The CEO of DreamWorks on the Making of 'Lincoln'

One month before the election, The Atlantic and our partners at UCSD put on the second 'Atlantic Meets the Pacific' conference in La Jolla. Video of many of the sessions has now gone up on the UCSD site. (Videos from both the 2012 and the 2011 conferences are here.)

This year I got to interview Stacey Snider, the CEO of DreamWorks, about many aspects of a studio-executive's job. But the discussion began with the then-impending release of her next big movie, Lincoln. I hadn't seen it at that point and knew only vaguely about its theme, and so I didn't ask her about its substance or implications. Instead, starting 3:00 into the clip below, I ask her to tell us what we should know about the movie that, a month hence, we'd be hearing all about. Then I asked her how a studio thinks about releasing a wholly "worthy" movie like this, in the era of The Fast and the Furious (which was another of her movies).

This is not a mainly-Lincoln discussion, but I thought it was revealing and interesting overall -- including when Snider explains that the most-misunderstood part of her job is that her principal duty is to read: scripts, novels, newspapers, histories, magazines. But its discussion of what the studio was thinking with Lincoln will be interesting for anyone who has seen the movie (as I finally have -- you should certainly do so if you haven't) and thought about its implications. For now I direct you to Ta-Nehisi Coates's ongoing exploration of these issues.

One policy point only: time and again in writing about American politics and the American presidency, I say that things are a huge mess now, but they've often been extremely messy through our history. This movie is a useful reminder on that point.

As a bonus, I also got to interview Gretchen Rubin, creator of "The Happiness Project." I was genuinely fascinated and engaged by everything she says. The three minutes that start at time 22:00 also touch on one of my Major Principles for Life.

Thanks to Stacey Snider, Gretchen Rubin, all the other guests and interviewers, and the UCSD and Atlantic Life teams who made this happen. (I went from these interviews on to China, for my "Mr. China" article in the current issue.) See you in La Jolla next fall.

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James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

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