Producer Lynda Obst loves literature. She’s shepherded five novels to the big screen with more in the works. So, what does the producer of films like Contact, How Lose A Guy in Ten Days and The Fisher King, look for when reading a book or article?
• I have a wide range of interests: romantic comedy, non-fiction, drama. As a former newspaper editor, I like things that reflect the zeitgeist in all the genres. That’s what excites me.
• I have a passion for science: Astronomy, biology, anthropology. This is “science faction.” True stories of scientific discoveries, scientists’ quests for knowledge, but grounded in real scientific fact or theory.
• If it has a great hook.
• Big ideas. Something transcendent. Stories with epic ideas if not epic scope. Stories with a universal appeal. Driven by great characters.
On working with authors:
• It depends. Some want to be a part of the process, while others want nothing to do with it.
• For Contact, I insisted Carl Sagan be brought on as producer and be a part of the process from the beginning.
• He and I argued about the ending of the book being in the movie. The ending of the book involves the concept of pi. He wanted to keep it in, but I didn’t think a mainstream audience would know what pi was. In the end, he agreed.
On working with the screenwriter:
• When adapting a novel, I have a list of screenwriters whose work I know and love. Or, if they have shown they have a talent for a particular genre I’ll work with them.
• There are meetings between myself and the screenwriter and among the screenwriter, the producer and the studio. Everybody brings his ideas to the table.
• The screenwriter then goes off to write. I become a bit of an organizer, the captain, the person who brings everything together and pushes it through to a final draft, and remembers why we bought it in the first place.