Will Ferrell’s New Female-Focused Film Company is Good, Bad, and a Little Ugly

Good news, everyone: women in film will soon have a haven in the form of Gloria Sanchez Productions. Now, here comes the bad news: It’s only made possible because Will Ferrell has willed it to be so.

Ferrell, along with Adam McKay and Chris Hechy, has been running strong with his production company Gary Sanchez productions for seven years now, turning out indie and commercial hits like Bachelorette and Anchorman: The Legend Continues. And with the success of Bachelorette and the upcoming Tammy, starring and co-written by Melissa McCarthy, Gary Sanchez has proven its ability to give women at least somewhat of a voice in a largely imbalanced industry.

And with the company’s overflowing slate of dude-bro comedy, creating another partner production company to house a more inclusive branch of comedy isn’t a terrible idea. It is, however, a problematic one. While having another production company out there run by a woman — Gary Sanchez production executive Jessica Elbaum will be running the company and is credited with the idea for its creation — it’s a little frustrating that the successful launch is obtained through the guiding hand of Ferrell, McKay, and Hechy and that it will operate as a lady-friendly arm of Gary Sanchez.

While there are whole handfuls (yes, only handfuls, unfortunately) of women-led production companies out there including Natalie Portman’s Handsomecharlie, which is responsible for Liz Meriweather’s No Strings Attached, and Drew Barrymore’s Flower Films, which has been giving us Drew-y rom-coms since Never Been Kissed, the production world is still lacking a significant gender balance. Giving Elbaum the chance to run her own production company under the macho, largely successful Gary Sanchez banner gives the deal a bit of sour taste. We can have a leading women-in-comedy production company, but only in the safe zone under Ferrell’s successful umbrella.

On that same token, however, women in production are sort of damned if they do and damned if they don’t. Without being a famous actress with a production company slated to produce films you promise to star in, it’s rather difficult for a woman producer to start her own company and compete on the level of a Gary Sanchez-sized house. As much as it makes me cringe to say so, giving Elbaum the Gloria Sanchez branch actually gives her a better shot at finding success and employing more women directors, writers, and producers because she’s playing ball with Hollywood’s boy’s club.

And unfortunately, the mainstream film world doesn’t appear to be getting rid of that boy’s club any time soon; in fact, it hasn’t even managed to improve the gender balance in the last 15 years of movie-making. According to a survey posted in mid-January, among the 250 of the top-grossing U.S. films in 2013 women only accounted for 16 percent of the film production work force, which is 2 percent below 2012 and one percent below 1998. Not exactly inspiring, is it?

While it’s exciting to see a home base for women filmmakers and a chance to begin to really change the male-dominated industry, it’s just unfortunate that it has to come as gender-modified copy of the original comedy-leaning production company.

But there is a bit of a silver lining: perhaps, if Gloria Sanchez is successful, its progress will beget more film jobs for women and with that could come a more balanced view of women in Hollywood productions — the more women we find behind the camera, the more three-dimensional, varied women we find in front of the camera.

It’s one hell of an uphill battle when you look at the gender statistics in Hollywood, but hey, it could happen. And I can promise one thing: when it does happen, we sure as hell won’t be thanking Ferrell, McKay, and Henchy for being the guys who started it all. But if Gloria Sanchez productions and Elbaum do us proud, an honorable mention for her supporters wouldn’t be totally out of the question.

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