Hollywood Executive: Sanford ‘Sandy’ Climan of Entertainment Media Ventures

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Sanford R. (Sandy) Climan is President of Entertainment Media Ventures, Inc. Founded in 1999 by Mr. Climan, EMV is active in media investment and strategic advisory work, with a particular focus on disruptive technologies and entities currently impacting the traditional boundaries of business, media, and entertainment. He is an investor, Producer and considered a media visionary.

Throughout his career, Mr. Climan has held senior management positions in the media and entertainment industry. He served as Corporate Executive Vice President and President of Worldwide Business Development of Universal Studios, where he oversaw corporate international strategy, strategic marketing, and five studio operating divisions. Climan was the founding head of the corporate practice at Creative Artists Agency, working with global companies, including Sony Corporation on its acquisition of Columbia Pictures, Matsushita Electric on its acquisition of MCA/Universal, Credit Lyonnais on its restructuring of MGM, Coca-Cola, NYNEX, Bell Atlantic, Pacific Telesis and other Fortune 500 companies. While at CAA, he was part of the senior management team for 12 years, representing talent including Robert De Niro, Robert Redford, Kevin Costner, Danny DeVito, and Michael Mann, as well as many prominent film and television production companies.

 He started his entertainment career at MGM, holding executive positions in motion picture production and the distribution of films and television.

Notable achievements include Executive Producer of the first digital live-action 3D feature film, “U2 3D,” and Producer of “The Aviator,” directed by Martin Scorsese and starring Leonardo DiCaprio, for which Climan was awarded a British Academy Award and a Golden Globe Award. He received an Ellis Island Medal of Honor in 2018. In addition, Climan has been an active investor in and advisor to venture capital firms and early-stage companies in media, technology, and healthcare.

Beverly Hills Magazine: Mr. Sanford Climan, how are you this morning?

Mr. Sanford Climan: I’m excited to be here with you. I love the magazine — I love Beverly Hills, and I look forward to spending time with you.

Beverly Hills Magazine: Likewise. Thank you so much. You have worked with venture capital funds, early stage companies leading companies in media & technology, as well as companies dealing with innovative healthcare. You are a producer of The Aviator, which Martin Scorsese directed, and starred Leonardo DiCaprio.

You have been awarded a British Academy Award, Golden Globe, and the Ellis Island Medal of Honor. You are an extremely accomplished man. I want to congratulate you on all of your success.

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Mr. Sanford Climan: You’re wonderful to say that. It takes an entire army of people with whom you work to get any of that done. Some of those people are recognized; some are not formally recognized. Let me take the opportunity to recognize that none of this happens on your own. I have been blessed with people from the early parts of my life that have allowed me to learn from and collaborate with them. It’s a very long and winding road, but it’s been an exciting one.

Beverly Hills Magazine: Yes, absolutely. What inspired you to get into the movie-making business and the entertainment space? Was it a choice you made, or was it fate?

Mr. Sanford Climan: I grew up in the Bronx and neither of my parents went to college. So we had a huge amount of enthusiasm for education but had no resources beyond that. Storytelling inspired me; the magic of being in stories of human life, locations, and history.

I started in neurosciences and neurobiology and that’s what gets you out of the Bronx. When I was in junior high school, I got a letter saying that I was accepted to the Bronx High School of Science, and then I had been selected to do a directed research project. I was only 14 at the time, and thought that I had to do the project right away.

My mother was the ward clerk at Jacobi Hospital, which was a city hospital affiliated with the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. I took the Number 9 bus down Eastchester Road, walked into the sciences building at Einstein, walked up to the second floor, and into the office of Professor William T. Norton one the world’s leading reserachers on the myelin sheath and the causes of multiple sclerosis. I said to him, “Do you mind if I stay?” And for reasons I am not sure, he said “yes.” I spent six years in his lab working on the most challenging projects. That, and graduating first in your class at Bronx Science, is a ticket out of the Bronx.

I didn’t have the resources to visit any of the colleges to which I applied. I knew that Harvard was considered the best school in the country, so I went to Harvard as a chemistry major. Fortunately, I was able to join and eventually help lead Harvard’s humor magazine, The Harvard Lampoon.

I took most of my non-chemistry and science courses in art history and then applied to the Harvard School of Public Health where I was eventually able to combine a Master’s of Science in Health Policy and Mangement  with an MBA from Harvard Business School. I told myself, “You know what I really love to do is learn from movies and television — storytelling.” And so, during my second year of business school, I went to California for the first time, and I said if I could get someone to pay me to watch movies and television, that would be great. I started not as a secretary but as the second secretary to the CEO of Producer’s Sales Organization, the foreign distribution of the Guinness Film Group, one of the early mini-major studios that made films that were being distributed by the major studios.

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Beverly Hills Magazine: WOW! Fantastic! That’s an interesting turn of events that lead you here. It’s amazing how life works that way. What is your current business mission?

Mr. Sanford Climan: There are two. There is a business mission, and there is the how-do-I-give-back-mission; they are both important and always tied together. The business mission is, firstly, I love learning about the world. Whether it was at MGM, or Creatives Artists, or Universal Studios. I was always considered the bridge between Silicon Valley and Hollywood, and also between the corporate world and Hollywood.

In the early 1990s, there was that moment of early convergence between Silicon Valley and entertainment. For the first time, Silicon Valley showed up in Hollywood. And, of course, they showed up at our doorstep at CAA. I started to work with venture-backed companies and make investments with venture funds. The sense of creativity of the entrepreneur building a transformative business from scratch had the same spirit of engagement that actors, directors, and writers had. Technology entreprenuership is also a creative industry.

