The 2021 virtual edition of the Realscreen Summit on Wednesday (January 28) shone the spotlight on an up-and-coming production company, albeit one with a rather illustrious executive roster.
Hillary Rodham Clinton (pictured, top right) and daughter Chelsea Clinton (bottom of screen) joined moderator and television personality Shaun Robinson (top left) for a keynote conversation centered on HiddenLight Productions, their new multi-genre production venture with Sundog Pictures founder Sam Branson.
News about the company first came to light late last year, along with word of the company’s first commission — Gutsy Women, a docuseries for AppleTV+ based on the duo’s book, The Book of Gutsy Women: Favorite Stories of Courage and Resilience. But the establishment of the prodco — which also features former Sundog Pictures CEO Johnny Webb in the CEO role and former Revolt Media CEO Roma Khanna as executive chair — had been in the works since the beginning of 2020, according to the Clintons.
“We’ve had a lot of people who work in content approach us in different aspects about doing things… it was almost an epiphany when Sam reached out,” said Rodham Clinton. Branson touched base with the team to discuss ideas about bringing the Gutsy Women book to the screen, and upon meeting, the former U.S. Secretary of State, First Lady and New York Senator, and her daughter, an acclaimed writer and health advocate, both got a sense that a partnership could be established beyond the one project.
“People are going to have a pent-up need to create and then consume creations once we finally emerge from our lockdowns, quarantines and fears of what’s been happening in our world,” continued the former Democratic presidential candidate about the partnership behind HiddenLight. “You want someone with a similar sensibility, someone with the same views but also different world experiences, different ideas of what can be done together… Here [with Sam and his team] were people that would be fun to work with.. We would not always agree… but we would find common ground.”
The team also discussed bringing the project to buyers and the process of landing at AppleTV+, with Rodham Clinton saying: “We enjoyed our conversations with a lot of the buyers we were talking to. We felt a real sense of kinship with Apple and what they want to do with their platform.”
Both women also expressed keen interest in optioning more book projects and maintained that the company would cover a wide range of subject matter and genres with its content. Recently, HiddenLight announced that it has series adaptation rights to author Gayle Tzemach Lemmon’s The Daughters of Kobani, which details an all-female Kurdish militia that fought ISIS in Northern Syria. And while both projects focus on inspiring stories centered around women, Chelsea Clinton offered, “While clearly we have a deep commitment to sharing women’s stories, we hope you won’t only pitch us women’s stories,” adding that the team is extremely interested in “things that are affirmative and positive and not sarcastic or mean.”
Hillary Rodham Clinton, for her part, agreed, emphasizing the range that the company hopes to encompass, from a genre and subject matter perspective. Maintaining that the company doesn’t want to be “pigeonholed,” she added that HiddenLight was willing to explore myriad points of view — along as they don’t veer into the territory of “harmful conspiracy theories.”
“We’re open to different points of view because we want a respectful, informed debate,” she said. “There are some points of view that are not interested in either respect or facts and i don’t think they would find a home with us, but for people who have different ideas about how we should tackle a big problem… absolutely. We are very broad-minded and very broadly interested in different types of stories.”