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Sleepless in Hollywood: Tales from the New Abnormal in the Movie Business

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The veteran producer and author of the bestseller Hello, He Lied takes a witty and critical look at the new Hollywood. Over the past decade, producer Lynda Obst gradually realized she was working in a Hollywood that was undergoing a drastic transformation. The industry where everything had once been familiar to her was suddenly disturbingly strange. Combining her own indus The veteran producer and author of the bestseller Hello, He Lied takes a witty and critical look at the new Hollywood. Over the past decade, producer Lynda Obst gradually realized she was working in a Hollywood that was undergoing a drastic transformation. The industry where everything had once been familiar to her was suddenly disturbingly strange. Combining her own industry experience and interviews with the brightest minds in the business, Obst explains what has stalled the vast moviemaking machine. The calamitous DVD collapse helped usher in what she calls the New Abnormal (because Hollywood was never normal to begin with), where studios are now heavily dependent on foreign markets for profit, a situation which directly impacts the kind of entertainment we get to see. Can comedy survive if they don’t get our jokes in Seoul or allow them in China? Why are studios making fewer movies than ever—and why are they bigger, more expensive and nearly always sequels or recycled ideas? Obst writes with affection, regret, humor and hope, and her behind-the-scenes vantage point allows her to explore what has changed in Hollywood like no one else has. This candid, insightful account explains what has happened to the movie business and explores whether it’ll ever return to making the movies we love—the classics that make us laugh or cry, or that we just can’t stop talking about.


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The veteran producer and author of the bestseller Hello, He Lied takes a witty and critical look at the new Hollywood. Over the past decade, producer Lynda Obst gradually realized she was working in a Hollywood that was undergoing a drastic transformation. The industry where everything had once been familiar to her was suddenly disturbingly strange. Combining her own indus The veteran producer and author of the bestseller Hello, He Lied takes a witty and critical look at the new Hollywood. Over the past decade, producer Lynda Obst gradually realized she was working in a Hollywood that was undergoing a drastic transformation. The industry where everything had once been familiar to her was suddenly disturbingly strange. Combining her own industry experience and interviews with the brightest minds in the business, Obst explains what has stalled the vast moviemaking machine. The calamitous DVD collapse helped usher in what she calls the New Abnormal (because Hollywood was never normal to begin with), where studios are now heavily dependent on foreign markets for profit, a situation which directly impacts the kind of entertainment we get to see. Can comedy survive if they don’t get our jokes in Seoul or allow them in China? Why are studios making fewer movies than ever—and why are they bigger, more expensive and nearly always sequels or recycled ideas? Obst writes with affection, regret, humor and hope, and her behind-the-scenes vantage point allows her to explore what has changed in Hollywood like no one else has. This candid, insightful account explains what has happened to the movie business and explores whether it’ll ever return to making the movies we love—the classics that make us laugh or cry, or that we just can’t stop talking about.

30 review for Sleepless in Hollywood: Tales from the New Abnormal in the Movie Business

