Reese Witherspoon helps build female film careers


The Oscar-winning actress
has teamed up
with Fresh Films and AT&T
to create
a summer filmmaking lab
for teen females

Though women make up 50% of moviegoers, they represent only 17% of creators in Hollywood, outnumbered by men in most roles within film and TV production, from writing and cinematography to production and editing jobs.

To address this gender imbalance and bring more diversity to the screen, Augustana College’s Fresh Films, a longtime supporter of teen filmmakers, has joined forces with AT&T and Reese Witherspoon’s (Big Little Lies) production company, Hello Sunshine, to create the “AT&T Hello Sunshine Filmmaker Lab,” an unforgettable opportunity for young women to immerse themselves in a professional film production and learn from industry experts, including Witherspoon herself.

Fresh Films, the non-profit arm of Dreaming Tree Films, has been engaging youth behind the camera and creating youth-targeted TV shows, films and original content since 2002. Budding teen filmmakers have worked on over 150 short films, documentaries and features, including recent productions The Stream, a coming-of-age family comedy, benefitting Boys & Girls Clubs of America and featuring Rainn Wilson, Kelly Rutherford and Mario Lopez; Moochie Kalala Detectives Club, an Emmy-nominated science TV show for kids featuring Tim Kazurinsky; Traveling Without Moving starring Steve Guttenberg and Harry Lennix.

Teaming with Witherspoon and AT&T was a natural next step for the company. Female directors consistently employ more diverse production teams and casts, and films with diverse cast enjoy the highest median global box office. In short, bringing voices of women to the industry means making better and higher grossing movies.

“Everyone at Hello Sunshine is ecstatic about this program where we can share our resources with young female storytellers and filmmakers,” says Witherspoon, “Hopefully, it will provide young women with the tools to tell their own stories , and ultimately, start a chain reaction that leads to continued access and opportunity for them in our industry.” Watch her video below:



Through the AT&T Hello Sunshine Filmmaker Lab, which will be held in Los Angeles July 30-Aug. 6, teen girls will learn the ins-and-outs of storytelling and production as they rotate through all key filmmaking positions – from camera and editing to sound and costume – while being mentored by professionals from Fresh Films, AT&T and Hello Sunshine.

The program is free and open to teen girls of any experience level. And like in all Fresh Films programs, teen girls in the AT&T Hello Sunshine Filmmaker Lab program will gain career skills and practical experience on a real project. This hands-on, on-set experience will grow the teen’s problem solving, communication, collaboration and tech skills.

ALSO READ: Reel Women: Sarah Clark, Casting Director

According to research compiled by Women and Hollywood, the inclusion of more female perspectives at all levels within the film industry results in more diverse and interesting storytelling. “AT&T is excited to collaborate with Hello Sunshine and Fresh Films to support the next generation of female filmmakers,” said Charlene Lake, Senior Vice President, Corporate Social Responsibility, AT&T.  “It is critical that we develop a pipeline of talent who will create content that captures diverse perspectives and stories.  We’re looking forward to working with the exceptional young women selected for this program and supporting their journey as storytellers.”

“Fresh Films was a great program to work with. I thought the skills they were offering to teach were so priceless,” said Maya Brown, a Fresh Films alum who participated in the summer program sponsored by AT&T in 2017. “AT&T did a great job by sponsoring this program through influencing young minds to invest their time in something productive and magical.”

Hello Sunshine was launched in November 2016 by Reese Witherspoon in partnership with The Chernin Group and AT&T under Otter Media’s growing portfolio. Some of the film and TV projects that have already been announced by Hello Sunshine include the highly-anticipated limited Hulu original series from Reese Witherspoon and Kerry Washington, based on Celeste Ng’s 2017 bestseller Little Fires Everywhere; a 10-episode comedy series for Apple executive produced by and starring Kristen Wiig that was created by Colleen McGuinness (30 Rock) and inspired by Curtis Sittenfeld’s upcoming short-story collection You Think It, I’ll Say It; Are You Sleeping, executive produced by and starring Octavia Spencer, which is based on the true-crime novel by Kathleen Barber that is created and written by Nichelle Tramble Spellman (The Good Wife, Justified) for Apple.

Girls 13-18 with a passion for storytelling and creating videos can apply here now through June 10 to become one of 20 teen girls selected for the experience.

Contact Colin Costello at or follow him on Twitter @colincostello10.