Stacey Snider Recalls When "WB" Meant "Warner Sisters"

When_WB_Meant_Warner_Sisters - H 2014
Courtesy of Lisa Henson

When_WB_Meant_Warner_Sisters - H 2014

Writing for The Hollywood Reporter, 20th Century Fox's co-chairman pays tribute to her "role models" — four women who were senior executives at Warner Bros. in the '80s

This story first appeared in the 2014 Women in Entertainment issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

After brief stints in the Triad Artists' agency mailroom and then as a union assistant at Simpson Bruckheimer Productions, I landed my first "real" job as a development executive for Guber-Peters. This was 1986, and its producing deal was housed on the fabled Warner Bros. Studio lot. Guber-Peters was making a lot of films -- Batman, The Witches of Eastwick and Who's That Girl, among others. I was thrilled to be there.

Still, novice enthusiasm did not equate with skill -- I didn't know the first thing about being a creative executive. Fortunately for me, Warner Bros. was packed with bright, energetic executives who were willing to reach out and help me.

The senior executives at Warner Bros. at that time were Lucy Fisher, Allyn Stewart, Bonnie Lee and Lisa Henson. Yes, many of the Warner "brothers" were "sisters" -- and they were my role models. They were all excelling, collegial and fun to be around. And, as remarkable as it was -- especially in 1986 -- to be surrounded by so many senior women, it was never remarked upon. It just was. Their presence did not merit scrutiny.

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Lucy had started with Francis Ford Coppola and was known to have amazing filmmaker relationships and great facility with story and notes. Allyn was beautiful and outdoorsy, and she worked on many of the Guber-Peters films with us. I didn't know Bonnie as well, but I recall that she had been at Geffen Films prior to WB, and her reputation was already enshrined for having worked on such films as Risky Business. Lisa was the youngest member of the team, having segued right from Harvard to a post as a junior development executive. She heard the first pitch I ever brought up to the studio and kindly told me why it was "not quite right" for the studio's needs (I think it must have been horrible) and what I might look for in the future in order to land a deal(!).

Dawn Steel, Paula Weinstein and Sherry Lansing had paved the way for these women, but by the time I arrived on the scene, Dawn, Paula and Sherry were already perched on Mount Olympus. I knew of them -- everyone knew of them -- and I looked up to them, but they were unreachable.

The Warner Sisters were my near peers. And everything about their careers was inspirational and aspirational. From schooling me on what makes a good pitch and the format for writing notes to lectures on the importance of finding great material, the women of Warner Bros. showed me the ropes and set me on my path. (Later, Amy Pascal at Columbia would join this group of early mentors. I have fun memories of Amy hanging with me after work to show me how to do editorial notes on Single White Female.)

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The '80s may not have been the golden age of film, but the studios then were (for the most part) privately held and healthy. They were putting out a steady supply of varied and eclectic films. During that decade, Warner Bros. produced the Amblin hits Goonies and Gremlins, cultural touchstones such as The Shining, Lethal Weapon and Batman and prestige films such as Chariots of Fire, The Mission and Driving Miss Daisy. The women at WB had a hand in many of them, and I credit my passion for film to their early influence.

Over the years, I've worked for and alongside some really great men. But I'm always comfortable returning to a room of women friends and colleagues. To some, our conversations that transition from film business to family to fashion and back again probably sound like a discordant, foreign language; but to me, it's music to my ears.