  1. 4 out of 5

    Scott Porch

    Film producer Lynda Obst's career has had more twists and turns than a big-budget action movie -- which is not the sort of movie she makes. (Not yet anyway, but more on that later.) Obst started her career as associate producer on Flashdance and made a film every year or two from the early 1990s through the early 2000s -- One Fine Day with George Clooney and Michelle Pfeiffer, Hope Floats with Sandra Bullock, Contact with Jodie Foster, and iconic romantic comedy Sleepless in Seattle with Tom Hank Film producer Lynda Obst's career has had more twists and turns than a big-budget action movie -- which is not the sort of movie she makes. (Not yet anyway, but more on that later.) Obst started her career as associate producer on Flashdance and made a film every year or two from the early 1990s through the early 2000s -- One Fine Day with George Clooney and Michelle Pfeiffer, Hope Floats with Sandra Bullock, Contact with Jodie Foster, and iconic romantic comedy Sleepless in Seattle with Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan. In 2001, Paramount Pictures greenlit her rom-com How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days starring Kate Hudson and Matthew McConaughey. It opened No. 1 at the box office in February 2003, was Paramount's second-highest grossing movie that year, and is one of the 25 highest-grossing romantic comedies of all time. Obst continued to read scripts and develop budgets for the kinds of films she had always made --- smart, character-driven, medium-budget comedies and dramas. A year after How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, though, Paramount had not greenlit her next film. "Suddenly, I was getting blank stares when I asked to go to hire directors," Obst said in our recent interview. "My son (talent manager Oly Obst), who is incredibly smart, said to me, 'Mom, trying to get a movie made because it's good is so 2003.'" By the late 2000s, the industry was in a full-on reboot: DVD sales dropped by more than half from 2007 to 2010 as consumers turned to much-less-profitable streaming services like Netflix. Studios unloaded many production deals in the wake of the 2007 writers' strike and started making fewer films. In her new book, Sleepless in Hollywood: Tales from the New Abnormal in the Movie Business (Simon & Schuster), Obst explains the revolution through interviews with studio executives, producers, writers, etc. The book grew out of her own search for answers. "I set off to figure out what the hell was going on because I couldn't figure it out myself," Obst said. "I didn't understand why I wasn't able to get the same kinds of movies made that I was able to get made the first half of my career." The book is both an outstanding work of reporting about how Hollywood evolved from a film-driven American industry to a brand-driven global enterprise and a personal account of how those changes drove Obst's film career from studio to studio, and from film to television and back. Obst is Thriving in the 'New Abnormal.' Nothing has ever been normal in Hollywood, Obst says. She calls the days before the massive upheaval the "Old Abnormal" and the period since then the "New Abnormal." Obst recovered -- as did Hollywood -- and is thriving in the New Abnormal. She has more projects in pre-production and production than at any other time in her career and in all three areas where Hollywood is trending: tentpoles (big-budget films), tadpoles (small-budget indie films), and television. Obst's just-announced tentpole film is the sci-fi epic Interstellar, which she will co-produce with director Christopher Nolan and writer Jonathan Nolan for a November 2014 release. The film will star Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, Michael Caine, and Matthew McConaughey, who Obst worked with on both Contact and How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days. "We're all in a very happy cone of silence about Interstellar," Obst said, declining to elaborate on the film's premise or other tidbits. For her tadpole film, Obst has financing, a script, a director, and is in casting for How to Get a Guy in 10 Days, an indie kind-of-sort-of sequel to How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days. The hottest property a producer can own, Obst says, is a franchise with pre-awareness. "We're trying to take the notion of preawareness" -- the built-in buzz that a well-known brand brings to the table -- "of How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days' fans and say, this is something like that. It's not exactly that," Obst said. "But it's a movie in that vein. It's not a reboot, it's not a sequel, but it's a movie in that tradition." In television, Obst is an executive producer on Hot in Cleveland -- the popular TV Land series now in its fourth season was Obst's idea -- and has a series in production called Helix that will air this winter on Syfy. Romantic comedies are (mostly) out. American romantic comedies lost favor with the major studios because they don't have blockbuster potential at home and don't sell as well in places like China and India. In the last two years, the only romantic comedy to gross more than $100 million at the U.S. box office was Silver Lining Playbook -- and much of that was due to Oscar buzz and a Best Actress win by Jennifer Lawrence. "There are cultural nuances that don't travel. Broad comedies play because falling on a banana peel is funny in every culture, but nuance -- cultural nuance, or wit -- are peculiarities. They don't travel. So-called "writing" -- wit and nuance -- doesn't travel," Obst said. "Broad comedy travels, which is why you saw Hangover play [internationally], which is why you saw Horrible Bosses play to a certain extent, and why you saw Bridesmaids surprise everybody and play so well." That has pushed romantic comedies into smaller-budget indie productions like Friends with Kids, which Jennifer's Westfeldt and John Hamm made for less than $10 million, and (500) Days of Summer, which had a budget of $7.5 million. Blockbuster franchise films are in. There are new rules to making a box-office hit in Hollywood, and they aren't complicated: You need a franchise, you need pre-awareness, and you need international appeal. And if -- if, if, if, if, if -- you pick the right project, you join the billion-dollar club. Notice what wasn't in those rules: making a good movie. Decent reviews are optional. Transformers: Dark of the Moon and Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest each grossed more than $1 billion worldwide despite generally bad reviews. In 2012, Walt Disney Pictures made a big bet on John Carter -- which, you may not know, was based on the John Carter of Mars series of books that Edgar Rice Burroughs wrote roughly a century ago -- and it lost $200 million. It had no fan base, no bankable stars, and no social-media buzz. It was the biggest flop in box office history. "I think the problem was that it wasn't an IP (intellectual property) worthy of being made," Obst said. "I don't think science geeks were interested in it, and I don't think fantasy geeks were interested in it. I'm a science geek; I didn't want to go."

  2. 5 out of 5

    Maura

    A quick and very interesting book for anyone who is legitimately curious about why Hollywood only seems to be interested in franchises and reboots these days. Here's a quick tl:dr 1) Movie Execs were expecting DVDs to be way more lucrative when they turned out to be. They were not counting on piracy. 2)American's aren't going to the actual movies as much anymore. We would all rather stay home and watch Netflix. 3) You know who does go to the movies though? Russia and China. The decline of communism A quick and very interesting book for anyone who is legitimately curious about why Hollywood only seems to be interested in franchises and reboots these days. Here's a quick tl:dr 1) Movie Execs were expecting DVDs to be way more lucrative when they turned out to be. They were not counting on piracy. 2)American's aren't going to the actual movies as much anymore. We would all rather stay home and watch Netflix. 3) You know who does go to the movies though? Russia and China. The decline of communism has opened up huge populations of people who have never had a chance to see decadent American popcorn movies before and they f*ing love them. The bigger, louder, and CG explosion the better. This adds up to mean that the foreign market that used to account for 20 percent of their profits now accounts for 70 percent. So instead of saying "the Chinese don't like this kind of movie so we won't bother trying to sell it over there" execs now say "The Chinese don't like this kind of movie so we're not going to bother making it." You can see how this creates a bit of a vicious cycle, where studios focus on more "tentpoles", what they call the huge big budget action franchises that prop up their little circus. American audiences exclaim "we've seen this nonsense before! We're sick of the rehashing! " and stay home. Foreign audiences exclaim "We've never seen anything like this! Keep it coming!" And round and round it goes. The author says she doesn't see an end in sight, though she does also say that China resents having to import it's effects heavy movies from America and is trying to catch up and make it's own action films. So maybe Hollywood will have to start trying to interest domestic audiences again someday? A silver lining to all of this, which the book leaves us with, is the exodus of so much great writing and acting talent to TV. As movies get stupider and more predictable, TV gets smarter and more original. (Since I've always liked character driven TV more than plot driven movies anyway, this seems like a net gain.) The author is someone who worked as a producer for decades and she gives you an insider's view of how the shift happened and what it was like to live through it. The style was a little too chatty for my taste; the author doesn't exactly name drop but does introduce us to a lot lot of her friends and co-workers who we do not necessarily need to meet. But some readers will enjoy that; there were some times when the author made me nostalgic for Hollywood before the shift, even though this was a Hollywood I only knew from The Animaniacs (remember that time when they sang a whole song about how to understand the headlines of Variety? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=egpWC... ) and which had always sounded shallow and seedy enough before.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Trike

