Cornell University

February 10 2014

Hollywood Hits

Fried '81 tells stories of hope through film

Rob Fried '81Film producer Rob Fried '81 may be the only ILRie to have won an Oscar.

As a film producer and studio executive for more than 25 years, Fried was responsible for such hits as "Rudy," "Hoosiers," "Bull Durham," "Mississippi Burning," "Throw Momma from the Train," "Collateral," "The Boondock Saints" and "Godzilla." In 1992, he won an Academy Award for the short film "Session Man."

Today, as CEO of SpiritClips, he creates films that make a difference in people's lives.

SpiritClips, which Fried founded in 2007, exists, he says, "to make entertaining films that say something good." The films present stories of hope and inspiration.

Hallmark started supplying content in 2010, and bought the company in 2012. Along with short films, SpiritClips now offers Hallmark Hall of Fame and other full-length Hollywood films with a similar sensibility.

SpiritClips, both a streaming video business and an e-card business, has some 50 employees and half a million subscribers.

Fried says he has always appreciated the creative calculus of short films. "You have to maximize emotion with a minimal amount of footage. It's a challenge I enjoy."

Given its distribution model, Fried says, SpiritClips is free to develop films of any length.

"People now watch when they want, where they want, for as long as they want. Duration becomes irrelevant," he explains. "Far more important is: What is the length of time needed to tell this story in the best way possible?"

The roles of producer and entrepreneur, Fried says, "have much in common."

"When you produce a movie, you're really creating a startup company," he says. "You incorporate, put a staff together, raise money, make the film, and then distribute it."

Among his numerous entrepreneurial ventures is Tiger Media, which operates one of the largest outdoor advertising networks in China. In the late 1990s, he owned WHN, which ran online stores for entertainment companies. He also owned WHN Exchange, a business-to-business exchange that allowed licensors, licensees and retail stores to transact business online.

Fried, who lives in Los Angeles with his wife, actress Nancy Travis, and their two sons, grew up in Ardsley, N.Y. His worldview was shaped by his immigrant father, a survivor of the Holocaust.

As an ILR student, Fried says, he "loved learning about the waves of immigration in the late 1800s and early 1900s, and how war and international affairs impacted immigration policy and led to societal transformation. These things were riveting to me."

They've also formed the basis of many of his films. "The greatness of this country and how it has embraced diversity is a recurrent theme," he says.

Fried earned an MBA from Columbia University. His first job in the industry was at Columbia Pictures, working for Jonathan Dolgen '66, for whom ILR's Dolgen Hall is named.

Over the years, Fried says, he has developed a greater appreciation for both his ILR education and "the country it taught us about — the institutions that exist in America that enable us to have an ILR School."