34th Street Magazine: “The Imitation Game” tells Alan Turing’s story. What about his life attracted you?
Teddy Schwarzman: I didn’t know it, which was almost embarrassing at the time. I didn’t realize how thankful I should be for the contributions that he had made. Whether it’s his direct involvement in cracking the Enigma code that really changed the direction of World War II, thereby leading to an allied victory, to his pioneering thoughts on computer science. It was really a fascinating story and a fascinating life. And the tragedy and injustice that came alongside that—the fact that he kept as a secret almost all of his accomplishments outside of the computer science sphere, which happened outside of the war, was treated so unjustly by the British government. He ultimately committed suicide. It just felt like this was a story that needed to be told. There’s nothing about me as an individual that necessarily makes me the right person to tell it except that I understood the importance of it and wanted to protect it.
Street: You went to Penn for undergrad and then you went to law school. How did you end up producing films?
TS: I was an English major at Penn. I always wanted to do something creative. English, and law, to some degree, were the only things that I was actually good at in school, but I never understood how you could utilize that from a career standpoint.
When I got into the business and legal side and the aspects of producing, my background in law and finance led me to embrace it with a level of diligence and ethics that was often lacking within the industry.
Street: What advice would you give to Penn students interested in going into creative careers?
TS: In hindsight, I think that resume building is incredibly important to many, but people need to figure out their unique set of circumstances and what is going to be driving them. Whether it’s inherent individual satisfaction, or whether it’s base salary and student loans—everybody can have a different calculus as to what’s in their direct interest and what types of risks they can take.
I think the more you can take advantage of internships and take advantage of summers, and take risks at an early age to define your interests and figure out whether your skills coincide with them, it’s invaluable—because life, after school, becomes a very scary place if you haven’t investigated yourself during your college years.
Street: If you could relive anything through your time at Penn, what would it be?
TS: My freshman year, week three of fall semester, some kids from another university were in the quad and ended up on our floor, harassing some of the girls. I stepped in, which led to a fight, which led to me losing my front tooth, which was a terrible way to go through your entire freshman year having no real friends yet.
I probably would have had a very different experience had I not been physically traumatized. But I ended up finding great friends who I loved. It’s just a process of finding your niche and having quiet conversations with people and developing relationships. I’ve ended up becoming much better friends with a ton of Penn people outside of Penn, now that I’ve graduated.