    This book is about as deep as a puddle. The only substance to be had comes from interviews with industry professionals. It makes me long for a book on this topic done by a proper journalist. Obst seems to go out of her way to insult and belittle every group on the planet. Her targets are Midwesterners, Chinese, screenwriters, Jews in Nazi-occupied Europe, Russians, kids, senior citizens, people who watch TV... the list is endless. If you're a human being, at some point Obst makes an off-handed de This book is about as deep as a puddle. The only substance to be had comes from interviews with industry professionals. It makes me long for a book on this topic done by a proper journalist. Obst seems to go out of her way to insult and belittle every group on the planet. Her targets are Midwesterners, Chinese, screenwriters, Jews in Nazi-occupied Europe, Russians, kids, senior citizens, people who watch TV... the list is endless. If you're a human being, at some point Obst makes an off-handed derogatory remark about you. I assume she's trying to be witty (she fails) or snarky (she doesn't understand that at all). The only people who don't get this treatment are her personal friends. The hook about "The New Abnormal" doesn't really hold up to scrutiny. The movie industry has been through this exact sort of sea change before, back when TV first gained ascendancy and started eating cinema's lunch in the 1950s and then again when movie attendance dropped off in the early 1970s. There's a lot of substance one can delve into with these historical parallels, but Obst is concerned about her own life. She strikes me as a teenager discovering love for the first time and then going through a bad break-up, thinking no one else in the history of mankind has ever gone through something like this. I'd give it one star, but there are a couple of interviews worth checking out. The substance of this book could be condensed down to a a New Yorker Magazine article, though.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Michael

    Ten pages of useful information hidden among 250 pages of self-serving handjobberry. I want to punch this book in the face.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Karen

    Here's the blurb from the publisher: The veteran producer and author of the bestseller Hello, He Lied takes a witty and critical look at the new Hollywood. Over the past decade, producer Lynda Obst gradually realized she was working in a Hollywood that was undergoing a drastic transformation. The industry where everything had once been familiar to her was suddenly disturbingly strange. Obst writes with affection, regret, humor and hope, and her behind-the-scenes vantage point allows her to explo Here's the blurb from the publisher: The veteran producer and author of the bestseller Hello, He Lied takes a witty and critical look at the new Hollywood. Over the past decade, producer Lynda Obst gradually realized she was working in a Hollywood that was undergoing a drastic transformation. The industry where everything had once been familiar to her was suddenly disturbingly strange. Obst writes with affection, regret, humor and hope, and her behind-the-scenes vantage point allows her to explore what has changed in Hollywood like no one else has. This candid, insightful account explains what has happened to the movie business and explores whether it’ll ever return to making the movies we love—the classics that make us laugh or cry, or that we just can’t stop talking about Combining her own industry experience and interviews with the brightest minds in the business, Obst explains what has stalled the vast moviemaking machine. The calamitous DVD collapse helped usher in what she calls the New Abnormal (because Hollywood was never normal to begin with), where studios are now heavily dependent on foreign markets for profit, a situation which directly impacts the kind of entertainment we get to see. Can comedy survive if they don’t get our jokes in Seoul or allow them in China? Why are studios making fewer movies than ever—and why are they bigger, more expensive and nearly always sequels or recycled ideas? My thoughts: If you've ever found yourself scratching your head in confusion, about why in the world "Hollywood" does anything...then THIS is the book for you! I've loved books and movies since...forever, and I want to thank Lynda Obst for writing Sleepless in Hollywood just for me. Like a lot of people, I follow movies, I track trends in films. I go to small film festivals, I see movies people have never heard of. Why? Because I love old and new Hollywood, and I love the industry. Let me be honest, I'm a movie junkie. I've spent years slamming my head onto hard surfaces trying to understand why some movies just never happen, why some are made and clearly shouldn't have been and have wondered why on earth "they" are marketing tent pole films to China and Russia? really? yeah, go figure. After reading Sleepless in Hollywood, I "get it!" I really understand. Obst, drawing on her years of producing and making properties happen, has written an honest, easily understood, fascinatingly hypnotic look at the "behind the scenes" grit that goes into making movies. I read this in about two days, and I have a full time job, so that means I was reading at red lights, sitting in traffic and waiting for my nails to dry at the nail place. Not in the film business? No matter. If you watch TV, see movies once a week or once a year, take the kids to the newest animated 3-D monster fest on the weekend, then this book is for you! Haven't seen a movie since talkies were the new trend? Just realized movies are now in color? This book is for you, you have a lot of catching up to do. OK, seriously, this is a well written, fact based, interesting and engaging book. Osbt clearly knows her own business, and she shares her business with us, the wanna-bees, the fans and the admirers of the art of film making. She tells insider stories, bur it's never gossipy, it's smart, informative and entertaining. Just read it, you'll thank me. You'll thank Lynda Obst for writing it, and the next time you're sitting at a table outside at the Chateau Marmont having a drink, you'll actually understand what they are saying at the table next to you! IMAGINE! 4 1/2 out of 5 big stars!! I'm going to buy this with my hard earned pennies and add it to my bookshelf library at home! ** This e-galley was provided to me by the publisher through Edelweiss.abovethetreeline.com in exchange for a fair and honest review.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Gail Carriger

    A little bit like Heads In Beds only for the Hollywood Movie industry. Very absorbing if you want to know why Hollywood is putting out the same old tent poll blockbusters over and over again. Which I do, because this behavior has driven me away from the movie theater.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Diane Henry

