4 Dynamic Filmmaking Duos Who Inspire Us By Elaine Mongeon and Glen Zipper

Glen Zipper and Elaine Mongeon

[Note from Frolic: We’re so excited to have authors Glen Zipper and Elaine Mongeon guest posting on the site today. They’re talking epic filmmaking duos! Take it away.]

On our first date, we bonded over our mutual love of genre films and series, which ultimately led to our dreaming up Devastation Class. Now that the book is being released (but we’re no longer a couple), we’ve been pondering on creative teams behind films that influenced our drive to be storytellers – and funnily enough, four of them were or are still in romantic relationships. What they all have in common: they’ve had impressive, trailblazing careers and are responsible for creating films that are some of our all-time favorites, thus inspiring us to no end.

Kathleen Kennedy and Frank Marshall

In describing what makes Kathleen Kennedy and Frank Marshall such an impactful creative team, we can’t say it better than Steven Spielberg. In 2018, when Kennedy and Marshall were the first married couple to receive the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Academy Award (Kennedy was the first woman to receive the award), Spielberg said: “that spark between them has lit a torch that burns bright in movie history… [they tell] stories that remind us popular and powerful can live together and do live together in movies that echo across time.”

Kathleen Kennedy and Frank Marshall met in 1979 working with Spielberg on Raiders of the Lost Ark – Kennedy was Spielberg’s assistant turned associate producer, and Marshall was producer. (And we’d like to note that Raiders was an incredibly meaningful film for both of us – the compelling and dynamic characters, brilliant storytelling, and mesmerizing adventure hooked us, and we became fans for life.) 

In 1981, the same year the film was released, Kennedy and Marshall formed Amblin Entertainment with Spielberg with the goal “to tell hopeful stories, stories about the triumph of the human spirit and the ability to rise above circumstance.” Together and separately, Kennedy and Marshall produced eminent films such as E.T. and The Color Purple while at Amblin and The Sixth Sense, Munich, and the Bourne franchise after forming The Kennedy/Marshall Company in 1991. Between them, they’ve been nominated for thirteen Best Picture Academy Awards, and Kathleen Kennedy is now President of Lucasfilm Ltd. 

Upon receiving the Thalberg Award, Kennedy said, “I know firsthand how allowing new voices at the table can change someone’s life… I so passionately believe that each of us has the obligation to ensure that everyone who has a story to tell be given the opportunity… And it is my hope that with this inclusion of these powerful new voices we might just bring the world back to its senses – and maybe, just maybe, shatter a few glass ceilings along the way.”

George Miller and Margaret Sixel

It’s tough to put into words how exuberant we feel about Mad Max: Fury Road, so we’ll just leave it at that! 

George Miller, known for creating the incredible Mad Max franchise, and Margaret Sixel met in 1984 on the Australian miniseries, The Last Bastion, which Miller co-directed and Sixel assistant edited. Their creative collaboration began on Babe, released in 1995, the same year they married. Miller co-wrote and produced the film and credits Sixel for creative input that greatly improved and elevated the final version, which earned seven Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture and Best Screenplay. They subsequently collaborated on Babe Pig in the City, released in 1998; box office success Happy Feet, for which Miller won the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature Film of the Year in 2007, with Miller co-writing, directing, and producing and Sixel editing; and Happy Feet Two.

The still-married team’s most recent collaboration, the explosive Mad Max: Fury Road, which Miller directed, co-wrote, and produced and Sixel edited, won six Academy Awards including Sixel’s for Best Editing, and was nominated for four others, including Miller’s for Best Achievement in Directing and Best Motion Picture of the Year.

James Cameron and Gale Anne Hurd

We both grew up obsessed with the sci-fi and horror classics The Terminator and Aliens. Not only did we love the worlds that were built within them and the suspense and tension that drew us in and along for their respective rides, we rooted for the characters and their journeys. 

James Cameron and Gale Anne Hurd met when working together with legendary Roger Corman on the film Battle Beyond the Stars – with Cameron building spaceship props in the model department and Hurd assistant production managing. Together they made their mark when they brought to light The Terminator in 1984 for $5.6 million, with Cameron writing and directing and Hurd writing and producing. The film became a massive hit, ultimately taking in $78 million worldwide (and generating five sequels over the next 35 years). 

