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Fact on Pacts: Studios Have Few First-Look Deals With Women

Amid the massive challenges facing Hollywood, the six major studios have added to their number of producer deals for a total of 139, four more than a year ago — but only about half the number there were at the turn of the millennium. The names of some of the players have changed. Some deals, such as Clint Eastwood’s with Warner Bros., are decades old; others, such as the longtime Ron Howard-Brian Grazer pact at Universal, are no more.

What’s startling, however, is that the number of female-led companies with producing deals at the majors has scarcely changed, despite the constant call for female empowerment in Hollywood. That number grew from 19 to 20, less than 15% of all deals, even with the enormous success of Patty Jenkins’ “Wonder Woman.” And the additional deal — Amblin Partners’ pact with Kathleen Kennedy and Frank Marshall — is merely a bit of paperwork, as the indie studio was incorporated into Universal.

“The value of women in the marketplace seems to be a lesson that continues to be learned,” muses Nina Jacobson, who has a first-look deal at Fox. “It keeps needing to be reaffirmed every time it happens, such as with ‘Wonder Woman.’”

The first-look deal remains a bit of a gold standard in Hollywood. Studios provide the overhead plus some funds for development in exchange for having first dibs on movie
projects. Jacobson was a longtime Disney exec before moving into producing a decade ago and helping to establish the “Hunger Games” franchise, starring Jennifer Lawrence. The four films delivered almost $3 billion in worldwide grosses.

“It’s become so tough to get movies made, and it’s such an uncertain line of work,” Jacobson notes. “You really have no idea what kind of year you’re going to have.”

Most of the female-led producer deals are at the two studios headed by women: Universal, topped by Donna Langley, includes deals with Elizabeth Banks, Deborah Forte, Tina Fey, Eva Longoria, Charlize Theron and Samantha Vincent; Fox, with Stacey Snider at the helm, has pacts with Jacobson and Karen Rosenfelt, as well as three animation deals with women or firms founded by women.

Lori McCreary, co-president of the Producers Guild of America and Morgan Freeman’s longtime producing partner, says it’s crucial that Snider and Langley are calling the shots at studios. “When I made my first film, Sherry Lansing was running Paramount, so it never occurred to me that women shouldn’t be producers and have studio deals,” she says. “Any time there’s a woman able to greenlight a film, it makes a difference. For the health and future of our business, it’s important to inspire the next generation of women to take up producing, which will happen more often if they have mentors and role models to emulate.”

Gale Anne Hurd, who was something of a pioneer for producing the first two “Terminator” movies, says that first-look film deals are not as important as they used to be since so many movies are co-financed.

“Everyone is working in TV, even people like Nina Jacobson and Dede Gardner, who’s won Oscars for ‘12 Years a Slave’ and ‘Moonlight,’” Hurd says. “Women producers are thriving, and many of them have TV deals. I’ve got mine with Universal Cable, and I’m not looking for a movie deal. Having done both, I have to say that TV is a producer’s medium, while features are a director’s medium. In TV, you get to work with great directors, but at the end of the day, it’s the producers who are on the call. In the same amount of time I would need to produce a two-hour movie, I can produce 32 hours of TV.”

“A woman able to greenlight a film makes a difference.”
Lori McCreary, PGA

Bruna Papandrea, who teamed with Reese Witherspoon in producing “Wild,” “Gone Girl” and “Big Little Lies,” says that success is what shifts attitudes in Hollywood. “The big change for me came when ‘Wild’ came out,” she notes. “And there’s been a big change in the past six months with ‘Wonder Woman,’ which is a real silver bullet. It’s been so successful. I think it’s really changed how hiring takes place.”

Papandrea says she sees the industry adjusting more quickly in TV. She adds that she and Witherspoon were offered term deals at studios but turned them down. “We did have a deal for a couple of years at ABC, but the film deals that were proposed were never right for me,” she says.