    Turns out I don’t care at all about the difficulties of getting movies made these days

  8. 4 out of 5

    Korey

    I have a few nitpicks with this book: the chapter on the 2007-2008 writer's strike is lazy (half of it is reprinted comments from a blog) and the concluding chapter throws in a bit of unsourced optimism totally out of step with the rest of the narrative, but on the whole this book is insightful, timely and important. This is a great succinct summary of how the movie business operates now and how it got to be this way. It is a sobering, somewhat depressing read as Obst chronicles how the collapse I have a few nitpicks with this book: the chapter on the 2007-2008 writer's strike is lazy (half of it is reprinted comments from a blog) and the concluding chapter throws in a bit of unsourced optimism totally out of step with the rest of the narrative, but on the whole this book is insightful, timely and important. This is a great succinct summary of how the movie business operates now and how it got to be this way. It is a sobering, somewhat depressing read as Obst chronicles how the collapse of the DVD market and the explosive growth of the international market (particularly China and Russia) incentivize studios to produce an endless glut of expensive action driven franchise films at the expense of other types of films. There is only room in the contemporary film marketplace for what Obst calls tentpoles (blockbuster franchises like Iron Man, Spider-Man, Transformers etc based on established properties) or tadpoles (microbudget indie films). One off dramas, historical pictures, comedy that relies on verbal wit rather than slapstick, these films are endangered in this current marketplace, as is any film that is not an adaptation, sequel or reboot of an existing moneymaker. The writing style is occasionally simplistic and overly colloquial but the content of the book is strong enough to overcome these sporadic minor flaws in presentation and much of the book is both substantive and engaging. I recommend this book highly to anyone who has an interest in film. Obst gathers a lot of information and presents it in a largely compelling fashion. Also, she does not use the book as an excuse to brag or puff herself up, which is refreshing. When discussing her own career she does not shy away from admitting fault.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Matt

    Ever since Star Trek Into Darkness, I’ve decided I never want to see a new movie again. A calculated piece of brand awareness, it lacked any meaning or purpose. I have seen plenty of blockbuster, comic-book, franchise all-action movies before and enjoyed many of them, but until Star Trek Into Darkness, I had never seen anything that so blatantly made me feel like a dollar sign. Anyway, I know I’m not the only one who has felt a loss of interest in movies. Obst helps explain what happened to Holl Ever since Star Trek Into Darkness, I’ve decided I never want to see a new movie again. A calculated piece of brand awareness, it lacked any meaning or purpose. I have seen plenty of blockbuster, comic-book, franchise all-action movies before and enjoyed many of them, but until Star Trek Into Darkness, I had never seen anything that so blatantly made me feel like a dollar sign. Anyway, I know I’m not the only one who has felt a loss of interest in movies. Obst helps explain what happened to Hollywood studios. In the 2000s DVD revenue petered out and international box-office revenue blew up. Pitch meetings, where new ideas were worked out between producers and writers, were lost, and instead marketing departments now lead development. Everything now is about “preawareness” and franchises—-things that can be easily sold across languages and cultures. Obst’s text is anecdotal and conversational. She goes on personal tangents, and drops in puzzling, non-essential details. She says things like, “She looks like a cameo in a locket but acts like a turbocharged Ferrari.” (Which is so nonsensical that in a different context it could be mistaken for a brilliant Bob Dylan line.) She lays too much blame on the 2007 WGA strike for jump-starting everything. But this is a first-hand, honest observation from someone whose entire world shifted beneath her feet in a period of less than a decade. She isn’t just lamenting a lost-past, and she doesn’t entirely hold herself blameless. Obst is as funny and sincere as new movies are calculated and heartless.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Tom

    Curious as to why films these days are a never-ending parade of sequels and remakes, mostly featuring costumed superheroes? Lynda Obst, a veteran Hollywood executive producer, is too. She lived through the seismic shift that happened in the industry around '07-08. Here she tracks down studio heads, big name producers and marketing execs to get their take on what happened. Their answers are illuminating: the contraction of the DVD market has taken a lot of money off the table that filmmakers used Curious as to why films these days are a never-ending parade of sequels and remakes, mostly featuring costumed superheroes? Lynda Obst, a veteran Hollywood executive producer, is too. She lived through the seismic shift that happened in the industry around '07-08. Here she tracks down studio heads, big name producers and marketing execs to get their take on what happened. Their answers are illuminating: the contraction of the DVD market has taken a lot of money off the table that filmmakers used to count on; meanwhile, the massive growth of international markets has created a gold rush. Slightly less illuminating, but still interesting, is Obst's inside baseball account of her own adventures in the film (and now, the TV) industry over the last decade. She also recounts a lot of the dramatic '08 writer's strike, and what came after. The whole book is somewhat haphazard and feels a bit rushed and disorganized, but the information is very timely. If you want an inside look at what ails Hollywood today, this is probably your best bet.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Todd

    I wish I could rate this book more highly -- the first section, about how Hollywood now caters to the Chinese and Russian markets (which is one reason we see so much 3D -- they love it), was genuinely fascinating. But after awhile Obst turns once too often to her pals, who are always the greatest and smartest in classic Hollywood back-slapping fashion, and her own journey doesn't seem all that interesting. Disappointing. I wish I could rate this book more highly -- the first section, about how Hollywood now caters to the Chinese and Russian markets (which is one reason we see so much 3D -- they love it), was genuinely fascinating. But after awhile Obst turns once too often to her pals, who are always the greatest and smartest in classic Hollywood back-slapping fashion, and her own journey doesn't seem all that interesting. Disappointing.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Michelle L

