Todd Eckert is a unique breed of bi-coastal these days: a film producer and video-game financer splitting his time not between New York and L.A., but mainly between London, Manchester, Berlin ... and Pittsburgh. He's currently producing the much-anticipated film about Ian Curtis -- the singer of seminal Manchester group Joy Division -- along with Orian Williams, Deborah Curtis, and Factory Records impresario Tony Wilson.
When did you move to the city?
Nine years ago. I moved from L.A. I had met Kelly [now his wife] on one of my trips to Houston. When we were still dating, I brought her to Pittsburgh, just because I lived in Pittsburgh for a couple years when I was a kid, and I had family there, but for whatever reason I've always identified with it. I can't explain it, but it's my favorite town in the world. And I brought her in, literally, to see a baseball game.
She moved here after seeing the Pirates?
She totally fell in love with the town. It was Pittsburgh or New York, and we were literally flying from Pittsburgh to New York on September 11. And that was kinda that. We lived in a loft in Lawrenceville for a couple years, then bought a house in the Mexican War Streets, and redid it. And my next film will definitely be in Pittsburgh, because I can't explain how good I feel when I get there.
What got you started in film production?
I was a music editor from the time I was 14 until I was 27. I started off in Houston, where I was living at the time, and we wound up doing a national magazine called Only Music. It split each month between Houston and New York, and here in England a lot, because most of the bands I really loved at that time were from here. I've worked for the Houston Press as well, which is the Houston version of the City Paper.
For years I was just on the financial side of the business, putting together film deals, and I never wanted to properly produce a film until it was something for which I felt really passionate. Coming from a music background, this is that project. So, for me, I can't imagine taking this much time out of your life if you don't love it that much, because I'm definitely much more of a hockey-game-in-Pittsburgh guy than I am a red-carpet-in-L.A. guy. I won't watch the Oscars, because it's just not my trip, at all.
Do you have any thoughts on the local art or music scenes?
Well, I think Pittsburgh as a local scene is doing really well. All bullshit aside, I thought Modey Lemon's was one of the best records I heard all of last year. That being said, because of the state of flux with promoters, the city kinda sucks for touring acts. Which is a shame, because bands love playing in Pittsburgh. I was hanging out with Coldplay a couple months ago, and they were talking about the [Pittsburgh] show on Chris Martin's birthday from a couple years ago, which they thought was the best show on the entire tour.
Musicians seem to think there's no music industry in Pittsburgh.
Pretty much everybody outside of New York or L.A. says the same thing. I've heard bands complain about living in San Francisco, saying there's nobody there who can sign you. I used to manage a great band out of Seattle, and it was the same thing there. Manchester didn't always have the music scene that started with Joy Division and still exists today. It was basically put on the map because guys like Tony Wilson decided, "Fuck it, I like it here, I wanna live here, the bands and art and graphic design are all just too good here, so I'm gonna make it happen."
You've mentioned that being based in Pittsburgh helped you get this project started.
It helped with Debbie [Curtis], it helped with Tony, and it helped with the guys in New Order, because we were seen as having connections, but not being full of shit. So being from Pittsburgh was directly beneficial to our success with getting the option on Debbie's book and being able to make everything happen. My first conversation with Tony was funny. He gets on the phone and says, "Where are you?" I said, "Pittsburgh." "Do you live there?" "Yes." "Oh my God, do you know how many similarities there are between Manchester and Pittsburgh?" And he just starts going off about all the reasons they should be sister cities. It was a riot, and set the stage for things later.