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Panelist Lynda Obst speaks at the 'And She Rescues Him Right Back Panel' discussion at the Tribeca Film Festival April 30, 2005 in New York City.
Movie producer Linda Obst has made movies that have a way of staying with you. Some of her more famous credits include "Sleepless in Seattle," "Contact," "Flashdance," "The Fisher King," among others.
Throughout her decades-long career in the movie business, Obst has been witness to the dramatic shift in the industry, especially as the way we consume media has changed. As consumers moved from DVD sales to Netflix and the international market gained prominence over the domestic market, the way Hollywood green lights films has changed.
So much so that Obst, in her new book, "Sleepless In Hollywood," says many of the films she's produced probably wouldn't see the light of day today.
"I absolutely know they would not make the inside of a theater," said Obst on Take Two. "There's about two of them which I'm certain would: 'Contact' and maybe 'Sleepless in Seattle'. Nora Ephron could get movies made because she made a lot of hits and Tom Hanks could get a movie made."
Her new book chronicles major changes afoot in the industry, and her belief that television is the new bastion for experimentation, creativity and character development.
On which kinds of movies get made today:
"A movie has to have pre-awareness. It has to be based on something that is already familiar around the world, like 'Batman', 'Spiderman', 'Pirates of the Caribbean-man'. I call them man movies. It wants to be based on an intellectual property, what we used to call a 'book.' So, if this property has pre-awareness, that means it doesn't have to be marketed from scratch. We don't have to create its awareness as an original property--particularly to the international audience. That is the most successful kind of movie you can make, which is why we see so many sequels in our theaters…. The notion that 'Casablanca' wouldn't have been made if you couldn't make 'Casablanca 2' is what we call the New Abnormal. I know it's grim, so I tried to make the book really funny."
On the moment she realized the old way of making movies was over:
"There was an actual moment. I was having dinner with my son (my son is a manager), and I was trying to get a movie made about the intelligent design case going on in Pennsylvania, which was just like the Scopes trial. I had a terrific script, I had movie stars interested in it and I was trying to get the studio to green light it. I said to Ollie, 'I can't figure out why I can't get this movie made. It's so good.' And Ollie, who is, needless to say, in the younger generation, looked at me and said, 'Mom, trying to get a movie made because it's good is so 2003.' I was stunned. Something clearly had gone horribly awry."
On what happens with great scripts that don't have:
"I can get a great script made, but it's going to be starved. I have to make it for a price. And how can I get it made? I can get it made because movie stars and directors are our allies in this fight to great movies made. But, it's a struggle. Yesterday, Stephen Spielberg said that he almost didn't get 'Lincoln' made because 'Lincoln' doesn't appeal to the global audience. And Russia and China, who are driving the decisions bing made because they are the profit margin, they don't care about 'Lincoln'. That is a domestic film, and movies aren't made for the domestic market anymore. Therefore, it was tough for even Stephen Spielberg to get that movie made."
On the influence of the international market today:
"When I came into this business, the international market was 20 percent. Right now, it's reversed, and 80 percent of the profits come from the global market. When I came into the business, 50 percent of our profits came from DVDs. The money that helped get 'Fisher King' made, and all my romantic comedies, came from the profits from the DVD business. That's where the cushion for making these, what we called, interstitial movies, the movies between the tent poles."
On her belief that the future is in television:
"Those of us who loved writing, those of us who like movies like 'Fisher King', we started saying, 'Well, where are characters?' We looked, and we found ourselves watching 'Homeland' and 'Madmen' and the 'The Sopranos'. Where were all the great characters being developed? On television. What was the water cooler talk about? Television. Things that we could never do in movies, we could suddenly do in television, so all the great writers that could sell their wares in this new market created a diaspora, what I call the diaspora in the book, and moved to television."