South Orange Native Dan Farah and Steven Spielberg Partner on ‘Ready Player One’


Ready Player One (credit Warner Brothers)


At the end of the trailers for the new Steven Spielberg blockbuster “Ready Player One” there’s a quick shot of the credits. Sandwiched between Spielberg’s directing and producing credits is the credit for producer “Dan Farah.”

Farah is a South Orange native who is seeing his biggest success.

A Columbia High School graduate (Class of ’98), Farah went on to Hofstra University where interned for producer Scott Rudin while attending college. Later he worked at International Creative Management (ICM) but left that job in 2004. He founded Farah Films in 2005.

Dan’s dad Al Farah is still active with CHS Cougars Boosters in South Orange and Maplewood. In fact, he’s being honored this year by the Columbia High School Hall of Fame Club with the Peter Cross Award for outstanding community volunteer for running the Cougar Booster Golf Outing for the past 20 years.

Meanwhile, the younger Farah who grew up on a “steady diet” of Spielberg films, was able to work with his idol on “Ready Player One.” Dan said that when he first saw the finished film “it was like seeing dreams come true.” He called Spielberg directing the film “the greatest thing that could possibly happen,” and added, “the movie is about young people fighting for the future they want and that makes it really appealing for this time.”

[easy_image_gallery gallery=”253″]

Ready Player One opens in theaters worldwide March 29. The movie has been praised by critics around as Spielberg’s return to blockbusters and as an instant classic, certified “fresh” by Rotten Tomatoes. Writing for NJNext.com, film critic Stephen Whitty called Read Player One a “film that’s packed full of breakneck excitement and widescreen magic.” (Read Whitty’s full review here.)

Through his Farah Films banner, Farah is also producing the much buzzed about adaption of Cline’s NY Times best seller “Armada” for Universal. Farah is also a producer on “Burden,” the indie drama starring Forest Whitaker and Garett Hedlund, which won the coveted Audience Award at Sundance this year. Distributors have been pursuing the film, which feels like an Oscar contender, and theatrical release plans for the fall are expected to be announced soon.

On the TV side, Farah and Warner Brothers Television have season two of their hit show, Famous In Love, also set to premiere next week, April 4, on Freeform. The show stars Bella Thorne and is created by “Pretty Little Liars” creator Marlene King and Tebecca Serle, who also wrote the books its based on. Farah also produces the hit fantasy show, The Shannara Chronicles, based on Terry Brooks NY Times Best Selling series, which can be found on Netflix. Talks for season 3 of the series are underway.

Farah is also a producer on Sony’s much buzzed about remake of The Crow and has numerous projects in the works at the major studios. He also produced the critically acclaimed broadway musical comedy, Honeymoon In Vegas, which starred Tony Danza, with music and lyrics written by Tony Award winner Jason Robert Brown.

Farah generously answered some questions submitted in response to a request for interview.

Where you involved in tv and film production in high school?

I was actively involved in the Columbia High School film and tv programs all four years at CHS and have a great appreciation for the late Mr. George Chase, who started and ran the film program, and Mr. Frank Mullin, who started and ran the tv program.

Did you work in South Orange-Maplewood as a teen?

My first real job ever was ripping tickets at the Maplewood movie theater freshman year in high school. My second was working the counter at the Maplewood Trattoria.

Was it always a dream of yours to work with Steven Spielberg? 

I grew up on a steady diet of Steven Spielberg movies. After reading as a kid about how Spielberg got his start making short films in his hometown, I started making short films on super 8 and 16mm, starting my freshman year in high school, in 1994. I’d write, direct, and produce them, and my friends would star in them. For production value, I pulled favors from the local off duty cops and EMT’s so I could have ambulances and police car chases in the shorts. In 1994, Spielberg founded Dreamworks, and so as an homage to him, I put a fake company credit – Dreamtime Productions, in front of all the short films I made in high school and college, from 1994 to 2002. The shorts were each dreams in themselves but the bigger dream was of course always to one day work with Spielberg. That dream came true when he came on board to direct Ready Player One in the spring of 2015.

Tell us about the genesis of Ready Player One?

In 2010, Ernie Cline entrusted me with the first draft of his book and gave me the right to run with the film rights as a producer, a year before the book was even published. I set it up at Warner Brothers in 2010 and we developed the adaption for five long years, before we landed on a draft by Ernie Cline and Zak Penn that was worthy of a big director. The studio helped us get it to Spielberg, who we all of course thought was a long shot, but fortunately he loved the script we had developed and the book it’s based on, and he came on board to direct and produce with us. We were in pre production by the end of ’15, we shot the film in ’16 at WB Leavesden studios outside of London, and we were in post production all of ’17. It’s been an amazing three-year journey working with Spielberg and eight-year journey with my old friend and collaborator Ernie Cline, whose fantastic book started it all. This movie is proof that dreams do come true and hard work pays off.

The book is currently number one on The NY Times Paperback Bestsellers list and NY times audio book best sellers list.

On Saturday March 31 — opening weekend — Farah is renting out the South Orange theater for the 7 p.m. screening and packing it with friends and family to watch the movie.

A screenshot from the “Ready Player One” trailer.