Twelve years ago, Jessica Elbaum was Will Ferrell’s assistant, a post she admits is already “the best job ever.” Her first day on the job was on the set of reshoots for the first “Anchorman” film. Nine years later, on the set of “Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues,” of which she was an executive producer, she approached the Gary Sanchez team with the idea of a female-centric counterpart, Gloria Sanchez Prods.
“From the start, they liked the idea,” Elbaum recalls. “They said, ‘let’s do it.’ Never once did they doubt it.”
“Jess is an awesome producer and we thought it was a great idea,” concurs Ferrell. But more than that, says Gary Sanchez topper Adam McKay: “It’s selfishly good business. Women have been taking over comedy for the past 10 years. Jessica was establishing all these great relationships with female directors and writers, it just made sense.”
In fact, the company had already enjoyed success with projects featuring strong women both in front of and behind the camera, including two Melissa McCarthy hits, “Tammy” and “The Boss.” They also supported female filmmakers such as Leslye Headland, who wrote and directed “Bachelorette,” and Shira Piven, who directed “Welcome to Me,” starring Kristen Wiig. The first film produced under the Gloria Sanchez banner was Headland’s follow-up, “Sleeping With Other People,” which received a warm reception at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival before opening in last fall.
The company currently has a full slate of projects in various stages of development, from a Comedy Central TV show produced by Olivia Wilde called “Best Seller” to the film “Women in Business” with Emma Stone, Jillian Bell and Kate McKinnon. It is also partnering with Annapurna Pictures on two films, “Booksmart” and “The Hustlers at Scores,” based on a magazine feature by Jessica Pressler. “It’s strippers taking down rich white men,” says Elbaum. “McKay described it perfectly as ‘Wolf of Wall Street’ meets ‘Thelma and Louise.’”
Women writers are further represented by upcoming projects. They’ll also be producing Wiig’s untitled directorial debut, based on a script by Wiig and her “Bridesmaids” co-writer Annie Mumolo. There’s a script called “Step Friend” by “Bride Wars” writers Casey Wilson and June Diane Raphael in the works, along with April Prosser’s “Plus One,” which has Jessica Chastain and Cecily Strong attached, plus Harper Dill’s “Friend of Bill” with Lizzy Caplan.
Everything set up at Gloria has a female-centric storyline, and often a woman filmmaker, though there are exceptions. “Women in Business,” for example, is being helmed by Jake Szymanski. “He’s right for the material and I want to get the movie made,” Elbaum reasons. “We want to make as much as possible with the right people.” And while their focus is primarily comedic, Elbaum says they hope to branch out, like McKay did with “The Big Short.”
Since the formation of the company was announced in February 2014, Elbaum says the response has been overwhelming. “It’s changed my life,” she enthuses. “It’s validating, it’s exciting, and it’s everything I hoped it would be. It’s fun to be supported not just by the guys, but by the community. And we’re a go-to place for so many women, it’s great to get those calls, from writers, directors, actresses.”
And why the name Gloria? The Laura Brannigan album cover on the wall of Elbaum’s office is just an homage given to her by a friend the day they launched. In truth, it was really mostly for consistency. “We imagined this partner to Gary Sanchez, and it’s the best ‘G’ name I could think of,” she says. “We love the idea of Gary and Gloria together and when I came to them with it, they supported it and loved it and we laughed about it.”