The Dynamic Duos
Producing smart film and TV takes creativity, a killer instinct, and fortitude—and sometimes, a partner in crime.

Talking to Rashida Jones and Will McCormack is like watching a romantic comedy starring . . . Rashida Jones and Will McCormack. The two actors met 15 years ago, they began dating, and then, according to Jones, he dumped her. "We were obviously meant to be partners, though not in the way I wanted," Jones says. McCormack claims she made him cry. "I didn't make you cry!" she says. "I just kept it about how you made me feel, and you apologized and we are fine. And this is better, because he can't get me pregnant." The two are, in fact, living happily ever after as cofounders of the production company Le Train Train, which has an impressive five series in development. "You get to a certain age, and it's frustrating having people tell you where to stand all the time," McCormack says. "Even if it's the greatest acting job ever, it's still somebody telling you where to stand." Their screenplay for last year's Celeste and Jesse Forever is indicative of the projects they want to make. "Things that are fundamentally rooted in relationship and that feel grounded," Jones says. Adds McCormack: "Life is big and funny and sad and strange enough to keep it real."

The actress Elizabeth Banks is similarly motivated. She and her producing-partner husband, Max Handelman—cofounders of Brownstone Productions—were behind last year's phenomenally successful Pitch Perfect (a $17 million production that grossed $113 million). Handelman describes her taste as more Everyman-ish, his own as more elitist; what they choose to make—primarily adaptations of books, like the upcoming White Girl Problems—falls somewhere in between. Both would like to see video-on-demand become a viable alternative to theatrical distribution. "Certain types of films won't get made otherwise," Handelman says. The problem, says Banks, is that "VOD still feels disappointing to filmmakers, like the bastard stepchild of the movie business. It needs to feel special, like how Netflix is doing it with TV." In the meantime, they're positioning Brownstone one step to the side of the studio model. "The cost to open and release a film is enormous, and that's why it is still so star-driven," Handelman says. "But the studios aren't trusting the audience enough. The reward when they discover people like Rebel Wilson is so great. At least Universal trusted us with Pitch Perfect," he adds. "Or maybe we just fell below the radar and they didn't care." Banks says, laughing, "I think the latter."

Max Handelman, 40, and Elizabeth Banks, 39 (pictured, left)
Credit Check: Surrogates, Pitch Perfect; upcoming: Tink, Pitch Perfect 2, White Girl Problems, Heist Society
Balance of Power: Banks: "We are very yin and yang." Handelman: "Fire and ice. Liz is very forward-leaning. She brings passion and can sell like crazy. I tend to be more . . ." Banks: "Methodical. Political." Handelman: "Yeah, I think strategically, and then when I feel we're pointed in the right direction, we release the fireball."

Rashida Jones, 37, and Will McCormack, 40 (pictured, right)
Credit Check: Celeste and Jesse Forever; upcoming: ABC's Girls Without Boys, NBC's A to Z, The Revengers, Growing Ivy, Stuck
Production Envy: McCormack: "We want to do things we would either write on or act in or watch." Jones: "Or be jealous of." McCormack: "Yes! Mainly jealous of. Jealousy is just love and hate at the same time." Jones: "Killed it!"

• • •

The 2013 Hollywood Mavericks
 

The Transformer

The New Kings of Doc

The Antiestablishment Exec

The Dynamic Duos
 

The Soundtrack Wizard

The Netflix Natives

The Cutting-Edge Comedians

The Character Actresses
 

The Crowdsourcer

The Creative Capitalists

The Prestige Producer

The Rookie Filmmakers
 

The Indie Auteur