Daisy Jones & The Six, The Morning Show, Truth Be Told, Something from Tiffany's… you have Josie Craven (partly) to thank for these hit TV shows and movies coming to life. As the senior director of development for film and TV at Reese Witherspoon’s media company Hello Sunshine, Craven and her team touch on every part of the production process—from deciding which books to turn into series to filling writers’ rooms and hiring production heads.
Sometimes she’s on set every day for months, and other times, she’s at Hello Sunshine’s headquarters in Los Angeles, taking meetings with Witherspoon (nbd). But while the strikes in Hollywood rage on (and thousands of productions come to a halt), Craven and the rest of the team are in a holding pattern. But “we’re doing a lot of reading,” she says.
Before we get any further into this story, we’ll address your burning question. What is it like to work with *the* Reese Witherspoon? “Unparalleled. She is just so smart and talented beyond belief. She’s just an amazing human,” says 28-year-old Craven. “She’s so invested in the creative material. I always want to be consuming art on all levels [like her].”
During Craven’s six years at the company (where she worked her way up from an assistant to a coordinator to a creative executive and now, a senior director), she has had a handful of “pinch-me moments.” But there was one that stood out in particular. “Daisy Jones & The Six was one of the greatest experiences ever,” recalls Craven of the Amazon Prime original based on Taylor Jenkins Reid’s best-selling novel about an infamous ‘70s rock group. “I had been an assistant when the show was cast. I drove Sam Claflin [who plays Billy Dune] to his audition.”
Craven was meant to work in the entertainment industry—it’s in her DNA, after all. Her mom is a makeup artist from the UK and her dad is an actor. Craven studied photography at Parsons School of Design in New York City, then switched after two semesters to study culture, media and film. “I always wanted to be a part of the creative process,” she says. “Anytime I read a book, I would always picture it in my head and [imagine] what it would be like if it was a film or television adaptation. Then, someone explained to me what a producer does. I didn’t know that was some job.”
But it was really her time at The Archer School For Girls in LA—where she attended from 7th grade to senior year of high school—that helped foster her dreams. “I look back at it in a very fond way,” she says. “It gave me the freedom to explore many different creative interests I had. And the teachers are just amazing. At The Archer School for Girls is where I learned film photography for the first time. I was obsessed with the dark room. And I was also an athlete.”
One of Craven’s favorite things about attending The Archer School for Girls was the small class sizes—around 16 students per class (the average class size in the US is 24)—which allowed the teachers to invest in each students’ individual growth. It’s also where she met her best friends. “It’s nice to be in an environment where you’re just being the best version of yourself,” says Craven. “There’s not that level of distraction or weird pressure [that you can have being in school with boys].”
Even today, Craven still gives back to the school, giving talks to current students about her career path and what it takes for a woman to live her dream and be successful. But Craven has complicated feelings about the word “success.” “I really try not to measure myself—and myself worth—with words like ‘success’ and with what is happening at work,” she says. “For me, being successful is anyone who is showing up and is trying to add something positive to their life or someone else's life. Am I being empathetic? Am I being a good friend, daughter, sister and partner?”
As for what’s next (read: what’s on her five-year vision board), she’s not much of a planner when it comes to the future. “I just try to be present,” says Craven. “Because with my specific profession, things are always changing. I have to be extremely flexible. I love where I am now, but I would have never thought in a million years that this is what I’d be doing. So, I don’t put too much pressure on myself.”
And now onto Rapid Fire… Who are you inspired by?
“The women in charge of [Hello Sunshine]: Reese Witherspoon, Lauren Neustadter (my boss, who I’ve worked with for the past six years), Sarah Harden (our CEO) and Liz Jenkins (our COO). It’s really inspiring just being in their presence.”
How do you unwind at the end of a long day?
“Reality TV. I watch everything on Bravo. Love Island, Vanderpump Rules and Below Deck are my favorites.”
How many unread emails do you have?
“Zero. My inbox is a to-do list for me.”
What are some qualities you look for in an employee?
“I look for someone who’s clearly very passionate about the company, asks good questions, and is excited and willing to learn.”
Best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
“Always be asking questions. It’s the most important thing.”
Worst piece of advice you’ve ever received?
“Don’t ask for permission, ask for forgiveness.”
What does “girlboss” mean to you?
“Any girl who wakes up and tries that day is a girlboss. It's hard out here to be a girl.”Tomorrow’s leaders begin at The Archer School For Girls. The Archer School for Girls’ mission is to help empower, support, educate and inspire the next generation of young women. Learn more here. And follow The Archer School For Girls on Instagram at @archerschoolforgirls.