Variety’s L.A. Women’s Impact Report 2020
The past few months has been such a dynamic time for this industry that it has been a challenge keeping up with all the realignments while putting together this year’s report. The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has accelerated change, disrupting business models and personal lives. Still, the L.A.- based women on this list have found ways to innovate, and many are hopeful for the future.
(The women of) Hello Sunshine
Sarah Harden, CEO
Lauren Neustadter, head of film & TV
Reese Witherspoon, founder
Any lingering doubts about Hello Sunshine’s producing acumen have surely faded with the streamer launches of “The Morning Show” on Apple TV Plus and “Little Fires Everywhere” on Hulu, which garnered 13 Emmy nominations between them. The second season of HBO’s “Big Little Lies” also received five noms, bringing Hello Sunshine’s nomination haul to 18 this year. “Morning Show” co-star Billy Crudup ultimately snagged a supporting actor Emmy, the first Emmy win for the fledgling Apple TV Plus service, while Jennifer Aniston won a SAG trophy for her performance. A second season of “The Morning Show” is in the works, with key talent returning.
Witherspoon, who co-starred in all three, founded Hello Sunshine four years ago to focus on female-led stories. And it turns out having a woman propel a narrative — be it a novel, a television show or a film — isn’t such a bad idea from a financial or creative standpoint. Hello Sunshine has projects in the works at Amazon, Apple, Hulu, Netflix HBO, MGM, Starz and HBO Max. Books — some of which are selected for Witherspoon’s affiliated book club — are often the basis of television projects or movies produced by the company.
“When we set out to build the company, we knew we had a worthy mission that was important,” says CEO Harden. “But we also knew it was good business.”
“When I started Hello Sunshine, I often found myself talking to people about female representation and saw blank faces staring back at me,” Witherspoon says. “That doesn’t happen as much now, and there’s definitely momentum in Hollywood to diversify storytelling.”
The company has doubled down on optimistic storytelling in the wake of the pandemic. “As quarantine has made clear, people want to be entertained and sometimes need a reprieve from bad news,” Witherspoon says. “We want to give them uplifting and hopeful TV shows and films.” Adds Neustadter: “Hope is an essential ingredient. The character can go through really challenging stuff, but we always want to show our audience that there is light at the end of the tunnel.”