After producing Marvel’s Netflix hits Luke Cage and The Punisher, 175 episodes of Law & Order: SVU, and nailing the hit TV pilot God Friended Me, Gail Barringer has established herself as one of the premier television producers in the industry.
A line producer by trade, Barringer got her start after graduating from Emerson College. From there, well, the rest is IMDB history.
The Montclair, NJ resident took some time to talk to Assemble during her latest trip to Los Angeles.
ASSEMBLE: How did you get your start as a producer?
BARRINGER: I got my start on a film called The Good Son, which was in Gloucester, Massachusetts. I had just finished college and I started in the production accounting department. I’m not an accountant by trade but that was the starting point in my career. Accounting is a great way to learn about how the industry works because you get to see everything on paper first. You learn what everything is, how much it costs, etc. From there I became a payroll accountant, production accountant, unit production manager, and eventually line producer.
ASSEMBLE: Have you ever thought to yourself… I made it.
BARRINGER: Made it? I’m still making it.
ASSEMBLE: So what goals do you need to achieve before you adequately feel that you’ve made it?
BARRINGER: My goal is to continue to work on projects that I take great pride in. My job is to take a well-written story and bring it to life on screen. I do that by collaborating with a talented crew of writers, directors, and craftsmen. I consider myself lucky to still love what I do after 27 years.
ASSEMBLE: What’s it like working with Jon Bernthal on Punisher?
BARRINGER: Jon’s a wonderful actor. He’s so talented and I think what he brought to the role of Frank Castle, also known as The Punisher, was justice in terms of, why is he a vigilante and how did he get there and how is this his new role in life? He wanted to do justice to those who are in the military. He felt very strongly that he wanted to portray their story accurately. Their pain and what they go through and PTSD and how that affects him and his character. He took it very seriously – it’s a very intense role – which, when he’s performing that way you’re not going to go up to him and be like, “Hey, did you watch the game last night?” It was important to give him space so he could perform the way that he needed to and tell that story and have truth in his performance. He’s such an intense actor because he wants to bring truth to his roles. That’s what makes him so great.
ASSEMBLE: Can you recall a particular moment when Jon diverted from his method acting?
BARRINGER: There’s always sweet moments. Sometimes he would bring his children to set and then he’s in daddy mode and you’re like, “Come on, get back on set.” And he would. But it’s always fun. There’s Frank Castle and he’s got his guns and he’s running around in these big fight scenes but then when his kids show up on set he’s a completely wonderful dad. He’s adorable.
ASSEMBLE: What’s it like working with an actor who does their own stunts, like Tom Cruise or Jackie Chan, versus working with stunt doubles?
BARRINGER: I worked with the famous stunt coordinator/martial arts expert, James Lew, on Luke Cage. Executing a detailed stunt sequence for any show requires great thought, choreography, and rehearsal. It’s a very challenging job and James handled it beautifully. He won an Emmy for Luke Cage season one. Stunt coordinators are different from stunt doubles because coordinators create the fight while doubles execute it per the coordinators’ direction.
ASSEMBLE: How do you compare “real” or “practical” stunt work to today’s CGI stunts?
BARRINGER: I’ve done both, and for me, it’s about what works for the storytelling and what’s going to be the most realistic.
ASSEMBLE: What is the biggest film stunt you’ve ever produced?
BARRINGER: We did some amazing stunts on Person of Interest. Exciting car chases that end with flips and explosions. We’ve blown up buildings on The Punisher. We’ve thrown people through windows on Luke Cage.
ASSEMBLE: How does “blow up a building” get pitched in the writing room?
BARRINGER: Two sentences, “Frank Castle enters the building. It explodes.” It can take weeks to prepare and execute. Locations, rigging, and rehearsals are all part of an exciting and safe stunt sequence. Everyone loves to see an explosion or car crash on screen. It’s cool to put in all of these stunts and action sequences but sometimes you have to trim it down and say what’s the most important part? What’s going to tell the story best?
ASSEMBLE: What do you think the greatest movie stunt of all time is?
BARRINGER: The most recent Mission Impossible movie comes to mind. I thought that was very, very well done. Baby Driver, look at those car chases. Doing the stunts that I’ve done in my career gives me a deeper appreciation for action movies because of the thought and preparation that goes into it. When I see a really good one that I respond to, I ask myself, “I wonder how long it took to do that.” I think all the Marvel movies are fantastic.
ASSEMBLE: You’ve had success in producing pilots. For instance, God Friended Me. What do you think separated this pilot from other’s you’ve produced?
BARRINGER: I think it’s a timely piece, the story was about doing good for others and feeling good about yourself in an age where everyone is so attached to a phone or a computer. It was a great group of people to work with, so I’m very happy for their success.
As filmmakers and marketers, we all think of ourselves as producers at some point. And when it comes to creating the best content, videos and films in the world, there is no bigger production value – and market – than that of the Marvel Universe, which Gail has thrived in for the last few years.
No matter what level of production you are aiming for with your next piece of content, you are always trying to up the quality for your company and clients. And while you may not have the same marketing goals as Marvel, whose Avengers: End Game broke the box office with over $2 billion in its first 11 days, there’s no reason we can’t learn from the best.