NYFA students at the Los Angeles campus were invited to an exclusive Q & A event featuring former Paramount Pictures chairman Sherry Lansing and Hollywood Reporter writer Stephen Galloway, who penned Sherry Lansing’s recent biography, “Leading Lady: Sherry Lansing and the Making of a Hollywood Groundbreaker.” Director of Q and A series Tova Laiter hosted the evening.
Lansing started her career as a script reader and worked her way up the ladder until she became president at 20th Century Fox in 1980. Lansing was the first woman in history to hold the position.
Next, Lansing took on producing for such hits as “Fatal Attraction” (1987) and “Indecent Proposal” (1993). Later, Lansing became the chairman and CEO at Paramount where, for 12 years, she oversaw production and marketing on 200 movies — including blockbusters such as “Braveheart,” “Forrest Gump,” “Saving Private Ryan,” and “Titanic.”
Lansing had a lot of advice for up-and-coming film creators. One large piece of advice was, “Returning every phone call is just good business. You never know were ideas come from.”
‘The executive’s job is to just find good talent,” she told students. “Every film that does poorly is my failure. Every film that does well is not my success.”
Lansing left the entertainment industry at 60 to pursue an entirely new career in the non-profit industry, and created the Sherry Lansing Foundation, which focuses on cancer research and education. She sits on nine major profit and non-profit boards.
Galloway centered the book on Lansing’s journey from an insecure young girl to her incredible ability to make a space for herself where previously there had been no women, saying, “There was no Churchill before Winston Churchill. There was no Sherry Lansing before Lansing.”
One of the questions asked was, “What advice do you have for screenwriters and working with a budget? We are always instructed to write from our imagination, but I’ve heard other people say you should write for the budget. What do you think?”
Lansing responded, “You should always write from the heart. Our job in the studio is to keep the eye on the budget.”
Lansing advised that striking a harmonious balance is in the best interest of the writer, particularly when working with a studio: They have bought the script and will eventually do with it as they please. If the writer wants to stay on the project they should find a way to work with the studio.
The New York Film Academy would like to thank Sherry Lansing and Stephen Galloway for taking the time to speak with our students.