By the reckoning of A Killer Life, the second memoir from Killer Films capo Christine Vachon, an ideal indie-film producer must be a savvy, strong-willed combination of guardian angel and bad cop. Vachon's company has a reputation for championing quirky, filmmaker-driven, politically provocative films like Go Fish and Boys Don't Cry, but a central facet of Vachon's job involves knowing when to fight for a filmmaker's vision and when to compromise for the sake of a film. Pitched squarely at aspiring filmmakers looking to follow in her footsteps, Vachon's slapdash but involving Life jumps hyperactively from film to film, taking readers behind the scenes of Kids and Far From Heaven, recounting the arduous process of casting Infamous in the shadow of Capote, and providing an inside look at the post-production battles of A Home At The End Of The World. Periodically, Vachon and co-writer Austin Bunn turn the book over to filmmakers and others in Killer's axis so they can provide first-person accounts of navigating the tricky waters of independent filmmaking.
At times, Vachon's monomaniacal focus on gritty details seems willfully perverse. Considering all the fascinating films and colorful filmmakers she's worked with, why does Vachon devote so much time to documenting the negotiations over whether a rooftop kiss and blowjob will make it into the final cut of a half-forgotten indie like A Home At The End Of The World? Yet Vachon convincingly argues that such struggles are central to a producer's job. Vachon plays tough-minded pragmatist so less thick-skinned writer-directors like Todd Haynes can play high-minded artiste. A Killer Life succeeds in large part because it aims fairly low. Vachon and Bunn aspire only to give readers a good idea of day-to-day life for a plucky indie producer. On that level, Life is a resounding success. Vachon's book begins with Todd Haynes executing a gorgeous shot for Far From Heaven, then sets itself apart by detailing all the maneuvering, compromise, resilience, and persistence that goes into making such a transcendent cinematic moment possible.