    Unfortunately the book was written so badly that I suspect only Obst's friends and no disinterested editors were consulted. I did learn quite a bit about the systemic changes for the worse in Hollywood - i.e., the business -- but it was a struggle and a half. At least I now (mostly) know that it hasn't been some dreadful personal elitism that led me to avoid the movie theater these last few years. Unfortunately the book was written so badly that I suspect only Obst's friends and no disinterested editors were consulted. I did learn quite a bit about the systemic changes for the worse in Hollywood - i.e., the business -- but it was a struggle and a half. At least I now (mostly) know that it hasn't been some dreadful personal elitism that led me to avoid the movie theater these last few years.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Kristin Dow

    A must read for any aspiring screenwriter! Add it to your shelf! Demystifies Hollywood's obsession with superheroes. Still don't like them, but now understand them. As franchise fatigue seems to be growing, let's hope more female-driven vehicles have a chance to shine, or at least find an outlet to reach their audience. I'm a junkie for Hollywood stories and power plays so it satisfies in that respect as well. Devoured this book and learned a lot from it. A must read for any aspiring screenwriter! Add it to your shelf! Demystifies Hollywood's obsession with superheroes. Still don't like them, but now understand them. As franchise fatigue seems to be growing, let's hope more female-driven vehicles have a chance to shine, or at least find an outlet to reach their audience. I'm a junkie for Hollywood stories and power plays so it satisfies in that respect as well. Devoured this book and learned a lot from it.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Marla Glenn

    I was enjoying this book, despite its repetitions, until the author made a rude remark about people from Iowa. Why do Hollywood types think all Midwesterners are provincial? I wonder if Obst understands what the Iowa Writers' Workshop is and does, for example. Honestly. I don't even live there any more and it annoys me. I was enjoying this book, despite its repetitions, until the author made a rude remark about people from Iowa. Why do Hollywood types think all Midwesterners are provincial? I wonder if Obst understands what the Iowa Writers' Workshop is and does, for example. Honestly. I don't even live there any more and it annoys me.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Richard

    • Yup, that's why there's nothing (moviewise) to watch on cable…and that's why there's everything (serieswise) to watch on cable…and sometimes a very big surprise in network tv…but, then, books always were and are the best… • • Yup, that's why there's nothing (moviewise) to watch on cable…and that's why there's everything (serieswise) to watch on cable…and sometimes a very big surprise in network tv…but, then, books always were and are the best… •

  16. 4 out of 5

    Kay Van Slyke

    Pretty inciteful read. If you like movies, you will probably enjoy this book. It was a recommendation from Fareed Zakaria on his Sunday morning program a couple of weeks ago.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Luke Devenish

    Ridiculously revelatory.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Susan

    More like 3 1/2 stars. It's better than her first book for a lot of reasons--accessibility, depth, and overall readability. You still have to have some amount of interest in and familiarity with the movie industry to wade thru all of the names and information that the author presents. More like 3 1/2 stars. It's better than her first book for a lot of reasons--accessibility, depth, and overall readability. You still have to have some amount of interest in and familiarity with the movie industry to wade thru all of the names and information that the author presents.

  19. 5 out of 5

    El_kiablo

    This book can basically be divided into two parts: an explanation of the general state of movie making today and Lynda Obst’s personal experience as a person who makes movies. These two things have some overlap, obviously, but are also two very distinct topics (one being more forest and the other being more trees) but they are mixed in this book into an indistinguishable mush, which undercuts the worth of both sections. The more philosophical parts never felt like they were objective because the This book can basically be divided into two parts: an explanation of the general state of movie making today and Lynda Obst’s personal experience as a person who makes movies. These two things have some overlap, obviously, but are also two very distinct topics (one being more forest and the other being more trees) but they are mixed in this book into an indistinguishable mush, which undercuts the worth of both sections. The more philosophical parts never felt like they were objective because they were always being juxtaposed with a singular person’s struggles, and the parts that were about her own personal experience just felt tedious because they have absolutely no relation to a potential reader. One thing that I’ve learned from reading a variety of books about Hollywood is that it’s better to stick to the books by creative types and avoid the books by the suits. With the exception of Robert Evans’ book The Kid Stays in the Picture most executives don’t really know how to tell a story; they tell all the boring parts interminably without ever getting to something that would actually be of interest. Obst devotes seemingly endless pages to describing the shuffling of various friends or pseudonymed enemies around behind the scenes as if that was interesting to the public at large, but which studio made the movie and who runs that particular studio is as irrelevant to me as a movie watcher as the President of Coca-Cola is to me when I drink a soda. Once the logo is off the screen at the beginning of the film I immediately forget it, and while I sometimes sit through the credits I don’t need an exhaustive list of who worked where five years ago and where they work now. I don’t demand gossip, but I do like to read something that’s better than a phone-book. I suppose I would mind this less if her big-picture stuff was more compelling, but it isn’t. For one, even the stuff that I think is accurate is probably temporary. The trends that have pushed the studios towards making big franchise are probably not indicative of where cinema will be in twenty years – China isn’t going to be a growing market forever and sooner or later they will have home-grown studios that can rival America’s, particularly since the Chinese government will stack the deck in favor of Chinese studios by limiting the number of films that can be imported. Meanwhile the problems with franchises are becoming ever more obvious: last summer there were enough $200 million dollar movies (like the Lone Ranger) which crashed and burned to make the vulnerabilities of this type of thinking manifestly obvious. So while this book might be timely, I think it’s going to be outdated very quickly, since the analysis she offers is only going to be relevant till things start changing. Which they probably already are... Even more problematic for me is the fact that she’s ascribing problems to the system which might be more localized than that. A good chunk of the movies Lynda Obst made were romantic comedies and I think the reason why they aren’t making that many rom-coms anymore is not just because the studios would rather make superhero movies but because audiences don’t necessarily buy tickets for those movies anymore. I’m sure there’s a market for romantic movies and also a market for comedies, but as a specific genre the rom-com devolved into nonsensical formulaic shtick at some point in the last twenty years, all improbabe meet-cutes and unnecessary miscommunications, and that grew pretty tiresome. I don’t think the format kept pace with the changing state of dating – smartphones and facebook and the like have really changed how people connect and what keep people apart, and our understanding about what the role of marriage is in our lives has also been evolving, but it seems like most rom-coms are still focusing on “How can I explain to this random doofus that the thing that he thought he saw was not what he saw so I can get married in a white dress in a big church?” The studios would probably make more of these movies if so many of them hadn't tanked, but a lot of them did tank, and you won't find any discussion about how the public's tastes have evolved in this book that's wholly about how studios have become single-minded in their ambitions. I don't think Obst is totally wrong about all of this. I know that Steven Soderbergh – who doesn’t make rom-coms by and large – has also been vocal about complaining about the studio’s lack of interest in making mid-priced adult dramas. But the rightness or the wrongness of her position is irrelevant to my general annoyance with this book, because Soderbergh a) has made great movies, not How To Lose a Guy in 10 Days, b) actually made an attempt to explore the finances that have created this situation rather than detailing a list of all of his friends who have gotten fired from studios over the last decade, and c) delivered his remarks in a concise key-note speech rather than dragging them out through a book. This has the level of insight of an online thinkpiece but is thirty times longer, and it's mostly stuffed with anecdotes about meeting genuises in coffee shops.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Stefan Fergus

