How Rom Coms will save the world

{a meet-cute manifesto}

Romantic comedies are the sorority girls of movie genres: They’re both easy targets; the last bastion of politically correct mockery.

A lot of people don’t want to be associated with either. But not me.

I, Rachel Upshaw (screenwriter, entrepreneur & ΚΚΓ) am doubling down on romantic comedies — and on the global audience of women raised on Disney’s promise of Happily Ever After.

Sure, we’re wise enough now to realize reality versus fairytale, but every once in awhile we can’t help but need a little nibble of Nostalgic Magic. (Aka why SATC reruns will always be a thing, and how The Bachelor managed to spawn 30 seasons of predictable drama for our bi-annual consumption.)

Mark my words, there is a billion dollar female-focused movie market waiting to be conquered, and I’ve come to sit on the Iron Rom Com Throne. (Here are my dragons.)

Unmet Need

If you were a girl on the ’90s Slumber Party Circuit, you know we grew up in the greatest movie generation of all time. We had Reese, Sandra, Julia, and our Patron Saint, Nora Ephron. Blockbuster sold us on the idea of feminism* up and down its aisles whether we recognized it or not. We were the ultimate unironic #blessed, y’all.

*90’s Rom Com feminism was almost exclusively hetero-white, which in woke 2016 we now know is not true feminism because feminism just means equality. Fortune.Movie will equally represent our fans.

Our formative years were filled with complicated women who followed their hearts, got life-changing haircuts, and proved themselves equal to their male counterparts.

Not afraid to admit Pretty Woman remains one of my favorite movies to this day. Sure Viv was a hooker, but she encouraged a generation of ladies to stand up for their self-worth and make the system work for them.

Yet you can only watch Pretty Woman (or Bridget Jones, Legally Blonde, or When Harry Met Sally) so many times before you want a new flavor to savor. In a world full of reboots, we crave something fresh.

So I started writing.

Market Research

As a professional consumer I’ve also made it my duty to sample every new movie on Netflix or Amazon billed as a Romantic Comedy, you know, as market research, not just as a socially acceptable excuse to never leave my house. Takeaway learning: The entertainment we’re looking for is no longer on Hollywood’s menu.

Either it’s a movie featuring women “from the Guy who brought you Bridesmaids and GIRLS” — or more likely, based on the state of Hollywood’s top-one-percenter economy — it’s a “No Budget” indie love story filmed in a parking lot. Both have their merits, but neither satiates our Nostalgic Magic appetite.

This is because Rom Coms require a shellacked layer of escapism that costs money to produce. I’m not saying female actors pulling in eight-figure paychecks need to gazelle around in Louboutins, but for the love of all things holy in Hollywood, please make this movie more entertaining than real life. Read my lips: Set Piece Required.

In addition to my VOD research, I’ve also spent the past three years getting pity slopped on my feet at networking happy hours while peddling my good ol’ fashioned Rom Com aspirations. I once even paid $50 for (credible) industry feedback that listed “a movie about women’s 1st world problems” in the ‘con’ section of his notes.

“No one is going to make your $5 million PG-13 Romantic Comedy.”

Here’s my Bitmoji, hear her roar.

Disruptive Opportunity

As a screenwriter, nothing would make me happier than writing the next generation of slumber party classics, but as a dark-souled capitalist with a B.S. degree in P.R. (you can’t make that up), all I can see is the scalability.

We’re at an Opportunity Vortex — an unprecedented intersection of technological access and global distribution. Why is the Hollywood film distribution ecosystem still based on a 20th-century business model?

How much longer can we judge the success of a film (or a genre, or a “niche” audience, e.g. half the population) based on how many humans are willing to leave their houses at the same time on the same Friday to fight for that same fifth floor Grove parking spot?

Don’t get me wrong, I will always love going to the theater. But why would I unless it’s Star Wars? (Or that day after Christmas when you’re done with family time.) Not sure which happened first, the TV-took-all-the-talent chicken or movies-started-to-get-dumber egg, but either way we now we live in the post-poultry-analogy-apocalypse where everything should always be available instantaneously at our fingertips, no matter its length, your labels mean nothing to me. (Why yes I am a Millennial, how sweet of you to ask.)

