Mike Battle: Hello and welcome to Red Carpet Rookies! My name is Mike Battle, a film production junior working for studios in London.
Each episode, I bring you advice and stories from film, tv, and content professionals to help demystify and democratize the industries for juniors and fans alike. Thanks for joining me, let’s get started.
Today's guest is Film and Television ProducerJulie Lynn. With beginnings as a First Amendment Lawyer, Julie soon transferred her skills to the movies, first producing small independent works such as Mike Nichols' Wit and Rodrigo Garcia's Nine Lives. In the years since forming Mockingbird Pictures in 1999, Julie has covered all manner of genres from the Oscar nominated Albert Nobbs, to Netflix's hard hitting To The Bone and even sci-fi horror in the Jake Gyllenhaal led blockbuster Life. Julie graciously answered my regular questions when we worked together in 2018 and she has kindly agreed to do it again!
Thank you for being on the show, Julie.How are you?
Julie Lynn: I am fine, all things considered and it’s a pleasure to be with you. Although it was much more fun when we were walking around the quad during Terminator.
Mike: Absolutely. Now, before we begin, lots of our listeners are film and TV fans are indeed juniors new to the business and the role of the producer is so varied.It can sometimes be confusing to people. In your own words, how do you see it?
Julie: It can be confusing to me too, so your listeners are not alone. Look, I think it’s the defined undefined role on the movie set, right, because a lot of people take a producer credit or maybe there are people who take a producer credit as the cost of getting them into your movie, ends with director or an actor or their manager might need to produce your credit, so it can be very confusing but from my perspective and from what Bonnie and I do, it really means being the first one on and the last one off.
So, by that I mean, we, in the best circumstances and we can talk about Terminator which was different right, because we came on very last minute on Terminator but in, for most of our movies, we’re developing the material with the writer, we’re refining it with the director or that’s the writer director, obviously, that’s all of a piece. Then we’re packaging it, we’re putting it together with actors and designers and cinematographer and we’re putting it, taking that package and getting it financed, either, in an independent way or at a studio and then we’re supervising the making of the budget and all the fires that have to be put out during the production. You got to see a lot of that yourself and then we’re walking it through post-production and doing notes, and, trying to make it the best version of the film it can be during the editorial and then we are part of the marketing. So we really are first on, last off in the best case scenario.
And there’s all other kinds of producers, right. There’s Line producers, Associate Producers, and Visual Effects Producers, and Post-production Supervisors who are pro directorial in a way.And then, there’s this Location Managing, which is kind of the, I call it the gateway drug to producing. So, there’s all kinds of ways, I’m not surprised it’s confusing at all.
Mike: A fantastic answer. So to take you back to the beginning, where else did you grow up? And did your parents, your household as you grow up have an effect on your later career choices?
Julie: No. I grew up in Washington D.C. so the political capital of the United States. I was obsessed with politics. I kind of thought that might be, that I might work behind the scenes with politics growing up ‘cause I loved that. My father owned a jewellery store and my mom was a homemaker who also taught English to diplomats’ wives. And they love the movies, they love going to the movies but there was no sense of having a career in that.
I remember when I told my mom I was interested being in the world of art, she said, “We raised you to be a—” what’s it she said, I have to remember the exact quote, but it’s like we raised you to support the art, not to be an artist, you know. It was very, it was sort of like , “You need to get your professional degree and take work seriously. What are you, kidding?”
And then of course, they became very proud of me when I started to really make my way in the world.
Mike: So did you always have it as a game plan and to move into the arts post your law career? Or is that something you found along the way?
Julie: While I wrote my essay for getting into law school, about the confluence of art and the law, so I think I had an inkling that whether it was gonna be in the world of free speech, which is where I did most of my legal work, coming out of law school, or whether it would be working in an arts organisation, I think I felt that I would be touching that part of the world. I think I thought I would be touching it more from a legal standpoint than I am now, obviously. But when I got out into the world, I realised I wanted to have more of a creative through line in my day-to-day work, and that’s how I segued into producing.
Mike: So how long did you spend within the law?Did you have any memorable cases? Is that the type of law you were?
