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Rachael Winter '94

Oscar-nomianted film producer Rachael Winter '93 Talks About Her Start in the Valley, Hollywood's Glass Ceiling and Why She Prefers Working the Indie Scene

By George Thurlow '73

R

achel Winter ’93 was in her last quarter at
UC Santa Barbara and she desperately needed a four-unit internship to graduate.

So she went to Professor Paul Lazarus in the Film and Media Studies Department and told him she had an internship lined up and asked if he could approve it. He said all he needed was the name and phone number of the film producer she would be working with.

That set off a desperate scramble for self-described Valley girl Winter. She actually had not lined up an internship. She called her mother, who offered the name of a Valley film maker—in the soft core porn industry.

She grabbed the internship and the rest is Oscar history.

Two years ago, Winter was nominated for an Oscar for her role in producing “The Dallas Buyer’s Club.” Oscar history was made when her husband, writer and producer Terry Winter was nominated that same year for an Oscar for his work on “The Wolf of Wall Street.”

Vanity Fair recently called the two “the Oscar Season Power Couple.”

For Winter it all goes back to that break she got from Lazarus, who died in 1997. He influenced many successful Hollywood writers, actors and producers who graduated from UCSB.

“I got such a well rounded and active education at UCSB, “ Winter recalled as she took a break from post-production work on her next feature film, “Krystal.” The work was taking place at the home of famed actor and director William H. Macy, who directed “Krystal,” set for a 2017 release.

It was in the Valley porn industry that Winter learned production, film budgets, movie development and systems. She is not shy about that part of her career, mostly because it has been so eclipsed by her recent success.

Last year she signed a “first look deal” with A+E, the parent of TV and film networks like the History Channel, A&E and Lifetime. Besides “Krystal,” she is working on a biopic of LeBron James at Universal, a film about Evel Kneivel at Paramount, and television shows for History and Lifetime.

Along the way, she has been mentored by people like Lazarus, Steve Nicolaides and Cary Brokaw.

It remains a struggle, however, for women in the film industry. “Every cliché about it being harder for women is true,” she explained. A woman can repeat an idea five or ten times in a meeting but it is not acknowledged until it is spoken by a man, she said. “The glass ceiling is absolutely true,” she added.

“Change will happen when people show by example,” she said. “So I am trying to do it by example.”

She fell in love with UCSB when she came to a summer session for high school juniors. She knew from the start of her UCSB career that she was about to experience “a four year once-in-a-lifetime” experience. “I remember calling my parents and thanking them for supporting me at UCSB.”

She attributes her success to one major quality she possesses: “Be prepared to work harder than the person next to you.”

Steve Nicolaides, who worked as the line producer on many of Rob Reiner’s greatest works, taught her to be the first to arrive, the last to leave and to be the team cheerleader.

In interviews and profiles, she has expressed no interest in big budget, mega-film projects. Instead, she focused on smaller, independent films.

“I am passionate and I’m an emotional person,” she confided. That provides her with a good sense of what is “special” about a film project. “I am lucky to be able to work on the projects that speak to me as a person and as a producer,” she explained.

In the coming months, she hopes to return to UCSB to share her success with students and faculty at the Carsey-Wolf Center for Media Studies.

As A+E Studios executive Barry Jossen told Deadline Hollywood, “Rachel has a great ability to identify strong creative ideas and package them with high level talent. This has made her a success in the independent feature film world.”

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