Reese Witherspoon and Lauren Neustadter to Be Honored at Caucus Awards
Reese Witherspoon and Hello Sunshine’s president of TV and film, Lauren Neustadter, will be honored as producers of the year next month at The Caucus for Producers, Writers & Directors’ 2021 Caucus Awards.
The Caucus also announced on Monday morning that Gail Katz, who is a professor of cinematic arts at USC as well as the Mary Pickford Endowed Chair and faculty chair of the School of Cinematic Arts, will receive the educator of the year award.
Previously announced honorees include Aaron Sorkin, director Susanne Bier, “Black-ish” star and emerging producer Marsai Martin and Vin Di Bona. Presenters include Caucus co-chair Robert Papazian, Nicole Kidman, Universal Filmed Entertainment Group chairman Donna Langley and “America’s Funniest Home Videos” host Alfonso Ribeiro.
Hosted by “Grey’s Anatomy” actor James Pickets Jr., the evening will also include the presentation of the Humanitarian Award to community leaders and philanthropists Jeanne and her late husband Tom Townsend. The couple founded the St. Louis-based non-profit Pianos For People. Former Pianos for People student Royce Martin will perform during the gala.
Caucus co-founder Norman Lear will make a special guest appearance. The 38th annual gala event will be held virtually on March 4.
The Caucus Awards Committee includes Caucus co-chairs Robert Papazian and James Hirsch, Caucus chair emeritus Chuck Fries, Caucus Foundation president Sharon Arnett, producer Scott Mauro, writer Bruce Vilanch, Judy Levy (LPA Events – Levy, Pazanti & Assoc.), Allison Jackson (Allison Jackson Company), Carol Marshall Public Relations’ Carol Marshall and Bridget Fornaro and Caucus executive director Deborah Leoni.
Golden Globe-winning actress Reese Witherspoon sat down to talk to HFPA journalist Margaret Gardiner about her decades in Hollywood, from her start in films like Cruel Intentions, Election, and Legally Blonde, to turning points in her career like Wild and Walk the Line, to her recent forays in television with The Morning Show and Big Little Lies, to her outside work like her use of fashion and her ongoing monthly book club that highlights and celebrates great and noteworthy works, and more.
Julia Roberts to Star in, Produce Apple Limited Series
Julia Roberts and Reese Witherspoon are teaming for a limited series at Apple.
Roberts will star in and executive produce The Last Thing He Told Me, from Witherspoon’s Hello Sunshine and Disney’s 20th Television. The drama is based on Laura Dave’s upcoming novel of the same title.
Apple landed the project for its TV+ streaming platform, outbidding several other outlets for the rights. It has given a straight to series order to the show, which Dave will adapt alongside her husband, Josh Singer (Spotlight, First Man).
The Last Thing He Told Me centers on a woman (Roberts) who forms an unexpected relationship with her teenage stepdaughter while searching for the truth behind her husband’s disappearance. The novel is set to be published by Simon & Schuster in May 2021.
Hello Sunshine optioned the book ahead of its publication and brought it to Roberts. They then took it to 20th TV, where Singer has an overall deal, before bringing it to potential buyers.
The series is one of several TV projects Roberts has taken on in recent years. She starred in and executive produced the first season of Amazon’s Homecoming and is attached to Gaslit, a drama about the Watergate scandal from Homecoming EP Sam Esmail and Universal Content Productions.
Dave and Singer will executive produce The Last Thing He Told Me with Hello Sunshine’s Witherspoon and Lauren Neustadter and Red Om Films’ Roberts, Marisa Yeres Gill and Lisa Gillan.
Reese Witherspoon’s Hello Sunshine Acquires SKR Productions, Sara Rea to Head Unscripted TV
Reese Witherspoon’s Hello Sunshine has acquired Sara Rea’s SKR Productions, the company behind Amazon Studio’s “Making the Cut,” and is installing Rea as its head of unscripted television, marking an expansion into the unscripted space.
Rea is most recently known for her work as showrunner on the Heidi Klum and Tim Gunn-hosted “Making the Cut,” which incorporated an e-commerce element that allowed viewers to buy designers’ creations on Amazon Fashion after the premiere of each episode; their series with Amazon Studios followed a major migration from the trio’s nearly decade of work on “Project Runway.” SKR, which was launched in 2014, has also produced “Project Runway Threads,” “Project Runway Junior,” and “The Naked Truth,” among other series.
“Sara has led an incredibly talented team whose values and goals reflect everything we believe in at Hello Sunshine and I’m inspired by all they have accomplished,” said Witherspoon. “With shows like ‘Making the Cut,’ SKR has bridged television and the consumer experience in such an innovative way, opening up new possibilities for what content can do. I am beyond thrilled to welcome them to our team as we continue to grow and expand our mission to put women and underrepresented voices at the center.”
Rea’s team will be joining her at Hello Sunshine, including Sue Kinkead and Danielle Ghilardi Birckhead. Kinkead will become senior vice president of development, while Birckhead will step into the role of senior vice president of physical production & operations and work alongside Hello Sunshine CFO Liz Jenkins, who has been working to expand the company’s range of in-house physical production services. Tyler O’Neill and Elizabeth Sandroff will join Hello Sunshine as senior directors of development.
“I am inspired by what Reese and the Hello Sunshine team are creating,” said Rea. “That, in conjunction with us having such perfectly aligned goals, has all of us at SKR excited to join Hello Sunshine and grow the unscripted division. This is truly one of those rare one plus one equals ten opportunities, and we can’t wait to get to work.”
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.”
Reese joined Sean Hayes, Jason Bateman & Will Arnett for the October 26th episode of their podcast ‘Smartless’ earlier this week. They talked about their experiences and process on set as actors/directors/producers, Reese’s childhood, her book club and the changing nature of media, Kamala Harris, Reese’s political aspirations, parenting/mental health during the global pandemic, and her retirement plan. It’s a good interview – listen below:
Advertising and marketing company AdWeek have honoured Reese in their 2020 Hot List and she is on the cover of their October 26th 2020 magazine cover to mark this! The magazine used additional photos from the Emmy magazine photoshoot that was published earlier in the year, and features a new interview in which Reese talked about growing her business and working to be taken seriously as a producer. Read the article below, and find the scans in our Gallery. Congratulations to Reese on being recognised for her fantastic work again!
The 2020 Hot List: Honoring the Year’s Best in TV, Publishing, Digital and Brands
When the pandemic forced us all to begin sheltering in place in March, we leaned on TV, publishing and digital brands more than ever before to connect us with the outside world. So it’s no surprise that Adweek’s annual Hot List, which always honors the best in those three categories, is full of people and brands who were at their best when so many things seemed at their worst.
Take Adweek’s Media Visionary Reese Witherspoon, who has turned Hollywood on its head by creating a successful media company, Hello Sunshine, focused on female-centric stories—for a variety of platforms.
Our TV Creator of the Year, Jon Favreau, helped get Disney+ off to a hot start with The Mandalorian, while TV Executive of the Year, TLC president Howard Lee, showed that linear networks still have plenty of fight in them.
Digital Creator of the Year Sarah Cooper turned her popular President Trump lip-syncs on TikTok and Twitter into a Netflix comedy special, and Digital Executive of the Year, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, is helping lead the charge against lies and hate speech on social media.
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