FORBES: How Heather Parry is helping Live Nation bring Lady Gaga, Puff Daddy, and more to the screen
STEVE BALTIN | OCTOBER 18, 2017
Taking over as President of Live Nation Productions on December 1, 2015, Heather Parry didn’t feel the need to make a “splashy announcement” as she puts it. Instead, upon coming into the behemoth concert promoter, Parry, to no surprise to anyone who knows her, chose to jump right into the work.
Within her first two months on the job, she teamed with actor/director Colin Hanks, whom she’d worked with during her decade at Adam Sandler’s Happy Madison Productions, on a documentary about Eagles Of Death Metal returning to Paris after their 2015 tragedy at the Bataclan.
Proving that music documentaries can be serious cinema, the film was just nominated for two Critics’ Choice awards, a great honor for Parry and the company. But that is only the beginning for the highly driven Parry.
After a dozen years at MTV and decade at Happy Madison she has found her prefect home, a place where she can bring together her love of music and cinema. The results have already been very impressive with not only the Eagles documentary but the current Lady Gaga film, Gaga: Five Foot Two, on Netflix, and the Puff Daddy Bad Boy Records story, Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop.
On a recent Friday afternoon I sat down with Parry for an in-depth conversation that quickly turned into a very enjoyable hour of swapping stories and passionately discussing the definition of a rock star. Parry spoke about her plans for Live Nation, the artists she’d love to work with and why she and Live Nation CEO Michael Rapino work so well together.
Steve Baltin: What was it about Live Nation that excited you?
Heather Parry: Live Nation excites me for all the stuff they’re involved in. I started my career at MTV when I was 21 and worked there for 12 years. Then I went to work for Adam Sandler for 10 years, so it was music, television, film, everything I knew how to do combined into one and this company is so powerful with all the stuff they have joint ventures with and all the stuff they own. So, as a movie person, on a marketing level it was like, “Wait, we can put posters in venues, we can run our trailer in VIP suites. You have a joint venture with Ticketmaster? We can send the blast out to Ticketmaster people? This is gonna be great.” And then all the joint ventures that they have with the management companies. This is Live Nation and that’s Artist Nation, so to my right is Lady Gaga’s manager, to my left is Miley Cyrus’ manager, downstairs is Madonna’s manager, so it’s great to be in a building with all those people, who constantly have creative film, documentary, TV ideas and they can just stop by the office.
Baltin: It can sound great on paper, but you still need to know the chemistry is there. So was there an early moment where you knew this would work?
Parry: Yeah, I’ve been friends with Guy Oseary for a while and he’s the one that said, “Come in and meet Michael Rapino.” I sat in a room with Michael and the idea was they’d just started doing some stuff with Vice and Straight Outta Compton had been so big at the box office and I was like, “I want to do Straight Outta Compton and Walk The Line and I love Purple Rain and 8 Mile.” And Michael was like “I want to do that.” And Guy was like, “Whoa, let’s keep it reality based” (cracks up). It was quick and the idea was, “Let’s get in and get started.” I didn’t make a big splashy announcement that I was coming here. Colin Hanks is a friend of mine because I made The House Bunny with him at Happy Madison and cast him. I saw him at my birthday party and said, “What are you working on? Your Tower Records doc was so great.” I went to that premiere and Eagles Of Death Metal played in that parking lot. I said, “Oh my god, how are your friends? That’s so terrible what happened to them.” And he said, “I’m thinking about documenting them going back to Paris for their show.” I said, “Let’s do that, I’m in.” I went to Michael and said, “I need a little bit of money, we’ve got to fund this doc, we gotta go.” And Colin went to Paris 48 hours later and started filming.
Baltin: What is the dream biopic?
Parry: There’s a lot, [David] Bowie, I really want to do Beastie Boys, anybody that has an interesting story to tell. And then there are people that are still doing their thing and you can’t even touch it. I think Stevie Nicks, back on tour. But David Bowie, for me, he had an incredible life. I’d love to do that.
Baltin: Is there one project that has excited you most or really defines what you want to do at Live Nation?
Parry: I think what was really great about the Bad Boy documentary, Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop, is that Puff was coming in here to talk about his tour. I’ve known Puff for almost two decades, I met him when he was at MTV. So when Puffy came in to talk about his tour, he’s like, “I want to document this. I want to figure out what this is.” And when we were in New York documenting the reunion show I remember all the stuff from MTV that Puff constantly videotaped, he videotaped his life and would be using the Super 8’s on the VMAs carpet. I said, “Where is all that footage?” We had him as the intern. So that turned out from being a concert doc to the Bad Boy story.
Baltin: What is the tour doc you’d like to do?
Parry: I really wanted to do Gaga, that just happened, so that was great. That was, again, sitting next to her manager. It’s good to be proximity to these people. There are tons of ideas I’d like to do. I’d love to do something with Jay-Z, Beyonce, anything with Jay-Z and Beyonce. New stuff and new artists are popping up every day, that’s what’s so exciting. And when you look at the year we’ve had at Live Nation Productions it’s exactly what I wanted it to be, which is you can have Eagles Of Death Metal to Lady Gaga and a Bad Boy in between. Eagles Of Death Metal was in the Palm Springs Film Festival, Puffy was in Tribeca, Gaga was in Toronto. One was HBO, was one was Apple, one was Netflix. What I love about these, especially for the artists that we have here and that we work with, everything is outside the box.
Baltin: Talk about the Gaga doc.
Parry: Her manager was like, “Find a good director for her that you think would be great.” So I met with Chris Moukarbel a couple of times and I said to him, “You have to go with the camera to her house. Just go.” He showed up at her house and it’s Lady Gaga, so she’s so open and vulnerable. The first scene in the movie is her in her kitchen. That’s the first thing we shot. The way I think we get to do these things here is we fund them. So no one knew we had a Lady Gaga documentary until we announced it last week. It looks like it came out of nowhere, but there’s actually been a whole lot of hard work for one year.
Baltin: So what’s next?
Parry: Imagine Dragons. It’s the dream, as you know, to work with rock stars, artists and rappers. Puff was so proud when we were sitting in the mix. To make them proud and happy, to have this piece of content out in the world and tell their story and they’re not your typical fluff documentary. They’re not talking heads where people are blowing smoke up people’s ass. Artists are raw and real and vulnerable and special people, that’s why they are artists. I think the next one out will be Imagine Dragons.
Baltin: What makes an artist good in this format?
Parry: I think every artist has a story or they wouldn’t be in the position of rock star that they are. When I would interview people for MTV News, I used to run the west coast office, I had Morello, Perry Farrell, Madonna, Dr. Dre, I loved interviewing Tupac. That was another one for me that you could listen to for hours cause he was so charismatic. He did not care what anybody thought and was very opinionated. It’s interesting in this day and age of social media, everybody tells their story in a much quicker way.
Baltin: Music in 2017 is being dictated by a political viewpoint because you cannot get away from that. So how is that factoring into the shows you are doing?
Parry: When you sit down with an artist and they have this story, honor sounds cheesy, but it’s an honor to sit here and let these artists show their passion, in a way, on film. One of my oldest friends is Tom Morello, from Rage Against The Machine. When I was at MTV I convinced them to let me take three weeks off and go on the road with Rage Against The Machine. That was the beginning and end of my directing career cause I directed a couple of live music shows for them and I was the girl in the pit just getting the crap kicked out of me. I love the energy of that band and they were one of the band s that always spoke out and had things to say. And Tom is so articulate and smart and into politics and I do think these times are really interesting and I think his fans especially look to the artist to say something. How cool we get to give them the platform to do that.