I started to immerse myself in that world. It took several more decades for the worlds of technology, and entertainment to truly converge, which is where we are now.  As we are all discussing today, AI puts an entirely different spotlight on the convergence of telecommunications, technology, and entertainment.

On the non-business side, I have two ways to give back. One way is cross-cultural storytelling. Given that news and social media have not done a good job of bridging cultures, it is through storytelling that people see each other in a truly human way, and can appreciate the richness of cultures all over the world. Through that understanding, we hopefully help create peace and prosperity on what is today a truly global platform for communication and enterainment.

Beverly Hills Magazine: I agree, and that’s what entertainment is. It’s as if we all have a curiosity in us to want to watch other people’s life stories, and empathize with them in their struggle and their pain. It’s the most powerful medium that exists that can change people’s hearts, minds, and ultimately their lives.

Mr. Sanford Climan: I couldn’t agree more.

The other way I have to give back is through job creation, which we are pursuing through an educational platform called Aptitude. This company’s goal is to inspire young people to find their passions through work experience, give them training and internships that prepare them for the real world, and help them find meaningful employment.

If people have jobs where they are engaged, they can start families, they can provide for their family, and inspire their families. That’s the American Dream, and that’s the World Dream. Without that, we will have disharmony and anger. We all need to share the mission of creating prosperity for everyone — that promotes peace. It fosters a healthy engagement on a community, on a regional, on a national, and on a global level.

Beverly Hills Magazine: What has been the most challenging experience you’ve endured in your career success journey?

Mr. Sanford Climan: When I got my first job at Producers Sales Organization I was not even a first secretary, I was the second secretary in the CEO’s office. Remember, this is before cell phones and faxes, my boss would come in hand me a rubber dictaphone sheet and I would transcribe individual directives he wanted sent to the staff. I would type them out, cut them up onto small paper slivers, and then drop them off office to office. It was a primitive version of email.

When I went to MGM,  the challenge was moving from theatrical distribution to production, which required a complete shift in the company’s view of me.

It was a very hard transition because the creative community likes to think of itself as completely insular and there was some kind of special magic that “the creatives” have that the average person doesn’t.

On my first day as a Production Executive, I showed up in the executive screening room, to watch footage of our ongoing productions. All the production executives just didn’t talk. They were polite because I was their friend. There was complete silence because I was in the room. And finally, the head of the production came into the screening room and said, “Congratulations on being made a Production Executive.” Two things happened. First their bodies shifted, like  “Why are you here?” Then their bodies shifted like, “Are you going to be a problem?”

The way to overcome these challenges is to be a great team player and understand the human condition.

Beverly Hills Magazine: Interesting. What has been the most rewarding?

Mr. Sanford Climan: It’s never changed. The most fulfilling thing from which I get the greatest joy is in helping people. Some of these people are the actors and filmmakers we talked about. Make no mistake about it these people have a true gift. They see things differently. They are extraordinary.

I worked with Robert Redford on his second directorial effort,  The Milagro Beanfield War, it was the first film he directed after Ordinary People, for which he won the Academy Award.

He was under tremendous pressure. Because the film was over budget, and because he is who he is, he was under a microscope with the press.

I watched how he took the first cut of the film, which focused on a fight over water rights in New Mexico, and shaped it into a fable about how an old man and an angel save a town. It is a beautiful movie. It is a human movie. Most people have not seen this movie, and I highly encourage everyone to find a copy and enjoy the greatness of this film.

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Beverly Hills Magazine: Many of us are created to do great things. I truly believe that God gives gifts and talents to individuals that are inborn, and that’s why some are simple extraordinary at what they do, because they were quite literally created and born to do it.

Mr. Sanford Climan: My primary goal is to help people. To bring people together who otherwise would not have met, and together can od great things. I’ve been blessed to be a member and advisor of The World Economic Forum for 28 years. I have hosted Heads of State on their visits to Hollywood. As I often say, people have two businesses, their own business and show business. Being in entertainment opens amazing doors that otherwise would not be there. The important thing is to look at life from the perspective of the people with whom you are working, and understand what is important to them. If you can help them, all things are possible.

My greatest joy is helping others with their careers and also with their personal lives. Sometimes, it’s business, other times, it’s how they see themselves – issues with the families, choices they must make. Sometimes, it’s just being there to listen. Many people go through life on a transactional base. That’s not me. I probably would have been economically richer if I were more transactional, but I would not be richer personally.

Everything is about a handshake, a hug, or a long-term relationship.

Beverly Hills Magazine: Awww that’s so beautiful. I’ve always said we take nothing with us, none of the dollars we’ve earned, but we take the love in our heart and the memories of the relationships we have formed, and we leave a legacy of our positive actions and our good deeds in the lives of others. So in a way you’re an angel of sorts.

Mr. Sanford Climan: I’m definitely not an angel. People say that you are alive as long as the last person who remembers you is alive. We all should strive to touch as many people in a positive way as much as possible. That’s the true legacy. End of the day, what is the measure of what you’ve done? The measure of what you’ve done is the positive footprints. It’s everywhere that you have been that you have helped someone.

Beverly Hills Magazine: Sandy, thank you so much for your time. I know this has been short and sweet. I congratulate you on your success in life and business.

Mr. Sanford Climan: Have a wonderful weekend ahead.

EM Ventures Sandy Climan #hollywood #success #business #bevhillsmag #beverlyhills #beverlyhillsmagazine #hollywoodexecutive #businessleaders
Sandy Climan with sons Joe and Matthew
Janet is a content writer and a contributor at Beverly Hills Magazine. When she's not writing, you can find her doing charity work.
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