For Tatiana Kelly, Life’s a Production

Published September 7, 2012

ABOVE: ZOE SALDANA AND BRADLEY COOPER IN THE WORDS, PRODUCED BY TATIANA KELLY.


Given her choice, Tatiana Kelly would most like to meet historical figure Martha Gellhorn–one of the first female war correspondent, and the third wife of Ernest Hemingway. It’s a fitting choice. What Kelly admires in Gellhorn is a reflection of her own best qualities: “a girl in a boy’s club, a maverick, prolific, and ferocious.”

Kelly is part of the next generation of female producers in Hollywood, following in the footsteps of those she venerates most: Lynda Obst (Contact, Sleepless in Seattle), Kathleen Kennedy (Schindler’s List, Back to the Future), and Christine Vachon (Boys Don’t Cry). Well on her way, Kelly recently produced Sundance darling The Words, starring Bradley Cooper, Zoe Saldana and Jeremy Irons.
 
Kelly was born in Washington D.C. to an Iranian mother who worked for the World Bank and Irish-American father who often worked with the International Monetary Fund and United Nations. Her erudite and international upbringing had her speaking French, Spanish, Italian, English and Farsi before she entered adulthood.

After completing an undergraduate degree at the prestigious McGill University and a master’s in Political Science at the London School of Economics, Kelly took a job as an account director at a small boutique ad agency in New York. Kelly’s father had always advised her that in order to find her path, she had to figure out what she didn’t want to do; and her time at the ad agency taught her she didn’t want to be on the creative sidelines and would prefer “to be in the middle, physically be creating, and tell more of an in-depth story.” Fortunately, Kelly’s good friend Goran Dukic had written the compelling screenplay Wristcutters, A Love Story—Kelly’s first job as a producer—which has since become a cult favorite.
 
“I’m not interested in creating disposable art,” Kelly says. And after she read The Words, written and directed by Brian Klugman and Lee Sternthal, she knew it was a keeper. “[It] really lingered long after I read it, and it had all the elements of classic films I loved—rain, trains, love, loss, tragedy, and hope.” Her taste wasn’t misplaced: Sundance films, if they sell at all, typically end up with a limited or platform release, but The Words‘ festival buzz inspired enough confidence in its distributor, CBS Films, that they opted for a wide release on more than 2,500 screens.

Next up for Kelly is a new film, House of Curl, which already has some huge names—Guy Pearce, Laura Linney, John Hawkes, Abigail Breslin, Toby Jones—attached. We’ve got our eye out.