Sleepless in Hollywood
Tales from the New Abnormal in the Movie Business
Lynda Obst is a Hollywood super-producer behind hits like Interstellar, Sleepless in Seattle, and Contact, and now the new critically acclaimed series Good Girls Revolt. She offers insights on the drastic changes that have rocked Hollywood and cemented a “new normal” where ideas are recycled, innovation is in short supply, and the old magic is nowhere to be found. What happened? How can it reimagine its business? And what vital lessons can we all learn?
Lynda Obst is a bestselling author and a celebrated Hollywood producer with more than 16 films under her belt, one at almost every major film studio. She loves film—and hasn’t given up hope yet. Her latest venture is the television series Good Girls Revolt: a historical drama centring on the revolutionary and groundbreaking professional women working in the busy newsrooms of the late 1960s.
Obst’s previous work on films include Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar (co-produced with Nolan and Emma Thomas), How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days, The Fisher King, and New Adventures in Babysitting. Her books on the film industry include Hello, He Lied, a modern classic about getting ahead in any business, and Sleepless in Hollywood, a prescient look at the industry’s inability to successfully adapt to massive technological, cultural, and economic changes. In the world of television, she Executive Produced NBC’s Emmy-nominated miniseries The 60s, and is currently an Executive Producer on TVLAND’s Hot In Cleveland and syfy’s Helix. She is a former editor at The New York Times Magazine, and is currently producing both film and television projects out of her office at Sony pictures.
Hollywood has a problem, and it’s not alone. Once it was America’s imagination factory—an economic engine that produced hits, made stars, and inspired audiences. Dreams were made, and success guaranteed. Now, it’s in free-fall. Instead of making blockbusters, it’s recycling old material. Instead of setting new standards, it’s churning out an endless loop of sequels. Lynda Obst, one of Hollywood's best producers, calls this malaise “The New Abnormal.” And here's the rub: Hollywood’s downfall—and its potential rebirth—holds striking lessons for any industry that has taken success for granted, any company that has strayed from doing what it does best. Hollywood has been rocked by disruptive new technologies. Globalization continues to exert pressure. And a culture of risk-aversion has produced a glut of uninspired products. Sound familiar? In this brutally honest talk, Obst looks at how to breathe life—and innovation—back into any industry that’s lost its way. Both wise and radical, and deeply practical, Obst delivers a clarion call to embrace change, reward creativity, and return to making the things that inspire and change us.