    Much better than Obst's first book. Interesting, accessible, and one clunky analogy aside (the pies) informative and sometimes illuminating. A lot of good stuff in here. Much better than Obst's first book. Interesting, accessible, and one clunky analogy aside (the pies) informative and sometimes illuminating. A lot of good stuff in here.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Elisabeth

    3.5 stars

  22. 4 out of 5

    Michael

    A good tell-all about the industry in the 2000s. It's nearly 10 years since this book was written and the adage of "change is the only constant" still applies. Especially to the film/TV industry. A good tell-all about the industry in the 2000s. It's nearly 10 years since this book was written and the adage of "change is the only constant" still applies. Especially to the film/TV industry.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Caribbean Juan

    Outdated and the name “ New Abnormal” 🙄🙄🙄

  24. 4 out of 5

    Sean Wicks

    The approach to this book could almost be broken down as a Hollywood movie plot. A producer (Lynda Obst - HOW TO LOSE A GUY IN 10 DAYS among others) awakens one day (ok well, maybe not so suddenly but it sounds more dramatic, right!) to find the business that she thought she knew had completely changed around her and was now almost foreign. Wanting to get to the bottom of this, she goes in search of answers talking to her colleagues including Studio Heads, Producers, Agents, Managers, etc. in a The approach to this book could almost be broken down as a Hollywood movie plot. A producer (Lynda Obst - HOW TO LOSE A GUY IN 10 DAYS among others) awakens one day (ok well, maybe not so suddenly but it sounds more dramatic, right!) to find the business that she thought she knew had completely changed around her and was now almost foreign. Wanting to get to the bottom of this, she goes in search of answers talking to her colleagues including Studio Heads, Producers, Agents, Managers, etc. in a quest for the truth. This is a look at the rapidly changing dynamics in the Film and Television business from someone deep in the trenches. I have also read Ms. Obst's book - HELLO, HE LIED - which covers a different period in the town, and this is a great companion piece. In SLEEPLESS IN HOLLYWOOD, Ms. Obst discusses first-hand revelations about the rapid shift downward in DVD revenue (and therefore, a decline in the studio's profits) as well as the shift from the importance of the Domestic audience/box office to the exploding International one. Stating off the top that doing business in Hollywood could never be described as "normal", she separates the two time periods as the "Old Abnormal" and "New Abnormal" divided by the "Great Contraction" when the studios started pulling back on production deals, spec sales and original material choosing to put all their eggs in content like Comic Books, games, etc. that have a strong pre-awareness with potential audiences. She describes in-depth her time at Paramount Studios during a tumultuous regime change, details the Writer's strike which (many believe) couldn't have come at a worse time (economically that is) for anyone and her switch over to Television as well as the industry's overall perception of Television strengthening from the days when it was all about being in Movies (being thought of as prestige) where now the two worlds share resources and the shift towards serialized programming is shaping the content of features as well. There is also a great section covering the rise of strong female-driven movies such as THE HUNGER GAMES and the realization among the majors that women go to movies too, not just fanboys (ya think!). Even as I type this, the female-lead DIVERGENT is about to open in Theaters (tomorrow) and a debate is raging on a female friend's Facebook wall (who also happens to be one of the most passionate film fans I know) about the announcement of a JEM AND HOLOGRAM'S movie going into development, and why is it that a couple of "dudes" are writing it and not women. It's a topic that is hot right now and one that won't be going away any time soon until it's addressed properly. It's a solid read from a Hollywood insider who is passionate about her craft. It's also extremely entertaining. Having been in the feature development world myself for a few years back in the late 90s/early 00s, I could commiserate with her about the loss of the face-to-face networking as now virtually everything is done electronically, and the disconnect between content providers and content buyers seems to grow leaps and bounds because of it. Also, any book that mentions Kiwi Smith is a good one in my books as I had the pleasure of working with her when I worked for the producer of 10 THINGS I HATE ABOUT YOU (which she wrote with her equally awesome writing partner, Karen McCullah) and she is great. Extra points scored there. Another great Hollywood business book that should be read by anyone in or interested in the business, especially since getting a grasp on the new economy of things is not as easy as it once was. The book ends on a note where it seems things are shifting again, with more original material once again coming to the forefront as audiences tire of sequels and superheroes. Here's hoping Ms. Obst keeps us updated on these changes and others with further books.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Mike Cuthbert