Universal production chief Peter Cramer cites films like “Girls Trip” and “Trainwreck” as examples of Universal’s inclusive approach. “Our term deals reflect our business strategy: to have a diverse and eclectic slate. That’s always been part of the conversation since I’ve been here. We’ve found that you can program for a specific audience and broaden out from there, as we did with ‘Get Out,’ ‘Straight Outta Compton,’ ‘Trainwreck’ and ‘Girls Trip.’ These all became event films.”

McCreary admits she’s perplexed at the low number of first-look deals for women, given that 45% of the PGA’s membership is female. She allows that there’s still a tendency for studios to go with the tried-and-true.

“In Hollywood, there’s a lot of talk about how the industry needs to think outside the box and reach out of its comfort zone to find talent from diverse backgrounds,” she says. “For this to happen, change needs to start at the top, and studios are in a unique position to impact the entire process. Now more than ever, these types of conversations are taking place, and it’s starting to get people to think differently about who they work with and the types of projects they take on. But change takes time.”

VIEW AND DOWNLOAD FACTS ON PACTS PDF HERE

FIRST-LOOK DEALS

*New Pacts

Disney

Buenos Aires Prods.
Mario Iscovich
Lucamar Prods.
John DeLuca, Rob Marshall
Mandeville Films
David Hoberman, Todd Lieberman
Mayhem Pictures
Gordon Gray
Secret Machine 
Justin Springer
Taylor Made Film Prods.
Brigham Taylor
Whitaker Entertainment
Jim Whitaker

Fox

Bad Hat Harry Prods.
Bryan Singer
Boom! Studios
Ross Richie, Stephen Christy
Chernin Entertainment
Peter Chernin
Epic Magazine
Josh Bearman, Josh Davis
Feigco
Paul Feig
Film Rites
Steve Zaillian
Flitcraft
Scott Frank
*Franklin Entertainment
DeVon Franklin
Genre Films
Simon Kinberg
Hutch Parker Entertainment
Hutch Parker
*Khalabo Ink Society
Kenya Barris
Jeremy Latcham
Lightstorm
James Cameron
New Regency
Arnon Milchan
(equity partner w/ all Fox divisions)
Oddball Entertainment
Wes Ball
*Anthony Russo
*Joe Russo
Scott Free
Ridley Scott
6th & Idaho
Matt Reeves
Temple Hill Entertainment
Wyck Godfrey, Marty Bowen
21 Laps
Shawn Levy
26 Keys Prods.
Noah Hawley, John Cameron
Walden Media (co-financing)

Fox Animation

*Nick Bruno
*Galen Chu
*Peter de Sève
*Karen Disher
*John Donkin
*Lori Forte

*Locksmith Animation
Sarah Smith, Julie Lockhart
*Steve Martino
*Troy Quane
*Brian Vincent Rhodes
*Carlos Saldanha
*Mike Thurmeier
*Michael Travers
*Chris Wedge

Fox Searchlight

Court 13
Benh Zeitlin
Decibel Films
Danny Boyle

Fox 2000

Color Force
Nina Jacobson
*DJ Films
Damian Jones
Holden Glass
John Green
State Street Pictures
George L. Tillman Jr., Robert Teitel
Sunswept Entertainment
Karen Rosenfelt

Paramount

Bad Robot
J.J. Abrams
Broadway Video
Lorne Michaels
Jerry Bruckheimer Films
Jerry Bruckheimer
Ian Bryce Prods.
Ian Bryce
Di Bonaventura Pictures
Lorenzo di Bonaventura
Robert Evans Co.
Robert Evans
*GK Films
Graham King
Hasbro
Brian Goldner, Stephen Davis
Hello Junior
Johnny Knoxville
Platinum Dunes
Michael Bay, Brad Fuller, Andrew Form
*Protozoa Pictures
Darren Aronofsky
Saw Mill Prods.
Josh Appelbaum, Andre Nemec
Sikelia Prods.
Martin Scorsese
Skydance
David Ellison, Dana Goldberg
(includes co-financing)
*Weed Road Pictures
Akiva Goldsman

