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'Hello, He Lied:' An Insider's Tale

Producer Lynda Obst offers a CliffsNotes version of her popular Hollywood-insider book in Hello, He Lied. The documentary, which demystifies the role of a producer, will run on American Movie Classics.

But is it too inside? Left Coasters may get the references to the Crossroads School (the institution of choice for the pre-mogul set) or In-and-Out Burger (the best West Coast burger chain, period) as primo networking locales, but they might not resonate in Peoria.

The book also hammers home the difficulty of getting a film made. But the documentary only interviews successful producers — millionaires all — who talk about how tough their tasks are. The film would have been more balanced if Obst had gone beyond her circle of friends to find a wannabe just trying to get that first project approved.

The documentary also tries to define the producer's job, and demonstrate the various steps an executive must take to get a film to the screen. Each stage could be really interesting, but this show is merely an outline. Once you start to get intrigued, another bullet point must be explained.

For instance, producers stress how difficult it is to come up with script ideas. About 29 of 30 scripts presented to the professionals "suck," the executives said, and many production companies are left to their own brainstorming devices.

To that end, the AMC film demonstrates why movie theaters are often filled with fodder like Dude, Where's My Car .
Some of the "concepts" pitched are so thin, the executives said, that they make cereal labels read like literature.

Still, Obst — the producer of such films as Sleepless in Seattle
and Contact —
knows the territory and hones in on the most entertaining bits. Her favorites include lists, which, among other things, tally the signs of "development hell": when the woman who was the receptionist is now the studio head; when what began as a romantic comedy has mutated into a slasher flick; or when the script now has so many draft versions that the producer has had to rent storage space.

She also lucks into meeting tracking producer John Williams just as he's about to premiere a little film called Shrek .
That footage may best demonstrate the serendipity of producing: Williams noticed the book — a 15-page tome beloved by his son because it is glib and gross — and turned it into a worldwide blockbuster.

Obst does come off as the woman who knows everyone and everything. She can thank the producer for that — oh yeah, she is the producer.

Hello, He Lied
will debut Jan. 8 at 8 p.m. on AMC.