Julie: I, the law I did was at the Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression so we were a First Amendment advocacy group, freedom of speech. And so a lot of the work we did was either educational work through conferences and through writings or what we in theUnited States call “amicus briefs”, which are a friend of the court briefs, where we would file on behalf of the First Amendment in cases generally in the appellate sense so in the appellate court system or on the Supreme Court, and I did work on some great briefs that involved artists who needed free speech protection.So in that way, I really was involved in the arts when I was in the law but now, I mean really, my legal work now, as the extent of it is, I know how to pick really, really good lawyers, some good at that. And then also Mike, whenever contracts come through that we need to look at, my producing partner just deletes them because she knows I’ll read them for us. So that's sort of the extent of it now.
Mike: Was there a moment in your previous career when you decided that was enough and it was time to alter or did it come to your door?
Julie: Oh no, I think I just loved it. I love the non-profit where I worked, I’m still involved with them a bit but I think that I felt a little bit like, a cog in a small wheel and I wanted to be a cog in a bigger wheel, meaning, that I wanted the things I work on my day-to-day life to impact more people and I wanted to feel connected in my daily work to something that a lot of people are going to experience and so movies feel like a really interesting way to do that. Just because you can entertain people when they’re locked up, I had no idea that the pandemic would affect how I think about that as much as it has, but whether it be for entertaining people or trying to say something through art, movies feel like a big canvass upon which you can do that.
Mike: Fantastic! So you had this law background and your desire to move in the movies and the skill set I guess that which is somewhat transferable, what were the first steps that you took to make the move?
Julie: I had through the University of Virginia, which is where I went to school, some really nice contacts and I got a job for $500 a week, which is like, what is that 250 pounds, something like that, 300?As a creative executive from Mark Johnston we've also gone to UVA, he was theAcademy Award winning producer, and I read scripts for him and did notes on projects, it was a pure, what we call a development job, so pure script reading script improvements, there was nothing production related about it at all.
I was, I was lucky if I got a glimpse at a film set. But I really started to learn the art of reading scripts I probably read. Certainly hundreds probably thousands of scripts, at that point in my life. Because Mark was getting submitted so much and that was really invaluable because you, it's only by, reading scripts is very different from reading books or poetry or magazine articles or newspaper articles, they have a very different rhythm. They have a very different way in which they work, they have a different way in which they tell their story. And it's really only by immersing yourself in reading a lot of them that I think you can start to understand how they are and are not effective and kind of be able to separate the wheat from the chaff.
Mike: Did you notice any specific key lessons through reading thousands of scripts? There must have been some sort of throughline, perhaps throughout them.
Julie: Well I'm really mad that I wasted so much of my life reading bad scripts because I'm such a rule follower, that I really read everything from page one through page 120 or sometimes 150, depending on how disciplined the writer was, and I am shocked by how much of my life I have given over to reading bad scripts, and in my youth that seemed okay. Now when I really read bad scripts I’m like I want my two hours back I'm in my 50’s now. I need my time.
There's no, I mean that's kind of the beauty of the work is that there is no one through line. It is true that there's no story that has not, in some sense already been told, I think that is very true, but I think the pleasure comes in how the human brain and the human heart, and the human gut can tell it in so many different ways. And that's where the artistry comes through, and I'm still delighted to to discover new writers, and really moved to see the work that people have been doing it a longtime.
I'm working on a script right now with the writer Bill Nicholson, who's been around for a long time, very successfully, an Englishman, like yourself, and I'm just gobsmacked by what the combination of his imagination and his experience can create on the page.
Mike: Did you ever consider being a lawyer inHollywood anyway because they're a big deal in their own right?
Julie: No, because I think lawyers in Hollywood, it really, I love our lawyers we have a great personal lawyer who does our deals we have an amazing production attorney, who works with us in the movies, but I think once I made the switchover, it for me, it really was about moving into the creative space, it was about taking my undergraduate degree, which was one of the creative side, and putting that into play and being part of the team that makes the piece of art together, as opposed to the lawyer who either makes the deals as a representative of people for their, for their deal points, or is handling the legal aspects of production.
That was not a consideration for me. I think if I'd stayed a lawyer, I would have probably stayed on the East Coast, and stayed in the world of nonprofits.
Mike: Interesting. I noticed on your IMDB that your first few credits come as an Associate Producer straight in. When you nervous on those first few jobs, given that you were fresh into it really and straight in as an associate?