Four years ago I cut the cord and dove head first into a Tetris-like world of subscription video-on-demand (SVOD) services as well as their more practical cousins transactional video-on-demand (TVOD). I’ve sampled what all Netflix, iTunes, Amazon, Hulu, and HBONow have to offer. For an industry that will reach $100 billion in the less than a decade, as a consumer, I feel like I should have some other options. I’m ready for what’s next. So I started thinking,

A few Oprah Aha Moments later, I’d like to introduce you to:

Fortune.Movie: [deep breath] a global, mobile, vertical, digital movie platform that monetizes the peer-to-peer distribution power of social media within niche audiences.

What? Sorry, you don’t speak VC-Startup sexy talk? How about, “What if Kickstarter and Netflix had a baby?”

We let fans invest in the stories they want to see come to life. We make a movie where you think, “Wow that was a great use of $5” because when the movie comes out, you actually own it. And, if you want, you can tell your friends to watch the movie too. Every time one of them pays $5 to stream it on, you get $1.

Then we do it again with the next installment of the series. And for other stories that represent other points-of-view. Maybe within other niches. Other genres. The skies the limit to creating opportunities for storytellers and fans to live the VOD dream that was but a twinkle in my pre-teen ’90s eye.

Like the time some Uber dudes were like, “Ugh we love the idea of hitchhiking, but how can we get it to be monetized and mainstream?” I too see a void in the market and the digital solution that could turn into a billion dollar company.

Future Impact

In case you’ve been living under the rock of white male privilege, no one likes women, no one likes women who make movies, and no one likes women making movies about women.

Except for women who like movies. We exist on a global scale!

Geena Davis invested in proving that women have been systemically oppressed by Hollywood since its inception. According to a report by USC researchers, the number of women hasn’t changed since the 1940s.

I heard this statistic while sitting among a dome full of smart, accomplished women at the 2015 Arclight Theater’s Women in Entertainment Summit. We should just make our own opportunities, I thought.

Then I started examining Hollywood’s business model. Thanks to my struggling-writer-outsider-slash-former-corporate-consultant vantage point, I could see the big picture:

Over the past decade, Hollywood decision makers have come to rely on the same logic as 2007 Wall Street traders: Gamble big or you’re a pussy. The Big Short Spoiler Alert: “This is why we can’t have nice things.”

It would seem obvious for studios to diversify their development pipelines so they have a solid revenue cycle when the inevitable superhero fatigue sets in, but studios seem unwavering in their dedication to the Bro Status Quo.

Although there was a point in time when Hollywood plied young women with so many empowering female-focused movies that they had to rewrite a gritty LA hooker drama into a Rom Com just to ensure it made money, today the most we can hope for is a studio exec greenlighting, “Pretty Woman, but with an AI robot hooker!”

Big Mistake. Huge Mistake.

Opening Belle, a novel by a former Bear Stearns’ Managing Director, opines IF women had been on executive boards of the major banks, their complementary perspectives could have averted the ship from the recession iceberg. Let’s not let Hollywood fail for the same reasons.

Incidentally, this book is being turned into a movie by Reese Witherspoon’s production company (and I cannot wait to spend money to watch it), but even if this movie is a huge success, the market won’t be flooded with an onslaught of clever, engaging films by women about women.

Reese, Meryl, Shonda, Elizabeth Banks, Lena Dunham, and all the Amys can only move one bucket of water at a time, and it will take a billion-dollar tsunami of female-focused content before the monolithic studio monopoly pauses to take notice.

It’s time for women to take the lead in building new, future-focused equality-based frameworks for operation. Our ideas are valid. Our networks are strong. Our foresight is paramount.

Why is it my mission to make the next generation of romantic comedies?

  • Over 10 million sets of eyeballs still check into the manufactured romance factory that is The Bachelor franchise proving there is a sizable market for Nostalgic Magic.
  • The global beauty market will reach $265 billion next year illustrating how much women will spend on things that make them feel good.
  • If we don’t start creating the jobs we want to have, we’re never going to get them.

Are you onboard? Please sign up at for more information.

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