Feature film director Rodrigo Garcia has a soft spot for women, and one of those women is producer Julie Lynn (Col ’88, Law ’92). Though Garcia is not the only director with whom Lynn produces films, they have collaborated on seven films and television series, most of those about women and femininity. The 2005 film Nine Lives—which follows nine women through the travails and disappointments of life—and 2008’s Passengers—in which a female protagonist uncovers the mystery behind an airplane crash—were among them. On Mother’s Day weekend Mother and Child, starring Naomi Watts, Annette Bening and Samuel L. Jackson, will premiere in theaters in Los Angeles and New York.
Mother and Child, which received high acclaim at film festivals in Toronto, San Sebastian and Virginia, and was an official selection at Sundance, tells the story of three women and the challenges they face with adoption. Lynn, however, insists it is not necessarily a film about the problematic nature of motherhood.
“It’s more about how we evolve as people over the course of our lifetimes,” Lynn says. “Really, in its essence, it’s about three women who learn to love in very different ways.”
Annette Bening plays the character of Karen, who gave up a child at the age of 14; and Naomi Watts plays the character of Elizabeth, the daughter Karen gave up. Kerry Washington plays Lucy, unable to conceive and about to adopt a child.
“Rodrigo wanted to write a story about two people who long for each other,” Lynn says. “He wanted it to be very emotional, and he chose for those two people to be women, a mother and a child.”
Garcia, who has written all the films he has directed—he is a son of the famed writer Gabriel Garcia Márquez—is often drawn to female characters. Lynn partly attributes that tendency to his family.
“He’s married to one [a woman],” she says. “He has two daughters. He finds women, their psychology, and their inner workings fascinating.”
Garcia has said that his fascination with the characters he creates allows him “to indulge my dreams of storytelling and of living other lives.” He also says that his script-writing and filmmaking satisfy his innate curiosity. “How else am I going to learn what it’s like to be another human being?”
Lynn—who is currently raising funds for a film she and Garcia want to make in Ireland starring Glenn Close, Orlando Bloom and Amanda Seyfried—works closely with Garcia on his scripts. In addition to raising money, she acts as a script consultant and both a creative and managerial partner of the director in all aspects of the filmmaking process, including casting. Lynn says the choice of Samuel L. Jackson as a romantic lead in Mother and Child was successful because of Jackson’s careful balance of the dramatic and the humorous.
“Here’s the thing about Rodrigo: he always tells me that he doesn’t fully know who the character is until the actor tells him,” Lynn says. “There was a lot of humor on the page, but we didn’t realize how much of it was there until the actors got their paws on it.”
Lynn says that she has always loved films, and that her current role of producer is the perfect combination of her passions for creativity and business. She says that she owes a lot to UVA for her personal development.
“I think I came of age at UVA,” Lynn says. “The student-run ethos of life there was a valuable teaching device.”
Lynn is certainly a self-starter. In 1999, she formed her own production company, Mockingbird Pictures, which has produced films such as The Jane Austen Book Club. She was also a story consultant for the Oscar-winning Up, which she still considers one of the year’s best films. It isn’t hard to see why Garcia stays so close with Lynn—she appears not only to be a film aficionado, but also one of the harder working and more dedicated producers in Hollywood.
Although it is distributed by Sony Pictures Classics, Mother and Child is a small and independent film, told in a quiet, restrained way. Garcia prefers the intimate scale, saying he is more interested in films about interpersonal relationships than in films that try to take on too much. He says that, above all things, “your movie has to have honesty in it.”
Lynn agrees. “It all starts with Rodrigo’s vision,” she says, “then he invites the collaboration of the cast and crew ... and it becomes something none of us could have predicted.”