Julie: I mean I think what happened was, so my first job as I said was working for Mark Johnson, which was pure development so there were no full credits there and then Marshall Pearson hired me to work for her, and we were doing very small independent films and Associate Producer became the right credit just because it kept getting handed sort of discrete produce for projects within what I was doing for her.
So on all three of those movies, I supervised post production on all three of those movies during the making of the movies, I was handed projects like we don't have enough money to do the kind of production design we want so can you go, you know, get us free, you know, free furniture or free materials, or free this or free that or can you manage this location which is very sensitive, we need to get to this very this place where people don't want us to be, and we need someone to really be devoted to that for a couple of weeks.
So, it seemed to be the appropriate title but in each and every case the title wasn't given to me until they were making credits on the movie, and then the people in charge movie said oh let's give her that credit because that makes sense. It was in a weird way, a little bit of a catch all.
Mike: I noticed that you’re speaking there of your smaller independent films that you made in the beginning, and I notice done of the short films on your roster. It's a small little project called The Bulls which featured a pre-stardom Chris Pine, could you see any potential in him back then?
Julie: Oh, he was fantastic! We, absolutely there was no question that he was going to be a movie star, he probably won't even remember me but he was delightful. He and Rod, the other guy who were, it was a two-hander, they were just fantastic!
I produced that short because my friend Eric Stoltz, who used to be an actor, a very fine actor, was moving into directing and I adore Eric, and he asked me if I would do that for him, and he was really trying to get a feel for the rhythms and the task of directing and so the short way to do it, and it was really, really fun. We shot him for just a couple of days. And Chris was spectacular, and he was really easy, and had an incredible sense of timing, and I love you're the first person in all my many, many, many discussions to ever ask me about The Bulls, so I love that you did that. And Chris was great.
Mike: I did my research. Similarly, I have been writing my own first shorts recently and I wanted to ask your advice for myself and the many others listening like me. Is your advice, just jump to it?
Julie: Shorts are complicated, right, because on the one hand, they can give you a great calling card that can open up other worlds for you. On the other hand, there's no market for them really, right.So, if you're getting people to quote unquote invest in your short, I think, I think they should know that they're not going to get that money back, most likely, I guess there are a few avenues for it.
So my advice to you is, if you're gonna do a short and you want it to be a calling card for feature that rather than trying to make it valuable for as a directing sample that you that you try and make it be something great, irrespective of the financial aspect of it.
So, a, decide on a story that feels really important to you to tell, b, tell it in a way that will teach you something about yourself as a director, and let you grow from the experience, and c, I would try and find something in it either stylistically, or in your subject matter that will compel people to pick it up and watch it.
I think a fun exercise would be to look at the Oscar nominated shorts of the last decade, because you're doing fiction short right, not a documentary short?
Mike: Yes, fiction.
Julie: I would look at the Oscar nominated fiction short of the last 10 years and see what about them feels compelling to you. What about them leaves you cold, what worked, what didn't work and see if that sparks anything in you, were you moved by the stories they were telling, were you moved by the way in which they told them.
Mike: Now before we move on to talking about the formation of Mockingbird and moving into larger movies and Oscar nominated movies and such. We touched on it briefly there on potential and short films and younger people. What is it about a young up and comer who's coming into an interview with you that makes him stand out?
Julie: Curiosity, I think, is one of the reasonsI like you, Mike, and why I was happy to spend time with you when you had questions to ask during Terminator, is that I think curiosity is a really under appreciated trait, and I think it walks hand in hand with humility. And I don't mean false humility, but I mean knowing that we're all on a journey we all have things to learn. I know I still have so much to learn, and I'm sort of over arrogance and entitlement. I'm not big on firing people but I've actually even fired interns who showed up on movies and were just entitled and arrogant.
