A Tiger's Tale in Hollywood

UofM Film and Video Production M.A. Alum, Shannon McIntosh, producer on the film “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” shares her moviemaking journey

By Casey Hilder


 Celebrating the storied lives and unyielding support of one of Memphis’ most prominent philanthropic couplesWhen Shannon McIntosh, a 1991 graduate of the Department of Communication & Film, won a Golden Globe for her role as producer on “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” she was joined onstage by the likes of Brad Pitt, Leonardo DiCaprio and Quentin Tarantino. As a longtime Tarantino collaborator with decades of producer credits under her belt in films like “Grindhouse,” "Angels Sing," “Django Unchained” and “The Hateful Eight,” McIntosh was no stranger among modern moviemaking greats.

“When you go into any award show situation, you never know if you’re going to take home the prize, but you’re a winner if you made it there,” she says.
Up against stiff competition in the form of Taika Waititi’s “Jojo Rabbit,” Memphian Craig Brewer’s “Dolemite is My Name” and Rian Johnson’s “Knives Out,” the Tarantino-directed comedy-drama won the 2020 Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy, as well as Best Screenplay, Best Supporting Actor and a Critic’s Choice Award.

“Good to see the UofM at the Golden Globes,” University of Memphis President Dr. M. David Rudd tweeted after the awards show. 
“That's our own Film & Video Production M.A. Alum, Shannon McIntosh. She was the producer of the film. Go Tigers.”

As a producer, McIntosh’s responsibilities include a little bit of everything, but her overarching goal is always to make sure the director’s vision appears on the screen.

“The producer role is different for every movie, depending on the project,” she says. “But essentially, where there are loose ends, it’s your job to iron them out. Just because a movie hits theaters doesn’t mean your job is over – it’s never over, really."

Prior to her role as independent producer, Shannon worked as executive VP at Miramax Films and The Weinstein Company, where she managed and oversaw the entire life of a film, from production to release to post-release life. Originally from Atlanta, McIntosh attended the University of Miami to study acting and soon found herself obsessed with filmmaking, especially in regard to documentaries. She was active in various student activities across the Miami campus, which eventually led to her attending the University of Memphis as a graduate advisor to the student activities program. As a UofM graduate student studying film and video production, McIntosh learned movie history and the art of shooting and editing.

“I studied under some great professors, a couple of whom have just retired in Steven Ross and David Appleby,” she says. “And also Roxie Gee, who is still there. I learned a tremendous amount from the three of them while I was at the University of Memphis. The impact that David and Steven had on the department and their students is indelible, I am sure it will be felt by generations to come.” 
After earning her degree from the UofM, McIntosh headed to the Northeast to tackle a variety of jobs that ranged from PBS programming to medical instructional videos before receiving a call from Miramax Films.

“They needed someone who understood all levels of production and post-production to come in and help to finish a project,” she says. “I originally signed up for a three-month job and I stayed there for 13 years.”

Many of those early years brought McIntosh together with legendary director Quentin Tarantino, who she has known since production of his breakout 1994 hit, “Pulp Fiction.”

“In a way, it’s like we’ve kind of grown up together,” she says. “I met him just after he’d done Reservoir Dogs and during the making of Pulp Fiction, we’d take phone calls and discuss post-production between me in NY and him in LA. The first day I actually met him in person was his birthday and also the day he won the Academy Award.”

From there, she worked on several Tarantino productions, including the 1996 film “From Dusk Till Dawn.”

“He is an auteur: a writer, director and film aficionado,” McIntosh says. “Every time you’re with Quentin, you learn something about movies you didn’t know before. You really have to keep a notepad on hand to keep track of all the movies he names. He loves film history and is very much willing to teach.” 

McIntosh has diverse personal taste in film, with a list of favorites that includes “Cinema Paradiso,” “Apocalypse Now,” and “Iron Monkey.” She currently has a slate of kung fu movies she’s working her way through.

“The most important thing to know about a project is that when you dive into a movie, you’re going to be with it for a long time,” she says. “The difference between myself and other producers is — probably because I come from the distribution studio background — I work through every stage of the life of a movie. They’re with me for a long time, so you absolutely have to have a love or passion for each project.”

McIntosh’s passion was on full display during the sleepless nights and uncertain air associated with the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic during production of her latest film, a vibrant, musical rendition of “Cinderella” that featured the likes of Idina Menzel, James Corden, Billy Porter, Camila Cabello, Pierce Brosnan and Minnie Driver.

“We made it exactly 22 days into production before we had to shut the movie down,” she says.  

A two-week shutdown soon stretched into months as McIntosh returned home to Los Angeles to be with her family.

“After that first shutdown, we just started figuring out ways that we could go back and shoot safely,” she says. “We really had to think to figure out what would work best for our production.”Production resumed in August of 2020, with spiking cases in the U.K. and U.S. further complicating matters along the way. On set, participants were tested multiple times a week.

“These people needed to work, they needed to make money, but we needed to adhere to these new protocols,” she says. “I felt like I was a general in a war. My most important job on the set has always been the health and safety of the crew, and this one took that idea and notched it up in a big way. If a crewmember sneezed, we would send them home with full pay. We found a way to keep moving that was effective and we made it through and we all cried on the last day once it was all done.”

While Sony Pictures, the film’s production company, initially hoped for a theatrical release, additional concerns as the Delta variant spread meant that “Cinderella” would premiere on Amazon Prime streaming services in the fall of 2021.

“It’s a time when the world needs joy, and there is a lot of joy in this movie,” McIntosh says. “We’re not saving lives or anything, but people like their entertainment. I think it helps.”McIntosh says that initial call to go to Miramax was among the most pivotal moments in her filmmaking career.“I never thought I would stick with a studio that long,” she says. “I was able to work with a super-smart group of young, hungry executives and filmmakers. That movement at that time in independent films really did change the course of film history.

As an executive leader in the male-dominated world of post-production, McIntosh says her upbringing helped form a unique outlook on the business.

“I grew up with brothers and it never really occurred to me that I couldn’t do something,” she says. “I never really thought of myself as any different, so I couldn’t be deterred. There have been some times where I felt like I may have been addressed differently if I was not a woman, but I have always been the type to set my path.”

As a wife and mother of two sons, McIntosh has been fortunate enough to take her family along when filming some of the fantastic locales that serve as backdrops in her movies. Her advice: “Don’t look back and don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do something,” she says. “I was able to have kids and a husband that support me while building my career. You can have both and don’t believe anyone who says you can’t.”