    My son works in film in Hollywood and I constantly try to understand his business. That it is supposed to be “show business” is a common assumption but, as is made clear by Lynda Obst’s book “Sleepless in Hollywood,” it is more of a business business every day. Obst is a producer, first of movies and more recently of TV shows. She has been in Hollywood since her youth, married an agent and has a brother who is also in the business as a manager and producer. Still, she has been stunned by the cha My son works in film in Hollywood and I constantly try to understand his business. That it is supposed to be “show business” is a common assumption but, as is made clear by Lynda Obst’s book “Sleepless in Hollywood,” it is more of a business business every day. Obst is a producer, first of movies and more recently of TV shows. She has been in Hollywood since her youth, married an agent and has a brother who is also in the business as a manager and producer. Still, she has been stunned by the change in Hollywood from the Old Abnormal, as she calls it, to the New Abnormal in which routine assumptions were thrown out and are still being replaced. Much of the change happened in 2008 with the collapse of the US and world economies and the writers’ strike of that year that had far broader implications than anyone anticipated. As Obst points out, suddenly gone were the long lunches at which so much business was conducted, expense accounts were cut and new mergers and conglomerates took over the congenial little town that was Hollywood. While Obst regrets much of what happened after the Great Change, she has managed to cope and, with the help of her many friends, has adjusted well to most of the changes. For those of you who wonder how films get made—not the techniques but the raw business end of things—this is comfortable reading. Obst is not impressed with herself and has a good perspective on everybody in the business, from Bradgelina to the lowest grip, with adoration saved for only one person: Nora Ephron. I did learn a lot about my son’s business and learned enough to know that his choice of working more in television than film was a good choice. Obst points out that, in a recent year, Disney made $618 on its movie productions while totaling $6.15 billion in television. The split is similar for all movie production houses. With the proliferation of platforms and the death of the DVD, even more routes are open for imaginative, creative people in the business. My son works currently as a 2nd AD on a hit network show, “The Goldbergs.” There is no apparent end to the run of the show and he hopes to move up to 1st AD as soon as he can. The Goldbergs show is about to reach its 100th episode, which makes it gold in the TV world of syndication. Even he, as crew, will earn residuals from future showings. There are a lot of folks living on residuals! After reading Obst’s book, I can see how hard his journey has been and how likely it is that frustration will continue as he builds a career. But the book also makes it clear that he is in a growth business with plenty of challenges to his talents and creativity ahead of him. The copyright of 2013 may cause you to think that it may be out of date, but I did not find it so. I learned a lot about a fascinating way to make a living and to create something worth watching.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Mediaman

    This disappointing book has a former New York Times editor who has become a movie executive stating obvious things about the film business that pretty much everyone knows. She writes well but she writes about the trivial with very few inside stories and the book feels like a dated rehash of Variety or Hollywood Reporter articles. Obst makes up a big theory that there used to be the "Old Abnormal" from the 1980s to 2000, and the "New Abnormal" since the mid 2000's. It's just a gimmick that takes u This disappointing book has a former New York Times editor who has become a movie executive stating obvious things about the film business that pretty much everyone knows. She writes well but she writes about the trivial with very few inside stories and the book feels like a dated rehash of Variety or Hollywood Reporter articles. Obst makes up a big theory that there used to be the "Old Abnormal" from the 1980s to 2000, and the "New Abnormal" since the mid 2000's. It's just a gimmick that takes up a bunch of wasted pages and doesn't reflect what has really happened with the movie business. The fact is that things gradually shifted and didn't dramatically change Hollywood. Obst, to make the book sound more self-important than it is, tries to create a historical structure that doesn't reflect reality. She is also very stuck on a few certain movies that she knows quite a bit about and doesn't do a good job giving an overview of the industry as a whole. There is a chapter about her time at Paramount but the book overall feels very impersonal and lacks the biting stories one would expect of the industry. She can't afford tell those stories because she is still in the industry. The author also seems to ignore the most important aspect of Hollywood: the audience paying the ticket prices. She has no clue how the average American views movies or what they want to see. Instead she comes across as elitist and out of touch. In the end the book seems like an excuse for her to be able to state some of her distorted opinions in what is supposed to be an objective piece of writing (typical of New York Times reporters), to get the names of her friends and family members into a book, and to justify her pretty meaningless career move to Hollywood. It's a boring book that adds nothing to the knowledge of those interested in the business.