I remember on the movie 5 to 7, which was a true pleasure to make. We made it during the summer, and so we had a ton of interns, I think you'd have called work experience, right. So, we had a ton of work experience on the movie in every morning during prep, and during production I would gather them all before the day started, and ask them questions and see what questions they had and try to set them some intentions for the day and every day at lunch, they would have lunch with a different head of department like we really cared about them, right, and the director, who was also the writer and with the head of locations and the production designer and the cinematographer and then that with Anton Yelchin and Bérénice and GlennClose and Frank Langella and all the stars of the movie. And there was one kid who, I asked him to do something once, and he's like, “Yeah I don't want to do that. I'm here because I'm going to be a director”, and I had a chat with him about, about that, about how really moviemaking is it the aim of people making the movie, and he may not see a direct line between making sure the actors coffee is hot and directing a film one day but I assured him that there was one, and then we did similar experience with him a couple weeks later and I just asked him to leave.
So that's what I, when somebody young up and coming comes in front of me, what I like is curiosity and humility, and don't mistake that for not having confidence. I'm perfectly happy for people to have confidence. You know, our first assistant had the confidence to stop me at the airport and to tell you right and that's how she got hired, but I'm not interested in entitlement.
Mike: You've given me an interesting segue with that because you've spoken about some negative personality traits. And that leads me on to, don't worry stay with me, with you starting Mockingbird Pictures, because I know you named it to impart in bodily the values of integrity, as per the novel, how do you go about instilling integrity in a business that is often regarded by some to be the opposite in places? How do you fight the good fight?
Julie: No, I gotta tell you I have met many more lovely people than horrible people in the movie business. I really mean that. And part of the pleasure of being older, and having done more now is I really get to, not always but much of the time choose who I work with, and we have a lot of people that we work with over and over again, a lot of writer directors that we work with multiple times or a lot of craft people that we work with multiple times.
And I actually think it's not hard to be good to other people. And I think it's not hard to try to do the right thing.And in the end, I just think it always comes back because those people always want to come back, they always want to work with you again.
And when times get hard as they do in making films because you have late nights or overnights or the things that are really tough, that groundwork of making a safe space for people to do their best work, that sort of good karma, for lack of a better word, really comes back in those difficult moments when you're all in there together. I really, really believe that.
I mean, obviously, you can't, none of us are perfect. I'm sure I have said, I hope inadvertently things that maybe might have hurt someone or someone doesn't agree with, or I'm sure there are people out there that don't like the way we run our movies, but we just get up each day and try to do the best we can. And we've been really, really lucky on how that's come back to us. Does that answer your question?
Mike: It does and it's interesting because one of the things I noticed about your career was enduring relationships with yourself and Rodrigo Garcia, and also the Skydance Team. I noticed you do do lots of projects together. And of course with yourself and Bonnie, I wondered if you could talk to, how you met Bonnie, and your relationship.
Julie: Bonnie and I, like everyday, without herI’d be dead. It was so funny as that now I cannot even imagine not having a producer, producing primary, even having done that for so many years without one, and it's very much about chemistry right, it's about that person that you just really don't get sick of and always feel like you're grateful to have on the team every day. I constantly feel like I'm learning things from her.
The way we met was that she had been– Bonnie worked with Steven Spielberg for 15 years. First as his assistant, and then when Kathy and Frank left she became his producer, and at some point, she really wanted to be making independent films, and she– a mutual friend of our suggested that she talked to me about how to make an independent film.
So I got a cold call from StevenSpielberg's producer. I’m like, “Why is Steven Spielberg’s producer calling me?”and she said, “Can we have lunch? We'll ask you questions.” and so I was like,“Okay, sure, why not.”
We’ve had a great lunch, and apparently then, I took a budget to her house. This was in the days before you can email budgets, know what I mean. So apparently I dropped off a little low budget at her house which I didn't even really remember but then she showed it to me years later with notes on it, and I just talked to her about how we put together independent film.
And then, a year or so later, Rodrigo called me up one day and said, “Glenn Close wanted him to direct her passion project that already had a producer on it” and he just wanted to tell me like he really wanted to do this for her, I wasn't gonna be involved. I was like, “No, no problem. Like, that's great. I'm so glad you're going to do that for her”, and he told me Bonnie was the producer and I said “That is fantastic. I love her, you love her. It will be great. And call me if you need help, whatever.”
So every once in a while I'd get a call from them saying we're out to this actor, you know them, can you put in a good word and I would do that, and then they would just have trouble getting kickstarted, and one day, Rodrigo called me, he said, “Bonnie and Glenn are going to call you and ask you to produce the film with them. I need you to say yes” so they called, and I said yes, and they just hadn't done this kind of thing before in the same way. And Bonnie said, “Oh we needed the director’s producer”and she and I laugh about it now because as that same person who said, you know, a pony can make a movie with Rodrigo like he's so easy and wonderful, but what they really just needed was someone who walk through the process of putting together an independent film.
