As a kid, Christian Potalivo loved "The Goonies" and "E.T." and watched them over and over. This was back when lines stretched around the block for Hollywood blockbusters from the likes of Steven Spielberg and producers Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer.
Now Potalivo is all grown up, but he still loves popcorn flicks fusing fantasy, action and adventure. When time allows, he feeds some of that appetite by doing Danish voices for Disney blockbusters, including "Shrek" and "Chicken Little".
A PASSION FOR BIG AUDIENCES
Potalivo is part of a trio of producers at M&M Productions that also includes Johanne Stryhn Hørby and the company’s founder, Tivi Magnusson. Magnusson, who has more than 40 years of experience in the industry, early on sensed that the young producer was a good match for his company – like a knife and fork, he says.
This was not least due to Potalivo’s knack for knowing his audience.
“I have a burning desire to make films that people want to see,” Potalivo, 30, says. “I love it when I read a manuscript and know right away that kids will be crazy about it. Or where I sense that, ‘Wow, this is so over the top that people will die laughing’, or this will give people something to think about. It doesn’t have to be mainstream. I just want projects where I know right away that we’ll be giving people good experiences.”
One film Potalivo loved as a kid was Robert Zemecki’s "Romancing the Stone", a South American jungle adventure starring Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner, with villains, treasure and romantic liaisons. So, doing "At World’s End", an action comedy shot in the Australian outback, was like a dream come true for him.
“Compared to Danish films, shooting as far away as Australia for three months with an international crew was a real trip,” Potalivo says. “Unlike us, they were used to doing films on that scale, and there we were, just getting the hang of it – working with tons of helicopters, acting out an adventure with cops and robbers, pushing the envelope. Despite all the difficulties and obstacles on our way through, it was a huge rush to know we were part of something that was quite unique in Danish film, something that really stretched the limits and where there was no compromising on the effects.”
Next to the Australian crew and co-production team, Potalivo was a bit of an exotic bird from the North.
“I visited the set a lot because I like to be close to the people I work with,” he says. “Being in the loop gives me the insight I need, when I think finances. The Australian crew wasn’t used to that – or that I didn’t mind lending a hand with practical things and had an informal way with people. It was fun to observe this meeting between different cultures and different ways of handling things.”
“Christian was deep into the project, and because of the time difference between Denmark and Australia he also had to work nights,” Tomas Villum Jensen, who directed "At World’s End", says. For him, it was a luxury to have his producer close at hand.
“Certain decisions were hard for me to make alone, so it was really nice to have a producer who was ready to handle a crisis – be it the weather, problems with the chopper, a broken camera or more general financial battles,” Villum Jensen says.
“Christian proved he has a fighter’s instinct,” the director says. “He’s probably the youngest producer I ever worked with, and it was pretty impressive to see this ‘kid’ set people straight who were maybe 20 years older than him. No one messed around with him. If you want to win, you have to be prepared – and Christian was, to a tee. When he stood by a decision, it wasn’t out of stubbornness but because he had reasoned it out.
“We played a little tennis occasionally and I quickly found out that Christian hates losing. He’s like Rocky Balboa that way. He wants to win. He has the same fighting instinct as a producer,” Villum Jensen says.
Asked about his dream project, Potalivo says:
“I’d like to do a historic film, an episode out of Danish history, for example – the founding of Copenhagen, a royal murder, palace intrigue, that kind of thing. There’s a treasure chest of fantastic stories about Denmark’s genesis, or about any nation’s history, for that matter. And I’d want it to be in the grand epic style of, let’s say, Gladiator, with room to swing a cat,” he says.
Whether Potalivo’s dream will ever come true remains to be seen. As Villum Jensen sees it, the young producer clearly has the nerve and the drive to pull off big blockbusters in the future – for audiences all over the world, as well.
“It would be more accurate to call Christian a ‘Producer on the Run,’” Villum Jensen says. “’Move’ is too slow for him. He’s the kind of person who rolls up his shirtsleeves and laces up his running shoes – he’s charged up, like a boxer getting into the ring”.