Robin O’Hara, Producer of Independent Films, Dies at 62


Photo

Robin O’Hara, center, on the set of “Gummo.” She was a co-producer.

Credit
Bruce Birmelin

Robin O’Hara, who was a producer of Tom Noonan’s “What Happened Was …,” a co-producer of Harmony Korine’s “Gummo” and a producer of other notable independent films, died on March 14 in Manhattan. She was 62.

The cause was complications of cancer, Scott Macaulay, her business partner and companion, said.

Ms. O’Hara got her start as a producer in the mid-1980s at the Kitchen, the experimental performance space in Chelsea, where she was in charge of video distribution. She helped produce the 1986 PBS special “Two Moon July,” which featured several artists prominent at the Kitchen, and went on to produce dance and performance videos for the PBS series “Alive From Off Center.”

She also helped produce two short experimental films by the Polish director Zbigniew Rybczynski, “Steps” (1987) and “The Fourth Dimension” (1988).

Ms. O’Hara’s career took off after she teamed with Mr. Macaulay, formerly the Kitchen’s director of programming, to produce “What Happened Was …” (1994) for Ted Hope and James Schamus, who would go on to produce “Brokeback Mountain” and other movies.

“What Happened Was …,” a dark comedy based on Mr. Noonan’s play about two lonely New Yorkers, won the Grand Jury Prize and the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award at the Sundance Film Festival in 1994.

“Charting an uneasy evening spent by two slightly acquainted people on a first date,” Janet Maslin wrote in her review in The New York Times, “Mr. Noonan reaches into the depths of their loneliness, letting them reveal themselves gradually over the course of an awkward dinner.”

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A scene from “Gummo,” about the denizens of an Ohio town devastated by a tornado.

Credit
Bruce Birmelin/Fine Line Features, via Photofest

After producing “The Wife” (1995), based on a play by Mr. Noonan, who again directed, Ms. O’Hara and Mr. Macaulay formed their own company, Forensic Films. The company produced Jesse Peretz’s “First Love, Last Rites” (1997) and Mr. Korine’s “Julien Donkey-Boy” (1999). Ms. O’Hara and Mr. Macaulay had helped produce Mr. Korine’s first film, “Gummo” (1997), about the numb, disaffected residents of an Ohio town hit by a tornado. They went on to produce “The Chateau” (2001) by Mr. Peretz, Peter Sollett’s “Raising Victor Vargas” (2002) and James Ponsoldt’s “Off the Black” (2006).

Robin O’Hara was born on May 15, 1954, in Baltimore. Her father, Steve, was the manager at Monarch Rubber. Her mother, the former Marjorie Sadusky, was a homemaker.

After completing the high school drama program at the North Carolina School of the Arts in 1972, she pursued an acting career in Los Angeles and New York and then enrolled in the School of the Arts at New York University (now the Tisch School of the Arts). In the early 1980s, she began working as a videographer on music videos by Jeff Stein and Kathy Dougherty.

An internship at the Kitchen led to a job distributing videos by Nam June Paik, Robert Wilson, Bill Viola and other artists to galleries, museums and broadcasters around the world. She also worked as a production manager for the Raul Ruiz film “The Golden Boat” (1990), Mr. Schamus’s producing debut.

In addition to Mr. Macaulay, she is survived by a sister, Stephanie Finkelstein.

Ms. O’Hara often worked in Paris with European producers and directors. She was the executive producer of “A Couch in New York” (1996), directed by Chantal Akerman, and “The Good Heart” (2009), directed by Dagur Kari.

She was the New York line producer for “Someone Else’s America,” directed by Goran Paskaljevic, and “A Passion of Mind” (2000), directed by Alain Berliner, and an associate producer of Olivier Assayas’s “Demonlover” (2002).

She was recently an executive producer of “Wilde Wedding,” a film by Damian Harris with John Malkovich, Glenn Close and Patrick Stewart. It is in postproduction.

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