And then, Bonnie and I right from the start, it was just it was just chemically great, and I– we both know the exact moment we worked. We had these little two bangers where we were working on the movie and we were walking in between the freezing cold, no electricity, two-banger and set which was also freezing cold, and I looked at her and she looked at me and I was like, “You want to read something else?” and she said “Yeah”, and that was it. We haven't done it since, we haven't done a movie without the other one, and it's just been so much more fun, like the hard stuff isn't as hard, because she'll be like, “Don't pay attention to that agent who yelled at you. He’s a jerk!” and the fun stuff is fun because you have something to celebrate with.
There's a wonderful story where we were going to raise money for it was either, our second or third film in New York, and we were, I told her, “Oh, I have, we can stay with my friends, David and Sarah. They have an extra apartment in New York. It’s a two-bedroom. There might be someone in the bedroom, you might have to share a bed with me” and she's like, “Oh I have to ask my wife” and I was like, “What?” and she said, “We're lesbians. I have to ask my wife if I can share a bed with you” and I was like, “Okay, well then I'm gonna ask Doug. I forgot to know that you're, you know, he should know too since I’d be sharing a bed with a lesbian.”.
So this is a famous story in our partnership, so she goes to ask him, her wife and he was like, “Yes Julia it’s fine”, and I go to ask Doug and Doug says to me, “Honey, whatever you need to do to keep Bonnie happy is okay with me.” And that's kind of the story of the partnership.
Mike: I guess part of the reason she wanted to get in bed with you at Mockingbird was because of creative freedom that comes more with independent films. How do you mould your head between one minute telling you Ewan McGregor as Jesus and To The Bone the next? Because you've got such a wide slate of Mockingbird as opposed to maybe the more satisfactory studio system.
Julie: I mean, I have to tell you I think our style, our producing style is the same, whether we're doing the big Skydance movies, or whether we're doing a little independent movie, and the actual skillset is very much the same, but the process is really different and there is a lot more freedom.
Look, we’re directors, producers wherever we go and Skydance knows that they know that we're going to land on the ground, and we're going to really want to deliver whatever the director's vision is.But when we do a Skydance movie with Paramount or Sony or whoever we're doing it with then we have the added responsibility. They control the purse strings, and they need to be heard, and they have things that they want. And so then the trick becomes delivering what the studio wants and what the director wants. I think when we make those independent films, which we usually shoot somewhere between 20 and 30, or 18, and 25 days or 20 and maybe 30 days at the most. Because they are often financing a variety of places, we really can’t just focus and be with the people on the ground and really concentrate on what the director wants to say, purely, much more purely. And then we have other parameters, which are, like there's no more money, right. So then the director has to make choices between do you want your money to go here, or do you want your money to go there, do you want that fancy location or do you want to shoot an extra day. But it is very much the director’s choice then so there is more freedom in that. But our style is pretty much the same and we will always try to fulfil the directors’ desires as much as possible within whatever the parameters given are, whether they're financial on an indie or within their financial and stylistic on the studio film. And Bonnie has taught me a lot about studio politics. I would say that the vast majority of the emails that go from us as a producing team to our studio executives come from Bonnie, right, because she’s just really good at messaging in the way that they need the messaging.She’s teaching me a lot, which is fun to be an old dog learning new tricks.
And then on the indie movies, I get to teach her how to do it, although she was a quick study and has that picked up by now.
Mike: Very symbiotic. That's fantastic. One of the big studio movies I was watching in my research for this was Life that you produce with Bonnie and I was wondering what it was like to film zero gravity because it was done so well. How did you achieve that?
