As stories about the behind the scenes business of Hollywood go, the founding of yet another production company doesn’t seem all that important. After all, the seemingly endless parade of company vanity cards greeting us before the opening credits of a film gives the impression that production companies are a dime a dozen out there. However, Will Ferrell’s new Gloria Sanchez Productions seems kind of important.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, Will Ferrell, Adam McKay (director of several of Ferrell’s films), and Chris Henchy have created Gloria Sanchez Productions as an off-shoot of their 7-year-old Gary Sanchez Productions. Gary Sanchez, the company named after a fictional NFL placekicker, has been behind Ferrell comedies Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues, The Campaign, Step Brothers, and The Other Guys. They were also responsible for last year’s indie Bridesmaids-esque comedy Bachelorette and Melissa McCarthy’s upcoming comedy Tammy. Their new Gloria Sanchez imprint will focus strictly on creating female-led film and TV projects, headed up by Emmy and Tony-nominated Jessica Elbaum, a longtime production executive at Gary Sanchez. In announcing Gloria Sandhez Productions, Ferrell and McKay said:
“When Jessica came to us with this idea, we thought it was fantastic. She has worked with some of the great female voices in comedy and has proven herself as a gifted producer who has a keen eye for material.”
Gloria Sanchez Productions will deal equally with established and emerging female comedic talent.
This is at first surprising considering Will Ferrell’s filmography and big, broad brand of humor does not necessarily scream “Feminist!” even if some of the humor of Anchorman is derived from how far over on the wrong side of history the sexist characters are. However, in another way this is in no way surprising but instead a shrewd business move, the likes of which we might see more of as we get deeper into 2014. On Ferrell’s Anchorman 2, it wasn’t a male in the cast but a female who could claim to have had the most recent huge hit, i.e., the nearly $300 million worldwide take for Kristin Wiig’s Bridesmaids. In fact, from a dollars and cents perspective it’s hard to argue there is a male film comedian out there right now who can even begin to compete with the box office draw of Melissa McCarthy, although we have our eye on Kevin Hart. Judd Apatow just hitched his wagon to rising star Amy Schumer, directing her feature film debut Train Wreck which could be a counter-programming hit during the action/comic book heavy summer 2015.
That’s just on the comedy side of things. In general, female-led films are having a pop culture moment right now. Hunger Games: Catching Fire, The Heat, Gravity, and Frozen kicked (or are still kicking) ass at the box office. Plus, 27-year-old producing all-star Megan Ellison helped finance 2 of the 9 Best Picture nominees (Her, American Hustle), and both Elizabeth Banks and Meg Ryan are lined up to make their directorial debuts. However, it’s still hard out there for women to actually get jobs on major Hollywood films, that is if they actually want those types of jobs. Only two of the top 100-grossing films of 2013 featured a female director (Carrie, Frozen), and the percentage of women working as executive producers/producers, directors, writers, editors, and cinematographers are now at lows not seen since 1998. Many women are shifting to working in independent film and/or television.
So, now Will Ferrell and company have essentially created a production company to function as a talent incubator for female voices in comedy. Joseph Gordon-Levitt spoke to wide-held beliefs two years ago when he argued most pretty women aren’t funny because they’ve never had to develop that adaptive characteristic to fit in or get attention. Plus, to throw race into the mix there were those who argued the reason SNL hadn’t included an African American female cast member at the start of their recent season is because there simply weren’t a whole lot of candidates that fit the description. These are horribly controversial arguments, but let’s hope Jessica Elbaum can prove them wrong with breakthrough talent delivered to our theaters and TV screens through Gloria Sanchez Productions.