How Hello Sunshine Hit Its Limited Series Moves – IndieWire

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The honest answer to why Hello Sunshine has had such a prolific TV season is the pandemic.

“Timing has a lot to do with COVID because there was a moment where everything was quiet, but we were still working, so we were moving these different things forward,” said Lauren Levy Neustadter, president of media film and TV. Co-founded by actress and mogul Reese Witherspoon. “When it was safe to go back and shoot, these shows started and they all came together in a very similar window.”

Now entering the 2023 Emmy season, the company has not only signed up for a television movie and two drama series, but four outstanding limited or anthology series — more than some major networks. “From Scratch” (Netflix), “Daisy Jones and the Six” (Prime Video), “Tiny Beautiful Things” (Hulu) and “The Last Thing He Told Me” (Apple TV+) are all very different shows, but together it’s an excellent example of how Hello Sunshine managed to turn limited series adaptations of popular books into bread and butter in just seven years.

PAMELA, A LOVE STORY (aka PAMELA: A LOVE STORY), Pamela Anderson, 2023. © Netflix / Courtesy Everett Collection

The USA and the Holocaust

As for how a project gets there, Neustadter told IndieWire via Zoom, “We always ask ourselves when we read material that we love, especially if it happens to be a novel, ‘What’s the best way to to that, tell me the story?’ And sometimes, if it’s within a three-act structure, it’s a movie. If it seems more episodic, but the ending point is clear, then it is a limited series. If it’s episodic and you can see it going through seasons and seasons and seasons, then it feels right to keep going.” It just so happened that the four books with the same name as the aforementioned series “reached an incredibly satisfying conclusion,” said the producer.

That kind of sharp analysis is exactly what helped the company acquire the rights to adapt Taylor Jenkins Reid’s novel Daisy Jones and the Six before it became a huge bestseller.

“Everybody wanted to make it a different movie. We really saw it as a series. And conversations with Taylor read: “We really like your book, and Scott (Neustadter) has these ideas (screenwriter). We don’t want to shrink it down to three acts, we want to let it breathe.’” It should also be noted that the show’s co-creator Scott Neustadter (“500 Days of Summer,” “The Disaster Artist”). so he happens to be the husband of the CEO of Hello Sunshine, which is a more extreme example of how much success the company has had using its network.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - FEBRUARY 27: Directors Lauren Levy Neustadter and Scott Neustadter attend the
Lauren Levy Neustadter and Scott NeustadterArturo Holmes/Getty Images

Although Neustadter clarified that the film and TV division is separate from Reese’s Book Club, it’s not always the case that the latter’s monthly selections (i.e., “The Last Thing He Said to Me”) immediately become the next literary adaptation. the team started to prepare.

“When I or a member of my team reads a book and we love a book, whether we feel the adaptation is right or not, if we think the book club community will love it, we 100% flag it and Reese chooses these books herself, so she reads these books and if they include our recommendations,” the executive said. “The truth is, sometimes we read something and say, ‘You know what? It’s not obvious to us as a show or a movie, but oh my gosh, I loved this book and it seems like such an obvious book club choice. So we send it there somehow. And vice versa.”

A series like “Tiny Beautiful Things” comes from Witherspoon’s relationship with writer Cheryl Strayed, who produced and starred in the 2014 film adaptation of her memoir “Wild.” For the Hulu series, Hello Sunshine has paired veteran showrunner Liz Tigelaart, who helmed her Emmy-nominated series “Little Fires Everywhere” and wrote for the Emmy-winning series “The Morning Show.”

“Little Fires Everywhere” actually helped lead to “Scratch,” as Neustadter was given the 2019 memoir Tembi Locke by the author’s sister, Attica Locke, who happened to be a writer on the Hulu series, after the producer talked to her about whether they were any good. books about the relationship between mother-in-law and daughter-in-law.

Highlighting the organic nature of how Hello Sunshine’s creative teams were assembled, not only did the “Little Fires Everywhere” alum become the creator and showrunner of “Scratch,” helping her sister navigate the adaptation of her own book, but the production company also tapped director Nzingha Stewart, who directed the Hulu show- he also worked in directing and producing the Netflix limited series.