  27. 5 out of 5

    False

    Over the past decade, producer Lynda Obst gradually realized she was working in a Hollywood that was undergoing a drastic transformation. The industry where everything had once been familiar to her was suddenly disturbingly strange. Combining her own industry experience and interviews with the brightest minds in the business, Obst explains what has stalled the vast moviemaking machine. The calamitous DVD collapse helped usher in what she calls the New Abnormal (because Hollywood was never normal Over the past decade, producer Lynda Obst gradually realized she was working in a Hollywood that was undergoing a drastic transformation. The industry where everything had once been familiar to her was suddenly disturbingly strange. Combining her own industry experience and interviews with the brightest minds in the business, Obst explains what has stalled the vast moviemaking machine. The calamitous DVD collapse helped usher in what she calls the New Abnormal (because Hollywood was never normal to begin with), where studios are now heavily dependent on foreign markets for profit, a situation which directly impacts the kind of entertainment we get to see. Can comedy survive if they don’t get our jokes in Seoul or allow them in China? Why are studios making fewer movies than ever—and why are they bigger, more expensive and nearly always sequels or recycled ideas? Obst writes with affection, regret, humor and hope, and her behind-the-scenes vantage point allows her to explore what has changed in Hollywood like no one else has. This candid, insightful account explains what has happened to the movie business and explores whether it’ll ever return to making the movies we love—the classics that make us laugh or cry, or that we just can’t stop talking about. About 2/3's through the book I felt myself getting bogged down with the nitty gritty details of the movie business--to the point of eyes glazing, but I pushed on. Toward the end of the book, I thought she showed real ambition in tackling such a mind freezing subject as the movie business, much like it's counterpart on the East Coast, politics, it's difficult to convey a stimulating perspective on what really isn't that interesting to outsiders. I left the book with an appreciation of what Obst had accomplished. And yet again, Nora Ephron pops up during my week.

  28. 4 out of 5

    H Rose

    Unique must read info for film/content creators interested in the current direction of Hollywood and how things changed... Also, this is a must read book for female scribes, film and television, or those interested in global changes now driving the Hollywood film and related content industries. This book is part-memoir and part how did Hollywood go from the old "abnormal" to the "new abnormal." The author Lynda Rosen Obst is a successful American feature film producer and author. The personal an Unique must read info for film/content creators interested in the current direction of Hollywood and how things changed... Also, this is a must read book for female scribes, film and television, or those interested in global changes now driving the Hollywood film and related content industries. This book is part-memoir and part how did Hollywood go from the old "abnormal" to the "new abnormal." The author Lynda Rosen Obst is a successful American feature film producer and author. The personal and professional anecdotes are interesting and entertaining yet it is Obst's ingenuity, creativity, drive, determination, work ethic, and willingness to change as industry evolution dictates that has ensure her success as a member of the current fempire. The book is well written but it is the unique information as the author tracks the changes in the entertainment industry which will affect emerging producers, screenwriters, and other content creatives and creators. The book offers an informal how-to model for savvy readers ready to perceive, take, and apply the guidance shared as the author depicts her own journey. Another must read book for emerging content creators is Writing for the Green Light: How to Make Your Script the One Hollywood Notices. You may also like this author's renowned book Hello, He Lied and Other Tales from the Hollywood Trenches. Happy reading~*

  29. 4 out of 5

    Lee Penney

    The author is a producer, so the book provides an insiders look at the enigma that is the movie biz. Having worked in the industry for a long time, she’s able to provide her thoughts on what has changed. It isn’t just a series of her opinions and observations though, it also draws on others who have worked at the highest level. In recent years, few people can have missed the rise of sequelitis, remakes and the use of other media (comics, TV shows, books, games, etc). If you want to know why, this The author is a producer, so the book provides an insiders look at the enigma that is the movie biz. Having worked in the industry for a long time, she’s able to provide her thoughts on what has changed. It isn’t just a series of her opinions and observations though, it also draws on others who have worked at the highest level. In recent years, few people can have missed the rise of sequelitis, remakes and the use of other media (comics, TV shows, books, games, etc). If you want to know why, this book provides the answers. In fact, it shows how the industry has now split between tentpoles (the mega-budget blockbusters) and tadpoles (the tiny budget films that are often in Oscar contention). Rather than focusing purely on the business as a whole, Obst does tell a lot of personal stories, so it’s a much Hollywood history as anything else. This does lead to some strange departures, including an entire chapter on her ventures into TV (a jump a lot of movie people have made). One thing that does come out of the book is how Hollywood is constantly changing, none more-so than right now, when the shrinking revenue of DVD that has unpinned it for some time, has forced a search for new revenue streams, and no one seems sure what the long-term replacement will be. If you have an interest in the business part of the movie biz, then this is definitely worth a look. It would be interesting to come back in a decade and see exactly what did happen.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Christopher

    Lynda Obst worked as a film producer for many years before transitioning into television production in 2008. She comes to the table with a wealth of experience within the studio system. And while I appreciate the value of Lynda Obst's experience - indeed, I have assigned this book for a class I am teaching on the changing business model of the film world - I so deeply wish that Ms. Obst were a better writer. Not only is her prose often sloppy and overly simplistic, but she has very little sense Lynda Obst worked as a film producer for many years before transitioning into television production in 2008. She comes to the table with a wealth of experience within the studio system. And while I appreciate the value of Lynda Obst's experience - indeed, I have assigned this book for a class I am teaching on the changing business model of the film world - I so deeply wish that Ms. Obst were a better writer. Not only is her prose often sloppy and overly simplistic, but she has very little sense of how to structure a narrative. Most of the book consists of anecdotes, which on their own are interesting, but which - even strung together - do not a brilliant read make. Still, were it not for this, I would rate the book much higher, since Ms. Obst presents great information about the changing nature of film studios in our 21st century. I do worry about her fact-checking, however, since she seems a bit loose with details, as when she mentions a movie called "Al Jolson Sings Again," which she (falsely) claims was the #1 film of 1947. The problem is: 1) the title is "Jolson Sings Again" and; 2) it was released in 1949, which is important since she mentions it in contrast to "It's a Wonderful Life" (which was released in 1947). It may seem like a small thing, but if you can't get the little things right . . .

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