Sony

Arad Prods.
Avi Arad, Elizabeth Cantillon
Escape Artists
Todd Black, Jason Blumenthal, Steve Tisch
*Antoine Fuqua
Ghost Corps
Dan Aykroyd, Ivan Reitman
Happy Madison
Adam Sandler (includes animation)
Immersive Pictures
Josh Bratman
T.D. Jakes
Laurence Mark Prods.
Laurence Mark
Mosaic
Jimmy Miller
Olive Bridge Entertainment
Will Gluck
Original Film
Neal Moritz
Overbrook Entertainment
Will Smith, James Lassiter
Pascal Pictures
Amy Pascal
Smoke House
George Clooney, Grant Heslov
Studio 8
Jeff Robinov (distribution only)
Matt Tolmach Prods.
Matt Tolmach
*2.0 Entertainment
Doug Belgrad

Universal

Aggregate Films
Jason Bateman
Apatow Prods.
Judd Apatow
*Blackmaled Prods.
Malcolm D. Lee
Blumhouse Prods.
Jason Blum
Brownstone Prods.
Elizabeth Banks, Max Handelman
Captivate Entertainment
Jeffrey Weiner, Ben Smith
Chris Morgan Prods.
Chris Morgan
*Denver and Delilah Prods.
Charlize Theron, Beth Kono, A.J. Dix
Dylan Clark Prods.
Dylan Clark
Esmail Corp.
Sam Esmail
Gold Circle Entertainment
Paul Brooks
Illumination Entertainment
Chris Meledandri
Legendary
Little Stranger
Tina Fey
Marc Platt Prods.
Marc Platt
Michael De Luca Prods.
Michael De Luca
*Monkeypaw Prods.
Jordan Peele
One Race Films
Vin Diesel, Samantha Vincent
Scholastic
Secret Hideout
Alex Kurtzman
Silvertongue Films
Deborah Forte
Skybound Entertainment
Robert Kirkman, David Alpert
*UnbeliEVAble Entertainment
Eva Longoria
Will Packer Prods.
Will Packer
Working Title Films
Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner

Amblin Partners

Kennedy/Marshall
Kathleen Kennedy, Frank Marshall

Warner Bros.

Alcon Entertainment
Andrew Kosove, Broderick Johnson
(distribution only)
Berlanti Prods.
Greg Berlanti
Cruel and Unusual
Zack Snyder, Deborah Snyder
De Line Pictures
Donald De Line
Di Novi Pictures
Denise Di Novi
Gerber Pictures
Bill Gerber
Gulfstream
Mike Karz, Bill Bindley (co-financier)
Heyday
David Heyman
Langley Park
Kevin McCormick
Life’s Too Short
Chuck Lorre
Lin Pictures
Dan Lin
*LuckyChap Entertainment
Margot Robbie, Mad Chance, Andrew Lazar
Malpaso
Clint Eastwood, Chris McKay
Pearl Street
Ben Affleck, Matt Damon
Todd Phillips-Bradley Cooper
Polymorphic
Polly Johnsen
Rat-Pac Entertainment
Brett Ratner (includes co-financing with Rat-Pac Dune Ent.)
Guy Ritchie, Lionel Wigram
Roserock Films
Hunt Lowry
*Safehouse
Joby Harold, Tory Tunnell
Vertigo
Roy Lee
Village Roadshow
Bruce Berman (co-financier only)
Wychwood
David Yates

New Line

Atomic Monster
James Wan
Flynn Picture Co.
Beau Flynn
*Good Fear Film + Management
Chris Bender
SpringHill Entertainment
LeBron James, Maverick Carter
Wrigley Pictures 
John Rickard]

Bold Films

Nine Stories
Jake Gyllenhaal
Red Hour Films
Ben Stiller

IM Global

*Infinitum Nihil
Johnny Depp, Christi Dembrowski

New Regency

Blind Winks Prods.
Gore Verbinski
David Fincher
Steve McQueen

Sierra/Affinity

*SMB Films
Scott Bernstein

Amazon Studios

*Bona Fide Prods.
Albert Berger, Ron Yerxa
*Killer Films
Christine Vachon, Pamela Koffler
*Le Grisbi Prods.
John Lesher
Sea Change Media
Casey Affleck

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