Stewart, a Shondaland alum recruited by “Little Fires Everywhere” star Kerry Washington, told IndieWire that the call for “Scratch” was as simple as Neustadter saying, “I have this book. I would like you to read it. I only want you, I don’t talk to other directors. We really liked the “Little Fires” block. If she says yes, it’s yours. So I said, “Okay, let me read it. Let me make sure of that.’” On the set of the project, the pair chatted about the director, who worked behind the scenes on “Daisy Jones and the Six.” This is the series that nominated Stewart for Outstanding Directing in a Limited or Limited category. Anthology series or film for his work on the finale “Track 10: Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide”.

From nothing.  (LR) Directed by Nzingha Stewart, Keith David as Hershel Wheeler, Zoe Saldana as Amy Wheeler in episode 101 of From Scratch.  BC Philippe Antonello/Netflix © 2022
Directed by Nzingha Stewart and starring Keith David and Zoe Saldana, who work on ‘From Scratch’.PHILIPPE ANTONELLO/NETFLIX

“Nzingha was so perfect because he’s done so many music videos, and I knew he wanted to get back (to those musical roots and that background),” Neustadter said.

Although he wasn’t available for the first block of episodes, making way for director James Ponsoldt, the producer told Stewart, “How about we do the back half of Daisy together, and it’s all wonderful. concert series and the culmination of all these emotional things we planted the seeds for. And he said, “I’m in.”

It helped that Stewart also produced her Limited Series autobiography, directing episodes of the Emmy-nominated series “Inventing Anna” set in Morocco and an episode of the Netflix hit “Maid.” “I felt comfortable (that) I knew how to do these interesting and fascinating shows about women,” Stewart said. In addition to the fact that both production companies allow her to make a real creative mark on their limited-edition projects rather than conforming to the rigidity of episodic work, “both Shondaland and Hello Sunshine feel unique in that they champion women, that champions. people of color, in that they protect queer people,” said the director. “All of our stories matter, and I don’t take that for granted, and I’m very grateful for that.”

Neustadter noted that Hello Sunshine is exactly what emotions are aiming for with its productions. “Obviously, we’re trying to reach an audience of women who are hoping to see some of their stories reflected on screen. Along with that, I also hope that our stories resonate with male audiences, and for all races and genders and all sexual orientations, I hope that we bring those stories back. Diversity and inclusion are very much part of our mission and priority in storytelling,” said the president of Film & TV.

He also points out that the showrunners they work with are key to this. “That’s actually the benefit of having incredible writers’ rooms.” Making sure we’re very intentional about being inclusive of writers and voices and what their perspective is on the material. ‘What did you see in this book? What was missing from this book? What more did you want from this book?” He added: “That’s one of the gifts of adaptation, and what we’re capable of is really loving what we’ve been given and then asking questions and challenging ourselves. and the amazing writers we bring together… when you have conversations where you’re like, “What could that have been? What was the answer to this question? And then you can really dive into that conversation and see what comes next.”

The last thing he said to me

The stars of these series are also important for the process. “In every single story we tell, a woman is at the center, in an unconventional way. We want to present him as the hero of his own story. We want to pair amazing material with incredible actresses, give them a chance to shine, and also make them feel like their opinions matter to us, because we do, and we treat them as valuable partners, which they are.”

This ended up being Hello Sunshine’s secret recipe for a successful limited series: paying deep attention to your staff at every level, starting with the people whose work is in progress. “I love my job for a million reasons, but one of them is that all of our showrunners are so amazing and thoughtful, and it’s always about respecting the book,” Neustadter said. “What we offer is that we’re incredibly passionate, we care so much, and we’re going to take care of your book, and we’re going to take care of you, and we’re going to do everything we can to get it. was made. Because really, there’s nothing more heartbreaking for me, our team, or Reese than making a promise to an author that we can’t keep.”

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