a teenager. I found an entry point by working in international distribution licensing.”

Linde worked his way up the steep ladder of the film industry, learning to spot successful movie ideas and turn them into enjoyable films. From international marketing and distribution, he moved into domestic distribution, film financing and ultimately, production. His portfolio includes independent hits Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon; Lost In Translation; and Biutiful, along with blockbusters The Bourne Ultimatum and Mamma Mia!.

A keen observer of film craft, Linde sees contemporary moviemaking unfolding in some fascinating ways. “This past year, The Imposter and The Gatekeepers really impressed me with how they used a documentary perspective to keep audiences riveted in their seats,” says Linde. “It’s a quiet point, but 10 years ago documentaries were perceived as increasingly living on television, which was simplistic and wrong, especially when now we have such exciting filmmaking invigorating our experience. These are very accomplished filmmakers who will go on to fascinate audiences with great dramatic films.”

Linde is the first to admit that the film industry’s future is constantly in flux. “With all the competition from television, computers, and video games, we all worry that kids will not value the film experience the same way we do, because they have not experienced it to the same extent,” says Linde. “Technology is both the cause and solution—and it provides wonderful opportunity in animation, for instance.”

Always energized by the industry’s ripples, Linde’s work continues to be rewarding. He started Lava Bear Films less than two years ago with backing from key media companies from such diverse locations as the United Kingdom, Latin America, and India. The company focuses on independent films with a global reach, and he finds it engages his full cinematic skill set.

Says Linde, “I get the most personal satisfaction when I am closely involved in the entire life of a film, which, looking back, is what I set out to do in the first place. I just didn’t know it at the time.”

Linde offers those interested in the film industry a key piece of advice that is applicable to any pursuit. “I always recommend trying to simply get a foot in the door. Each experience can and will lead to others. It’s vital to be open, committed to the task at hand, imaginative, and to love the craft,” he says. “It’s not an accident that I met many of my current partners years ago when we were as junior as could be. Jump on in, support each other, and keep your eyes open wide.”

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