Julie: Well the first thing we did was we had breakfast with, well actually, Rodrigo came too, and Emmanuel Lubezki, who is the Academy Award winning cinematographer of…
Julie: Well he did Revenant, but he also did Gravity, so we wanted to learn how he had done that. And what he told us, which was something that we took very, very much to heart was the trick is not to do it only one way, because if you do zero gravity in only one way, the audience will start to see it after just a little ways through the movie. So you got to have a bunch of different ways that you portray zero gravity and of course, with DanielEspinosa, our beloved director said he wanted to do– and we had all these things like, “Oh well maybe one chamber they've created gravity” like where did came about these ideas were really we didn't have to do zero gravity for the entire movie. And he's like, “No, no, zero gravity the entire movie”, so we had to come up with a huge basket of tricks. We had stunt people. We had a choreographer. We had advisors from, we had aerospace advisors who are scientists. So we really tried to make it what the guys at Skydance is called “science faction” meaning that we took the facts of zero gravity or of creature development, and we tried to apply them as much as possible and recreate what would be realistic. So sometimes we have people from wires. Some people just swayed in their chairs where you couldn't see their legs. Sometimes we were holding people by a contraction.
It was all kinds of ways and we really mixed up, but I'm really, really proud of the zero gravity work and the actors trained like they really, really trained hard on their core strength, because of course you've got to keep your arms and legs up, and they were really, really disciplined and phenomenal.
Mike: I mentioned having Ryan Reynolds and also Jake Gyllenhaal is very funny as well, on those wires all the time, there must have been some quiet comedic moments. Were there any that you remember?
Julie: The were really fun, and Ryan, I gotta get a shout out for Ryan Reynolds because he, first of all, he has done so much tough moviemaking that his, I think it's not easy on his back to get on the wires, and he was such a trooper and he's very, very funny and he could have been done.
And I remember he, we were so sad when he went away because, you know, he wasn't, he's not in all of the movie. I don't want to give. Anyway, he's not in all of the movie. And then he got home and he called me and Bonnie back and he's like, “You know, we really didn't, we missed something in the character”, and he and Paul and these were the writers who knew each other very well, they had worked on Deadpool together, they wrote another scene for him and he came back and did that scene at his instigation, which is in the movie, and he didn't have to do that and it's a great scene, so I really have to give a shout out to him. Yes, he was very funny and great to have around, and we were all sorry when he wasn't there with us.
Mike: All those kind of movies from a producer's point of view, what's it like to be marshalling so many cars like that? You've got Reynolds, Gyllenhaal, Ferguson, Rebecca Ferguson. What's it like from the producers point of view to keep everybody happy like that?
Julie: You just really have to be present for people and hear what each of them needs. We had a lovely cast, Rebecca and Bonnie and I still WhatsApp, so I get all the latest on her baby, because not so much a baby anymore, now more of a toddler, but they were just all lovely, and they're all incredibly different.
So, part of producing I think maybe this is what's useful for your listeners, is, I think that when you're a producer ,you can't expect people to come talk to you on your terms. I don't think that's very good producing, I think you have to go talk to people on their terms. And I mean that, whether it's an assistant in the art department, or a grip who's struggling with a heart issue or an actor or director or a stem person, anyone.I think you really have to go, because the great thing about a movie set is, everybody knows their job better than you do. If I've done my job, the sound guy knows his job a lot better than I know mine, I’m sorry, a lot better than I know his, hopefully not better than I know mine. But the sound guy knows his job a lot better than I know his job, so my, my work with, with an actor or with that sound guy is to go and say to them, “What do you need to do your best work?” and then I tried to create that for them, and if I can't, I tell them why.
There are times when actors have asked for things that are unreasonable and those actors shall remain nameless, but part of my job is also to tell them, that's not possible here, and here's why. But within these parameters I'll do everything for you that I can so let's talk about what I can do for you to make the best environment for you to do your best work, but you really have to go to where people are, you can't expect them to come to you.
Mike: It’s a great answer.
Julie: I won’t know if they have a problem but I mean they won’t, they don't really, you can’t expect them to come to your mind space of looking after the whole movie. You have to be in their mind space, in their department, whether it's the acting department or the sound department. Did that make sense?
Mike: Understood definitely. I’d like to change tact a little bit, because in animation, you don't have this problem of having lots of actors to master and on set, and I've got to ask you, I noticed you've got a credit forPixar story consultant on Up. How did that come about? And is it the creative wonderland within the walls people imagine?
