Hello Sunshine might be best known for producing Reese Witherspoon’s latest projects like Big Little Lies, The Morning Show and Little Fires Everywhere, but it’s much more than just a film and TV production company. It also makes podcasts, audio storytelling and digital series—all of which feature women at the center of their stories. When Witherspoon—Adweek’s Media Visionary—founded Hello Sunshine in 2016, “one of the ambitions was we’ve got to be good at storytelling that’s meeting women where they’re spending their time. And women are spending their time on all of these platforms,” says CEO Sarah Harden.
Witherspoon may have founded the media company, but Hello Sunshine’s team of around 60 keeps it running while she’s acting on set. “There’s a level of intense preparation for, OK, if she is working four days out of the week, and we’re going to have her for one day, how can we be most effective and respectful of that time?” says Lauren Neustadter, head of film and TV. “She obviously sits at the center of everything, but she’s the kind of boss who empowers the people that are working with her to be a team and to drive results if she has to be focusing on something else.”
At a time when many creatives are signing exclusive deals with a single outlet, the company has set itself apart instead, working with many of the biggest networks and streamers in Hollywood, including Amazon, Apple, HBO Max, Hulu, Netflix and Starz. That way, “when we fall in love with a piece of material, what we have the ability to do is go to each of those places and see who loves it like we love it,” says Neustadter. (The company has a robust film slate, too, including a third Legally Blonde movie.)
The company has continued to grow, adding a kids and animation division last year—because “changing the narrative for women … starts with changing the narrative for girls,” says Harden—and expanding its unscripted slate (including a country music competition series for Apple), especially as those shows are easier to shoot during the pandemic. There’s even a brand partnerships arm, given that “brands are looking for new ways to tell stories, more than ever before,” says CFO Liz Jenkins. Last year, Hello Sunshine partnered with Procter & Gamble on Eve Rodsky’s book Fair Play for a companion video series and podcast featuring P&G brands like Bounty, Charmin, Downy and Tide.
But really, the biggest brand the company cultivates is Hello Sunshine itself. The company and Witherspoon keep its female fan base engaged on social media and via its monthly Reese’s Book Club (every title selected in the last year has made The New York Times Best Sellers list; a YA offshoot will feature monthly young adult book picks). And that gives Hello Sunshine an additional edge in Hollywood: “For a lot of studios, it’s just about delivering content to your partners,” says Jenkins. “And what we’re uniquely able to do is both deliver content and audience.”
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