Born and raised in Chicago, Lansing knew from an early age that she wanted to be in the movie business. She landed her first job as a script reader at MGM, and during her time there she learned as much as she could about every aspect of filmmaking, working on The China Syndrome and Kramer vs. Kramer before moving on to Columbia Pictures.
At 35, Lansing became the first female president of 20th Century Fox alongside her role as a partner in Jaffe/Lansing Productions. It was during this time that Lansing knew she needed to gain more producing experience if she was ever going to be a successful studio executive.
Her first producing success was the box-office smash Fatal Attraction in 1987. She eventually landed the chairmanship of Paramount Pictures’ Motion Picture Group in 1992, and during her tenure the studio had its longest and most successful string of hits since the 1930s including Forrest Gump, Braveheart and Titanic.
At the reception following the event, students could not stop talking about the impact Lansing’s professional and personal experience will have on their future careers.
“She was very humble and supportive of film students. She said that being a producer is an achievable dream with the ambition, right timing and some luck and this meant a lot to me. She also encouraged students to pursue their passions and never give up on their dreams.” Allie Gallo, Freshman – Film Production Major
“My take away from Sherry Lansing’s talk was that the dreams of someone in the film industry, no matter how impossible they may seem, could be manifested with a strong passion and good work ethic.” Terence Johnson, First Year Graduate Student – Production
“I thought it was interesting when Sherry Lansing said that to be a successful studio head, you have to first be a producer. You have to understand movies from the inception to the end to really know how to run a movie studio and make the right decisions.” Chantelle Wells, Second Year Graduate Student –
Writing & Producing for Television Lansing’s innate timing and gut feeling that she used to great success at Paramount also served her well when she knew it was time to leave the movie business. “I noticed that my passion for it was not the same as was when I first started.” She created The Sherry Lansing Foundation in 2005 and now devotes her time and energy to philanthropy work including cancer research and education. Always generous and authentic, Lansing wished the students the best of luck in their careers and said she looked forward to seeing their work on screen one day.
The Hollywood Masters is a new series that examines the careers of Oscar-winning filmmakers and successful executives, with The Hollywood Reporter’s Stephen Galloway and presented by LMU School of Film and Television.