Julie: It’s fantastic. So there's a couple of things going on in an animation. First of all, Bonnie and I are producing our first animated movie, not for Pixar, Netflix is paying for it and we have this incredible group called Cartoon Saloon, who are our directors and animators, but I'm still doing work with him so I actually have after I'm done with you today I have a consulting, couple of hours with, with some folks at Pixar and story. And that is, for me that is purely story work, it's where I work with Pixar is very much director centred so the work that I do with the directors, is to find out I probe them for the kind of story they want to tell, and then we develop out from there and either they're writing it or they're bringing on a writer, and Pixar really supports a long period of development. So they have these beautiful rooms set up up there and it is kind of a creative wonderland, with art inspiration everywhere and a lot of the directors themselves and their story artist and so you're often working on story within a room filled with all kinds of inspirational art and drawings. And it really is a, it really is a wonderland, that doesn't mean they don't have a lot of pressures of their movies cost a lot and so they're expected to deliver a lot, and I think every Pixar director is always scared that they're going to be the first one to blow it. It doesn't do well, and, and there is a lot of pressure in that, but it isa place filled with incredible artists and brains and hearts, and it's just really, it is an extraordinary place and I love my consulting work with them. I cherish it.
Mike: Did you have any involvement with the Up scene, the one that made the world shed a tear?
Julie: You mean the opening? There’s a lot of, a lot of tear shedding. I gotta say, from my perspective, I think that that, that opening is all Pete Docter. I think Pete Doctor who directed and co-wrote Up, first of all, he's one of the nicest human beings you could ever meet, and I think he is, his filmmaking is so emotionally intelligent. I think Inside Out is another example of that. And that opening in Up which tells the story of that marriage.It does come from him, and he has a great marriage, and great kids, and I think it reflects on how he thinks about what it means to be in relationship, so I cannot claim, I cannot claim a part of that. I think that's all Pete Docter, but I sure did love working on that over a bunch of years like I, I worked on it early and I came back and then I would go away and they would do other things and I would come back again and it was such a honor and a privilege to be invited into that process with them. It really, it really is. And that's fine because it's just pure creative process, with the part that I do with them. It's not anything like you know what I produce a live action movie andI'm not producing for them, either. I'm just there to help them kick off their storytelling. So it's really fun.
Mike: Absolutely! Now before we do our last quick fire questionnaire,I have one more question for you because I like to ask about moving forward in the industry and such. Is there anything you would like to change about the film and television business as it stands? It’s a toughy.
Julie: I think the thing I would most like to change cannot be changed, which is that I think the assignment of resources to movies isn't always there. And not that I don't love the big spectacles becauseI do. I love them. And it's not that I don't love the movies made on a dime because those are often my favorites in any given year. But when I think about movies that are really hard to get made because they need resources to get made, but they're not blockbusters or superhero movies, and so they get caught, and they can't always get made unless you get lucky enough to, you know, shelve a movie star in there. I wish that could change, but I don't think it will.
I will say that I think one of the things that is, that has gotten better since I've started in this business is this sort of platform agnosticism. There was a real schism between tv and film whenI started, and the advent of streaming and cable has really blended that. And I think all the top artists, whether they’d be actors or writers or directors and producers, of course, and also all the crafts people that work on the movie, whether they are in art, or camera, or sound, whatever, really go back and forth now. And I think the beauty of that is that you have a piece of material and instead of saying, “Oh, well it would be, you know, bad for us to do this on TV”, you can really now say, “What is the best medium for this project?” and you can go pursue it there on that platform. And I do think that's an improvement.
Mike: A perfect final answer. Now, before we wrap up, I like to do a quick-fire questionnaire, Julie.
Julie: Oh boy.
Mike: It’s an ode to interactive studio with my own twist. So, just answer whatever comes into your head. Are you ready?
Red Carpet Rookies Quickfire
Mike: Number one, what is the best piece of advice you've ever been given?
Julie: My friend, Bob Gazzale, who I've known forever. We went to college together, and he is the head of the American FilmInstitute now. He’s very fancy-schmancy. He said to me, “Don't try to make a movie that everybody will like” and I think this came on the heels of item movie that came out that some critics were like gaga and absolutely loved it and others were like, “This is a piece of crap” And he said why would you want to make a movie that everybody likes, because no one will love it, it's not, you know, don't, don't try to reach everybody with every, don't try to reach everybody. Just try to make each movie the best it can be and don't care about trying to please everybody. I thought that was a great macro piece of advice.
