Hello Sunshine, which has an all-women C-suite and a staff that's almost entirely female stands in stark contrast to the rest of Hollywood. Only 4 percent of top film directors are female and women hold less than 18 percent of C-suite roles at major production houses, according to USC's Annenberg Inclusion Initiative. Onscreen, women accounted for less than a quarter of protagonists in the 100 top-grossing films in the U.S. last year, 5 percentage points fewer than the prior year, according to a study from San Diego State University's Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film.
"Women have been silenced from a lot of the traditional storytelling process," says Harden. "We saw this connection between authentic, beautiful stories that show up on a screen where someone is going to take the time and say, 'Wow that story, it feels like they understand me, that this was made for me, it reflects my experience.'"
After Witherspoon's success producing the films "Wild" and "Gone Girl" and the HBO series "Big Little Lies," Harden says the mission of Hello Sunshine has shifted to creating content for all platforms. The company has its own VOD channel for AT&T and DirecTV. In addition to producing the next season of "Big Little Lies" for HBO, the company already has projects in the works with Amazon, Hulu, ABC and Apple.
In fact, the show Hello Sunshine is producing for Apple, centered on a fictional morning news show, is reportedly one of the most expensive deals in TV history, with Apple said to be spending $240 million for 20 episodes. Hello Sunshine also has a podcast, a book club, an audio books partnership with Audible and a live events business
Based on the number of deals Hello Sunshine has struck with such a wide assortment of companies, it seems safe to say that demand for its female-driven content is significant. Harden says it's a combination of the premium content creators they're working with and an understanding that this kind of content is more valuable than ever.
"We're in the middle of a set of cultural conversations around #MeToo and Time's Up where there is an awareness of the power of the female consumer," says Harden. "It's stunning to me that you've had these gaps." Female consumers, she says "make 85 percent of purchase decisions. They drive 75 percent of financial decisions. They're 50 percent of the box office." And yet, she says, when you look at what kind of content is being produced for women, there are "just huge gaps."