Cortlandville native seeks wholesome films for big screen


Photo provided by Don Reed
Jason Reed, right, an executive vice president for Buena Vista Motion Picture Group in California, is shown on the set of the film, “The Greatest Game Ever Played,” with his father, Don. Jason Reed said he chose to bring the film to the screen, in part as a tribute to his father, an avid golfer. The film is based on the 1913 U.S. Open battle between amateur Francis Ouimet and professional Harry Vardon.    

Staff Reporter

Movies have taken a dark turn in recent years — spooky children meowing like cats, families of demented mutant hillbillies attacking co-eds, Eastern European sadists — all good for a scare and a nightmare, of course.
But there is also a demand for films that entertain on a less disturbing level, and provide a less nauseating cathartic moment.
Jason Reed, a 1991 Cortland High School graduate and executive vice president of production with Buena Vista Motion Picture Group of Walt Disney Co., said that he had no desire to work on a movie as dark or misanthropic as some of the latest creepy horror films.
“I would rather have someone come out of a movie and say that they want to do something or want to be something, or tell their mother that they love her, rather than come out of a movie depressed by the human condition,” Reed said in a phone interview Tuesday from California.
Reed, 33, hopes that “The Guardian,” due in theaters Sept. 15, will elicit the kind of boost for the U.S Coast Guard that “Top Gun” did for the Navy 20 years ago.
“These are guys who put their lives on the line on a daily basis. They’re true blue American heroes,” Reed said of the guardsmen, with whom he worked while preparing “The Guardian” for production. “To make a movie that those guys have responded to and been so proud of has been a great experience.”
Reed had the opportunity to get in the water with Coast Guard rescue swimmers at the Guard Air Station in Elizabeth City, N.C., while he was researching the training process.
“The Guardian,” starring Kevin Costner and Ashton Kutcher, follows a troubled swim champ’s (Kutcher) training as a rescue swimmer at the hands of an instructor and legend (Costner) who teaches him the meaning of sacrifice.
The instructors Reed met with while making the movie seemed exceptionally friendly during conversations outside of the water, Reed said.
And then he jumped in.
“About 10 minutes into that I realized I had made a massive mistake,” Reed said, adding that his office job hadn’t been rigorous enough to ready him for the experience. “It doesn’t really prepare you to jump in with world class athletes who train eight hours a day to pull people out of the Bering Strait. I couldn’t really handle what they were dishing out. Those really sweet drill instructors didn’t seem so sweet at all.”
For films such as 2001’s “Pearl Harbor,” 2004’s “National Treasure,” and last year’s “The Greatest Game Ever Played,” Reed said his primary job has been to find, develop, and oversee the production of the movies themselves. He picks the proposals that sound workable and then gets them to the point where the screenwriter, director and production crew can take over.
“I figure that the most important part of my job, in addition to picking the idea itself, is picking the right people ... We put it together in a way that the organization works on its own,” Reed said. “Theoretically, if I put that whole package together in the right way then I don’t have to (visit the set more than four or five times during production).”
Once all the pieces are in motion and the production is humming along, Reed makes sure that the operation has everything it needs to make the film work.
“To give the support to allow the filmmakers to achieve something that has real artistic integrity on the one hand, within the financial confines, and the legal limitations, and the properties that are required of being an international distribution machine, is the real challenge,” Reed said.
To help cut down on some costs and guarantee the same slate of actors, filming for “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest,” was combined in part with the planned third installment of the popular franchise, Reed said.
Although Reed didn’t participate in the day-to-day operations of “Pirates of the Caribbean,” released on July 7 and still third place at the box office, he did oversee the account for Disney.
“Last night we passed ‘Star Wars III: Revenge of the Sith’) and became the seventh highest grossing film in (box office) history,” Reed said
Although box office receipts have remained steady and American movies have grown more and more popular overseas, Reed said the increased costs of production and marketing have forced the profit margins to shrink a bit.
With international revenue accounting for 60 percent of the marketplace, Reed said Disney has combined its international and domestic marketing and distribution.
Disney has laid off about 650 people over the last three weeks in an effort to streamline its operations, and Reed has even seen his immediate superior replaced.
“We’re just going to be a lot more efficient, and put the value in the right place in terms of a worldwide market,” Reed said. “It’s been crazy times. The hours have gone up significantly.”
Nevertheless, the creative aspect keeps Reed passionate about his work. He said he particularly enjoyed picking out and working on “The Greatest Game Ever Played,” a film about amateur golfer Francis Ouimet and his showdown with professional Harry Vardon at the 1913 U.S. Open.
“The reason I wanted to make that movie was because my dad was such an avid golfer, and it’s about the world of father and sons,” Reed said. “When I heard (the proposal), I knew that I had to work on it.”
He took his father, Don Reed of Cortlandville, to visit the set of the movie while it was being filmed in Montreal, as well as to the premier.
“My birthday present was an invite to the premier of “The Greatest Game Ever Played,” Don Reed said last week. “It was pretty neat, just to be there walking down the whole red carpet, and having all these people looking and going, ‘Oh, I wonder who he is?’”



County may add program to recycle household hazardous waste for free

Staff Reporter

The county is exploring options that would allow residents to dispose of common household hazardous wastes such as paints, used motor oil, or aerosol cans, without having to pay a fee.
The Legislature’s Highway Committee had sent a proposal for a household hazardous waste disposal day to the full Legislature for vote at the July 27 meeting, but wound up withdrawing the resolution due to concerns that the plan, which would have charged residents a per-item fee, would discourage residents from participating.
The committee Tuesday decided to move forward with a plan in which the county would host one disposal day in each of the next two years, and would pay for all of the disposals.
“The big thing we want to do is to encourage people to bring their waste and to dispose of the waste properly,” said Committee Member John Daniels (D-Cortlandville). “We don’t want people to just bury their paint and stuff in the trash.”
The committee authorized Highway Superintendent Don Chambers to go out to bid for contractors qualified to do the work.



DSS: Missed chances in neglect case

Staff Reporter

CORTLAND — In January of 2006, a Cortland County social worker was offered access to the home in which, three months later, a severely malnourished child would be found living in squalid conditions.
The caseworker did not enter because an accompanying police officer was not allowed entrance.
“That was one of the many missed opportunities, absolutely,” said Department of Social Services Commissioner Kristen Monroe.
Monroe and other county officials are working to repair a department badly shaken by the case in March, when police, who entered a home on Union Street on a drug warrant, said they found the 5-year-old boy, who weighed just 15 pounds at the time, and his 11-year-old and 12-year-old siblings seriously neglected.
“There’s not an easy solution to this, but corrective actions need to be taken immediately and followed through, and that’s happening with better training and better communication,” said county Legislature Chairman Marilyn Brown (D-8th Ward).
“No one feels worse or is taking this harder than the caseworkers and supervisors and I am confident they’re learning from the mistakes made,” Brown said.
DSS has taken disciplinary action against caseworkers and supervisors involved in the case, and the department is upping training and honing policies so similar circumstances aren’t repeated, said County Administrator Scott Schrader.