David Friendly entered college in the 1970s with a passion for journalism, a jean jacket and a Jew fro. Sometime before his 1978 graduation, the producer of Little Miss Sunshine discovered his passion for the entertainment industry. After college, he worked for Newsweek and the Los Angeles Times. After spending less than a decade in journalism, he was approached by a production company and never turned back. Since then, he has produced films like My Girl, Dr. Dolittle and the Big Momma trilogy. schmooze talked to him about his production career.
By Emily Laermer
schmooze: What activities did you do in college that prepared you for an entertainment career?
Friendly: I was the concert chairman for (a production group). I also produced a radio show for the dean. I was a busy boy.
schmooze: Did you ever go to Hillel?
Friendly: Not too often. Although I’m not deeply religious, what I love most about Judaism is the ethics. The Jewish religion promotes forgiveness. It’s about having a conscience, and understanding the consequences of our actions.
schmooze: How have these ethics translated into your career?
Friendly: I directed these ethics and integrity to the quality of the projects I do. It’s a great foundation for learning what’s important, and recognizing quality. I’m most proud of Little Miss Sunshine because it has values in place. I wouldn’t do Jackass 3D.
schmooze: When I saw Little Miss Sunshine I pictured the family as a typical dysfunctional Jewish family. Was that intentional?
Friendly: Everybody recognizes aspects of their family in that movie. It gives a universality to the movie, which means that it’s working.
schmooze: Your career started in journalism. How did that background help you?
Friendly: Journalism is a great foundation for many things. You learn how to write. More importantly, you learn how to take complicated issues and simplify them for a mass audience.
schmooze: You were an entertainment reporter at the LA Times. Why did you decide to change fields?
Friendly: My father (Fred Friendly, former president of CBS News) told us that we could do what we wanted to do as long as we loved it.
During the mid-80s, there was a window in time when the movie business people thought that journalists would make good business developers. When Imagine Entertainment approached me, I knew it was exactly what I wanted to do. I was beginning to feel a tug-that I was on the wrong side of equation.
schmooze: Your first big break was My Girl in 1991. What was it like working with the young Macaulay Culkin?
Friendly: Every actor is different. Macaulay Culkin was 11-years-old and I was astonished by how talented he was. Plus he was a nice kid.
schmooze: Big Mommas: Like Father, Like Son is coming out in February. Tell me about it.
Friendly: I worked with my wife, (film editor) Priscilla Nedd-Friendly, on that film. It was delightful. It’s great to know when you are around an expert. It was a real partnership.
schmooze: Why do you think the Big Momma franchise has been so popular?
Friendly: She’s a relatable character. No matter what your upbringing is, you have a Big Momma- somebody who teaches you important life lessons in a bigger-than- life way. The character is actually based on actor Martin Lawrence’s mother. Plus, a man in a dress is always funny.
schmooze: What’s next for you?
Friendly: I’m working on a big comedy called Don’t Send Help. It’s about a guy who is stuck on a desert island with four supermodels and doesn’t want to be rescued. We’ve been working on it for seven years. It was originally pitched by Sen. Al Franken.