Mike Battle: Excellent! Number two, do you have a favourite film or tv show, one that's your favourite?
Julie Lynn: I think it's pretty hard to beat Singing InThe Rain.
Mike Battle: Good answer. And as a secondary part of that, if our listeners to watch one of your pieces of work tonight, what should they watch?
Julie Lynn: That is like asking me which of my children is my favourite child. That's like, I would say it depends on your mood if you walk a romance, you should go watch 5 to 7. If you want to watch a an unusual Jesus movie, you should watch Last Days In The Desert. If you want to watch action, go watch Terminator: Dark Fate. It depends on your mood. Don't make me pick one of my children.
Mike Battle: I’m sorry, Julie. Number three, what gives you a reason to get out of bed every day for an early call time, if any at all?
Julie Lynn: It is 100% to be there for the team, because I, I hate getting up in the dark. It's absolutely to be there for everybody. Making movies is a collaborative sport, and how can I expect anybody else to show the final show up so it's to be with the team.
Mike Battle: Good point. Number four, which job in the industry would you do if you weren't doing yours?
Julie Lynn: Can it be a job outside of the industry?
Mike Battle: Go for it.
Julie Lynn: Okay, I would be a political Chief ofStaff, without a doubt.
Mike Battle: I can see it.
Julie Lynn: Like I would be behind the scenes running someone's campaign and their administration, Joe Biden's Chief of Staff, that's what I want to be, if I'm not a movie producer. That’s just producing but on a different platform.
Mike Battle: Number five, if you could work with one person, living or dead, who would it be?
Julie Lynn: Ryan Coogler. He doesn't need me, but I’d run to see everything he does, from Fruitvale Station to Black Panther.
Mike Battle: Pick is on the list. Number six, what is a book that everyone should read? Now you're going to struggle with this one, you've got so many.
Julie Lynn: I would say, for pure, I'm going to give you two, for pure fiction storytelling in the last however many years, I love the Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon. I just think it's an incredible world and he's an incredible storyteller. Then two, even though I told you that I'm an optimist and that, I believe everybody is good, you know, very difficult, we did have a very difficult situation a number of years ago, and my friend, Kristen Hahn, told me to read this book, TheSociopath Next Door. Have you heard of it?
Mike Battle: I haven't, no, but I'm gonna look it up.
Julie Lynn: It really rocked my world because I kept saying to my close circle of friends, “How can these people sleep at night? Like this can't make them feel good”, and she's like, “Oh you need to read this book”and what I realized is that, in the best case scenario on a film set, we're always trying to make everybody be in a win-win situation, right, like we make compromises, we work together, but we want everybody to feel like they are winning, win-win, right, and sociopaths, which is who we're working with on that movie, are they, they want to win and they want you to lose. It's a win, lose, so a, it was good to explain to me what I was dealing with, because they're more sociopaths in the world than you might expect, but b, it was also really clarifying for me I'm what kind of person I wanted to be, right, which is a win win, kind of person. So there you go, there’s your answer.
Mike Battle: That's kind of person. And finally, if you want an Oscar, who would you thank?
Julie Lynn: Oh, my producers group. I have this amazing producers group it's called Free Shoes. Bonnie wasn't in it but then she got grandfathered in, because they kept asking me to ask her things, and then she kept saying can you ask your producers group this so they're like, just put Bonnie in the group.
So it's called Free Shoes because when we got together which is, I don't know 15 years ago, something like that. The deal was that we would help each other. But unlike a lot of people in the movie business, we wouldn't be like, “If I help you get your movie made, you're gonna give me a credit and money or whatever”, no, no, no, no, if you help somebody else in the group get their movie made, they have to buy you a pair of shoes, so the group is called Free Shoes and we've been together forever. We have a whatsapp group, and we ask each other things all the time and we support each other all the time. And I would thank, Free Shoes.
Mike Battle: Fantastic! Thank you so much, Julie, for joining me. Incredible advice from someone who's sat both sides of both independent film, blockbuster film, and even up. We'll see you next time on Red Carpet Rookies.
Julie Lynn: Thank you for having me.
Mike Battle: Thank you for listening to another episode of Red Carpet Rookies.
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