The latest round of first-look production deals have been finalized and, according to a report from Variety, there are very few pacts with women-led organizations. Of the 139 total first-look deals, 20 are with female-driven production companies, amounting to about 14 percent. This marks a superficial and slight increase from last year’s 19 deals. “The additional deal — Amblin Partners’ pact with Kathleen Kennedy and Frank Marshall,” the source writes, “is merely a bit of paperwork, as the indie studio was incorporated into Universal.”
First-look deals see “studios provide the overhead plus some funds for development in exchange for having first dibs on movie projects,” Variety writes. And if this report’s numbers are any indication, studios are not that interested in doing business with women or developing women’s stories.
“The value of women in the marketplace seems to be a lesson that continues to be learned,” observes “Hunger Games” producer Nina Jacobson, who is under a first-look deal at Fox. “It keeps needing to be reaffirmed every time it happens, such as with ‘Wonder Woman.’”
That’s a good point. You’d think that the success of apparent game-changers like “Wonder Woman” and “Girls Trip” would be enough to convince studios that first-look deals with women-led companies are simply smart investments. But it’s not.
The studios with the highest number of first-look deals with women are, unsurprisingly, led by women themselves. Universal, headed by Donna Langley, has pacts with Charlize Theron, Tina Fey, Elizabeth Banks, Eva Longoria, and more. Fox, topped by Stacey Snider, has deals with Jacobson, Karen Rosenfelt (“Twilight”), and animators Karen Disher, Lori Forte, and Locksmith Animation’s Sarah Smith and Julie Lockhart.
PGA co-president and “Invictus” producer Lori McCreary believes that, in order for more women to achieve first-look deals, there needs to be more women in leadership positions. “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,” McCreary told Variety. “Any time there’s a woman able to greenlight a film, it makes a difference.”
McCreary added, “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.” “For this to happen, change needs to start at the top,” she continued. “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.”
Yes, it does — but there’s no time like the present. Women comprise 52 percent of moviegoers. Top-grossing films with female protagonists gross an average of $50 million more than films featuring male protagonists. And female-written films receive the highest return on investment at the box office. With figures like that, studios should be making first-look deals with female-led production companies their №1 priority.
Below are all the women with first-look studio deals. List adapted from Variety. For more information on the studios’ current first-look deals, check out Variety’s “Facts on Pacts” publication.
Sarah Smith and Julie Lockhart, Locksmith Animation
Nina Jacobson, Color Force
Karen Rosenfelt, Sunswept Entertainment
Dana Goldberg, Skydance (with David Ellison)
Elizabeth Cantillon, Arad Prods. (with Avi Arad)
Amy Pascal, Pascal Pictures
Elizabeth Banks, Brownstone Prods. (with Max Handelman)
Charlize Theron and Beth Kono, Denver and Delilah Prods. (with A.J. Dix)
Tina Fey, Little Stranger
Samantha Vincent, One Race Films(with Vin Diesel)
Deborah Forte, Silvertongue Films
Eva Longoria, UnbeliEVAble Entertainment
Kathleen Kennedy (with Frank Marshall) (Kennedy/Marshall)
Deborah Snyder (with Zack Snyder) (Cruel and Unusual)
Denise Di Novi (Di Novi Pictures)
Margot Robbie (LuckyChap Entertainment)
Polly Johnsen (Polymorphic)
Tory Tunnell (with Joby Harold) (Safehouse)
Christi Dembrowski (with Johnny Depp) (Infinitum Nihil)
Christine Vachon and Pamela Koffler (Killer Films)
Report: Just 14 Percent of Studio First-Look Deals Are With Women-Led Companies was originally published in Women and Hollywood on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.