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lucy fisher

Lucy Fisher's company, Red Wagon Productions, oversaw last year's Academy Award-winning film "Gladiator." A long-time studio executive, Fisher began her career in the late 1970s as a story editor for Samuel Goldwyn Jr. Productions. She has held various senior executive positions at MGM, Twentieth Century Fox, Warner Bros., and Sony, where she was vice chairman of Columbia TriStar Motion Picture Group. Movie projects that she has overseen include "The Color Purple" (1985), "The Bridges of Madison County" (1995), "Jerry Maguire" (1996), and "As Good As It Gets" (1997). Here, she talks about Hollywood's increasingly risk-averse culture, the demands of the opening weekend, the homogenizing effects of mass marketing, and what she's learned about films that work and films that don't.

This interview was conducted in September 2001.

Peter Guber

One of Hollywood's most accomplished producers, Peter Guber was formerly the studio chief at Columbia Pictures and chairman and CEO of Sony Pictures. He is now chairman of Mandalay Entertainment, which he founded in 1995. The films he has produced -- including "Midnight Express" (1978), "The Color Purple" (1985), "Rain Man" (1988), and "Batman" (1989), among many others -- have reportedly earned more than $3 billion in worldwide revenue, and have been nominated for numerous Academy Awards. Here, he discusses how Hollywood has changed over the years: the explosive increase in budgets; the expanding ancillary markets for films; and why marketing a movie is now so critical to success.

This interview was conducted in June 2001.

Bob Levin

Bob Levin is the president of worldwide marketing and distribution at MGM, and was formerly president of worldwide theatrical marketing for Disney. He oversaw the marketing campaigns for films including "As Good As It Gets" (1997), "Men In Black" (1997), "Jerry Maguire" (1996), and more recently, "Charlie's Angels" (2000). Here, he discusses how "Jaws" changed the Hollywood landscape, the differences between today's movie stars and those of yesteryear, and the evolution of marketing in Hollywood.

This interview was conducted in May 2001.

bill mechanic

Bill Mechanic, now an independent producer, was chairman and CEO of Twentieth Century Fox Filmed Entertainment from 1994 to 2000, where he oversaw production of such hits as "Titanic" (1997), "Braveheart" (1995), and "Boys Don't Cry" (1999). Prior to that, Mechanic was president of international distribution and worldwide video at Walt Disney Studios. In this interview, he discusses the challenges of running a major studio in today's corporate Hollywood, the lure of the big salary for today's young actors, and why he still thinks Hollywood can turn the corner.

This interview was conducted in April 2001.

howard stringer

Howard Stringer has been chairman and CEO of Sony Corporation of America since December 1998. Before coming to Sony, Stringer spent 30 years at CBS, as a journalist, producer, and then as president of CBS News, where he won several major journalism awards. Here, he talks about the studio boss's fear of failure, why there's room in Hollywood for productions large and small, and the extent of new technology's impact on Hollywood. "It [the digital world] will make the technology of filmmaking much easier," says Stringer. "It won't necessarily make the literacy of films any greater because writing is still the rarest art form, hardest to teach and the longest to develop."

This interview was conducted in June 2001.

allison anders

A graduate of UCLA's film school, Allison Anders has directed several independent films, including "Gas, Food, Lodging" (1992) "Ma Vida Loca" (1994), and this year's "Things Behind the Sun." In this interview, Anders says that the success of independent hits such as Miramax's "Pulp Fiction" (1994) upped the ante for other indie producers, putting pressure on them to score big at the box office. She also says that the popularity of digital filmmaking may make it easier for newcomers and independent producers to join the industry.

This interview was conducted in July 2001.

michael douglas

One of Hollywood's most bankable stars, Michael Douglas is also a film producer. (His newest production company, Furthur Films, produced "One Night at McCool's" this year.) In 1976, he won his first Oscar for "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest," which he produced. He then won the Best Actor Oscar for his performance in 1987's "Wall Street." In this interview, he talks about the dearth of stars with staying power, the growth in the numbers of independent production companies, and why movies can't find their "legs" today. "There's no time now for a movie to breathe," says Douglas. "Because by the next weekend, there are three, four, five other pictures coming in, each, maybe, who spent an average of $25 million for their marketing alone."

This interview was conducted in June 2001.

david kirkpatrick

In 1991, David Kirkpatrick left his post as president of Paramount Pictures. He went on to produce the indie hit "Big Night" in 1996, and other independent films such as "The Opposite of Sex" (1998) and "The Whole Shebang" (2000). Here, he talks about how he worked his way up from script reader to studio head, the difficulties facing the independent film industry today, and how today's conglomerates manage the movie business.

FRONTLINE interviewed Kirkpatrick twice, in June and September 2001.

kevin smith

Kevin Smith, who runs ViewAskew Productions, wrote and directed the independent hits "Clerks" (1994), "Chasing Amy" (1997), and "Dogma" (1999), among others. Here, Smith talks about how he wound up in the director's chair -- and why he was surprised by his success -- and why sentimentalism about Hollywood's supposed heyday may not be warranted.

This interview was conducted in May 2001.

peter bart

Peter Bart is editor in chief of Variety, the entertainment industry's venerable trade magazine. He has written about Hollywood for the Wall Street Journal and The New York Times and in his book The Gross: The Hits, the Flops -- the Summer That Ate Hollywood (1999), and spent 17 years as a film executive at Paramount and MGM and with his own production company. An outspoken and sometimes controversial figure, Bart holds forth here on why stars are running themselves ragged to make back-to-back films, and talks about modern-day studios under the stewardship of gigantic conglomerations.

This interview was conducted in April 2001.

michael cieply

Michael Cieply was the West Coast editor of, an online trade publication covering the media and entertainment industries. Cieply has covered the entertainment industry for 17 years, first for the Wall Street Journal and more recently for Talk magazine. In the 1990s, he also worked as a film producer for Sony. Here, he talks about the economics of the movie business, the power of stars, and how the megacorporations have changed the studios.

This interview was conducted in May 2001.

larry gerbrandt

Larry Gerbrandt is chief content officer and senior analyst at Kagan World Media, a research firm that covers the movie business. Here, he talks about the numbers: why the summer months are so important, how a movie makes its money, and why studios need those ancillary markets to carry them through the lean times at the box office. "The studios themselves don't make a lot of money except in the rare years where they have extraordinary success, two or three blockbusters. ... On a stand-alone basis, it's not a very good business," says Gerbrandt.

This interview was conducted in September 2001.

elvis mitchell

Elvis Mitchell is a film critic for The New York Times and the entertainment critic for National Public Radio's "Weekend Edition." His many essays and articles about the entertainment industry have appeared in GQ, The New York Times Magazine, and Rolling Stone, among other publications. In this interview, Mitchell discusses what Miramax means to independent film, why conglomerates cannot resist the allure of owning a movie studio, and what he calls Hollywood's last "halcyon period," the early 1970s. "[It was] a time where there was real risk-taking involved," says Mitchell.

This interview was conducted in September 2001.

peter bart

Richard Natale is a freelance economic reporter who covers the film industry for The Los Angeles Times. Here, Natale discusses the economics of "star power," and the shrinking influence of studio bosses within the media conglomerates that now own their companies. "There is usually a great robber baron like Rupert Murdoch or Sumner Redstone running all of those divisions," says Natale. And studio bosses, he says, must understand the hierarchy: "You better plug into that agenda or you'll be gone, because you're middle management."

This interview was conducted in June 2001.

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