The then-married team went on to make Aliens, released in 1987, with Cameron writing and directing and Hurd producing. Nominated for seven Academy Awards, including a Best Actress nomination for Sigourney Weaver, the film was one of the first films in the horror genre to be taken seriously. Married from 1985 to 1989, Cameron and Hurd then made The Abyss (while getting a divorce!), and in 1991 re-teamed to make Terminator 2: Judgement Day.

The two then went on to forge their own individual, significant paths – with Cameron making films such as Titanic and Avatar and Hurd producing films and series such as Armageddon, two Hulk films, and The Walking Dead.

John Carpenter and Debra Hill

Escape from New York and Halloween were seminal sci-fi and horror thrillers for both of us. The characters of Snake Plissken, Laurie Strode, and Michael Myers will forever be etched in our collective memories. 

John Carpenter and Debra Hill began their creative and personal relationship on Assault on Precinct 13, released in 1976, which Carpenter wrote and directed and Hill script supervised and assistant edited. Together they made history when they made Halloween on a shoestring budget of just over $300,000, with Carpenter writing, directing, and composing the music and Hill writing and producing. Released in 1978, the film earned a record-breaking $70 million for an independent film and was the beginning of a mega franchise.  

After their romantic relationship ended, together they went on to make The Fog, released in 1980, with Carpenter writing and directing and Hill writing and producing, and Escape from New York, released in 1981, with Carpenter and writing and directing and Hill producing. They also co-wrote and produced Halloween II and together produced Halloween III. Their final collaboration, Escape from L.A., which Carpenter directed and Hill produced and co-wrote with Kurt Russell, was released in 1996.

Carpenter and Hill also found success separately. Carpenter wrote, directed, and composed music for films such as The Thing and Big Trouble in Little China amongst others, and Hill continued producing films such as The Fisher King and World Trade Center before she died in 2005.

Header Photo: Charles W. Murphy
About the Authors:

Glen Zipper produced the Oscar-winning documentary Undefeated, and the hit Netflix series Dogs. Born in New York City and raised in Fort Lee, NJ, Glen currently resides in Los Angeles, where he enjoys motorcycle riding and stopping to pet every dog he sees. Follow him on Twitter @Zipper and Instagram @glenzipper.

Award-winning filmmaker Elaine Mongeon wrote and directed the short films Good Morning for Warner Bros. Pictures and Swiped to Death for Hulu and the Sundance Institute. She also served as an associate producer on Magic Mike XXL. Elaine has a love for the outdoors and has been known to spend her time traversing glaciers in Canada and precision motorcycle riding. Originally from New England, she currently resides in Los Angeles. Follow her on Twitter @E_Mongeon and Instagram @elainemongeon.

Devastation Class by Glen Zipper and Elaine Mongeon, out September 8!

An annihilation force of invading aliens. Human civilization on the brink of extinction. Earth’s only hope—seven cadets and the legendary starship they were never meant to command. No matter the cost, they will stop at nothing to survive. No matter the odds, they will fight to save their future.

The distant future. Earth’s Alliance forces have emerged victorious from a brutal nine-year war with the mysterious Kastazi—a vicious, highly advanced alien race. In the dawn of a new peace, the Alliance Devastation Class starship California embarks on a mission of science and learning with a skeleton crew of seasoned officers, civilian students, and inexperienced military cadets in tow.

For JD Marshall and Viv Nixon, gifted cadets and best friends, the mission holds special meaning: It offers an opportunity to prove themselves and begin to escape the long shadows of their legendary war hero parents.

Suddenly ambushed by a second wave of invading Kastazi forces, JD and Viv make the impossible decision to spearhead a mutiny to save the California and everyone on it. In command and quickly out of options, they are forced to activate the ship’s prototype Blink Reactor—an experimental technology they expect to send them to the safe, distant reaches of space. When their escape transports them to a reality they don’t recognize and reveals unimaginably terrifying secrets, they must fight their way home to save not just everyone they love but also humanity itself. Standing in their way are an insurmountable enemy, saboteurs from within, a mystery eons in the making, and the fabric of time and space itself.

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