Interview with Producer Suzanne Lyons
Written by
Laura Brennan
March 2012
Written by
Laura Brennan
March 2012

Award-winning Hollywood producer Suzanne Lyons has produced nine films over the last eight years, starring the likes of James Caan, Naomi Watts, Christopher Walken, and Brenda Blethyn.  Her how-to book on producing independent films hit the shelves last month, and she has an amazing video series on You Tube, with tips and interviews on how to boost your career. 

I wanted to talk to her, not as a writer, but as someone who works with writers and is constantly evaluating pitches.


Laura Brennan: As a producer, you are inundated with writers pitching to you.  What draws you to a particular project?


Suzanne Lyons: First of all, the writer’s own level of excitement and enthusiasm.  If they’re not turned on, they’ve already lost me. 

Second, are they being clear and succinct?  Am I getting a sense of the story, the essence, the theme?  Writers are the worst at pitching, because they’re so brilliant at language and words – they make it so flowery.  A logline is not War and Peace.  Be clear, be brief.  If I’m interested, I’ll ask for more.


LB: What’s the worst mistake people make?


SL: Well, here’s one: someone gave me a call, but I was busy, I really couldn’t talk.  He said just enough to intrigue me, so I told him, okay, e-mail me the pitch.  He sent me a paragraph, but it was just the beginning of the story.  There was no follow-through, no ending. 


LB: So he was being coy?


SL: Exactly!  Writers think, “I’ll keep them guessing.”  No!  Tell me the story.  That’s what would get me excited.  We are all so bombarded.  I never stop.  Before I brush my teeth, I check my e-mail.  Now, more than ever, be clear.  Respect the other person’s time.

Also, you have to be honest.  I had someone pitch a script as a Christmas story, and when it came, it had nothing to do with Christmas.  Maybe there was one scene, but that’s not a Christmas movie.  Or someone pitched me a romantic comedy and when I read it, it turned out to be a black comedy.  I don’t produce those. 


LB: Does a good pitch usually equal a good script?


SL: Not at all!  [Laughter]  I heard the most fabulous pitch once, I was beside myself.  And when I got the script, I read to page 20, and it was awful.  Just a mess.  I called the writer and I told him, “What were you thinking?”  I asked him what feedback his readers had given him on the script and he answered that I was the first reader!  He said he really valued my opinion...  NO!  I’m the person who can buy it, who can option it.  Don’t ever do that to somebody like me.  I can’t believe writers don’t take their scripts to a consultant first; that’s one of the best investments a writer can make.  You don’t get to make a second first impression. 


LB: How do you find good scripts?


SL: A lot of the time I work with people I know already – someone from my husband’s writers group or a friend.  Or a recommendation from someone I trust who has read the script and loved it.  It’s a relationship business.  Sometimes I’ll fall in love with a couple of people at a pitchfest, or it’s a new script from someone whose work I loved years ago.  Every so often, I’ll get a cold call from someone who pitches something that sounds perfect for me. 


LB: Good script aside, what are you looking for in a writer?


SL: I want to work with somebody who is willing to listen and be open to the possibility that the script could get better and better.  I’ve worked with writers who spent so much time fighting for their opinion, they’d rather be right than get their film made.  And that’s so frustrating for me.  Nowadays it’s all about the story and the good script.  So if the writer is not open, I don’t want to play that game. 


LB: Any last words of advice?


SL: I used to tell people, write from the heart.  Now it’s a different world.  You’ve also got to be thinking demographics, target audience, marketing, promotion.  Everyone all along the way has to be thinking, what do I have to do if I’m going to sell this?

This guy sent me a horror film, I was looking for something low-budget, and he said, “Suzanne, it all takes place in one location.”  Well, yes, the heroine was locked in a room for the entire story – but every scene was a flashback of how she got there!  30 characters and 50 scenes in a dozen locations.  That was someone who didn’t put his business cap on.

I used to be able to be just a producer, but we’re all sales people nowadays.  Everybody has that role now.  Yes, I’m in love with this romantic comedy, but has it been done before?  Is it unique but with a great demographic?  Keep those things in mind. 


Check out Suzanne’s amazing tip series on You Tube.  To learn more about her and her company, go to and

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  • Laura Brennan

    Thanks, Yejide!  Suzanne was afraid writers would hate her after reading this, but I assured her we had thick skins.  Which is a complete lie, but I wanted her to give us the real deal!  :)

  • Yejide Kilanko

    Enjoyed reading the interview. As much as I wish it wasn't so, to be successful all writers have to keep the demographics, target audience etc in mind as they think of the next story. Thanks for the post Laura!