I am beyond elated at the opportunity to interview Tegan Summer, CEO of film production company Prospect House Entertainment. Last January I met Tegan when I attended a star-studded gala he produced and directed. The gala paid tribute to Hollywood’s greatest tap-dance team, Fayard Nicholas and his brother Harold. The Nicholas brothers rose to fame and stardom from their humble beginnings in Philadelphia by pioneering and redefining tap dance in the 1930s.
Thank you Tegan for agreeing to do this interview.
Where are you from originally, and what led you to relocate to Los Angeles, California?
I’m from London, England; I moved to the USA to study acting and filmmaking. I could never separate or choose between working in front [of] or behind the camera as I loved the creative process, especially giving birth to productions as a screenwriter and lyricist, and then nurturing them as a producer. I would spend all of my days after school and weekends rushing to the West End, catching all or the tail-end of feature films and musicals for free.
Do you have any special training that prepared you to deal with the everyday challenge of working in Hollywood?
I’ve always believed you have to be at the top of your game in our industry due to the amount of competition, no matter which stage you are at, and still be continuously evolving. Aside from film school, drama school, and university, being determined and extremely motivated to achieve your goals, and as clichéd as this may sound, your dreams, is the only training outside the craft that anyone ever needs. I am a firm believer that hard work, with a little bit of luck, does pay off.
Can you talk about why you decided to work in the entertainment industry?
I can’t remember wanting to do anything else; I loved the idea of being able to create something from just our thoughts, to breathe life into it. Ours is a very powerful medium, and I realized how important it could be. We are simply telling stories, something I revelled in as a child.
If you were to sum up what Prospect House Entertainment offer to potential clients, how would you do that?
Engaging, informative, entertaining feature films, documentaries and live stage events. We are always looking to push the envelope and develop projects about the human condition with unprecedented material and perspectives. I also wanted to bring back the great styles and films of the ’30s, ’40s, and ’50s where the focus was on the characters driving the narrative of the film and infuse our own take on that. Minimal locations and diverse, layered characters, penned by great writers. Double Indemnity, Sunset Boulevard, The Dark Mirror, Twelve Angry Men, Dial M for Murder, and a little later, Misery, Sleuth, or The Sunset Limited with Samuel L. Jackson and Tommy Lee Jones come to mind.
What projects have you worked on in the past?
I have taken something for my screenwriting and learned from every show I’ve worked on. From acquiring my production “skin” and continuing my fascination with life stories on magazine shows, talk shows, and narrative with the BBC growing up, to working on dramatic hour-long episodics for the American broadcast and cable and independent films.
I have really enjoyed our own In Person series – Celebrity Q&A screenings and live musical tributes to film stars past and present. The former continues my fascination with life stories; the latter exercises my musical writing and collaboration with the most amazing stage talent.
I recently met the most incredible set of performers from Steve Wynn’s Show Stoppers and vowed to work with a few of them, especially a peerless performer named Ferly Prado. She stepped on stage and our party was immediately drawn to her presence, tenacity and sheer talent – she took our breath away. I love when that happens in theatre.
From a financial point of view, what steps do you take to make sure Prospect House Entertainment remains stable?
Again, being fascinated with and by the human condition, I wrote and produced talk and magazine shows very early on, something I brought over from my very first few jobs working with the BBC in London and Manchester. I also penned and produced commercials. I would produce those during the day, and then with Catherine Pirotta, my business partner, and then co-writer, Mark Troy (he sadly passed away in 2013), write our feature film slate in the evenings and, literally, whenever and wherever I could.
When we opened our doors, my vision of a full production slate to encourage investment and ensure we always had direction was realized. I am happy to say that we have a had a lot of financial support for our films and projects; we honor that by working 12, 14-hour days and seeing everything to fruition. I always say do anything you can to stay afloat long enough to reach your destination. Longevity with a strong constitution are the keys. Don’t stop, network, look out for your friends and family, and stay true to yourself.
Do you have any future plans to expand your company?
We like the direction we’re heading in. The business model allows us a platform to achieve our goals with hard work. I see expansion coming naturally as our short-term goals are completed. Prospect House Entertainment is four years into a five-year plan. I am focused on completing the cycle next year, but certainly have an eye on the future.
You have worked with several famous actors. Can you talk about what it was like to work with them?
We have been very blessed to work with the likes of Dick van Dyke, Gary Oldman, Malcolm McDowell, Elliot Gould, Debbie Allen, Brooke Smith, and many wonderful actors from the James Bond and Star Trek franchises to name a few. I cannot tell you how much we appreciate their contribution to our company’s journey. They have all been wonderful without question.
My current project is a psychological thriller with McDowell, Bruce Davison and the Academy Award nominee for Best Actress, Catalina Sandino Moreno. Catalina gives you that additional boost and inspiration to write at five in the morning – intelligence meeting class.
Is there anything else you would like to share?
Just our projects 🙂 I look forward to engaging, talking, and sharing our work and love for producing for many years to come.