Courtesy of Mallory Edens ’18
“Doing anything creative is incredibly entrepreneurial. I wish we celebrated that more,” Edens says

In 2020, Mallory Edens ’18 founded Little Ray Media, a production company based in Los Angeles with a mission to tell stories by and about women and girls through the financing, development, and production of film and TV. The company’s first project, Bad Genius, which wrapped production in summer 2023, is an English-language remake of a 2017 Thai film by the same name, the highest-grossing film in Thai box office history. The story centers around a girl who develops a scheme to help her classmates cheat on standardized tests. 

“Why I love Bad Genius as Little Ray’s first film is [that] the lead character, Lynn, is transgressive, and yet she’s still worthy of her place as a protagonist,” says Edens. “I think women and girls haven’t had as many opportunities to be bad, disagreeable, or transgressive on screen. It was really exciting for me to work on a film whose main character was that kind of person.”

Each year, the USC Annenberg School releases a study on gender and race representation in the film industry. The 2023 study found that only 6% of the directors of the 1,600 top-grossing films made since 2007 have been female. “There are lots of really smart, awesome women working in the industry. It doesn’t compute for me yet how all that talent adds up to that 6%,” Edens says. “I’ve been trying to understand where the bottlenecks in the industry are.”

Edens’ approach to empowering female artists is targeted and methodical. In an industry that often defines representation mainly in terms of visibility, she seeks to understand the structural dynamics that influence the opportunities filmmakers can access. For instance, Edens says, most aspiring directors must prove themselves by making a short film before they are given the opportunity to direct a full-length feature. 

“Is one of the bottlenecks that women don’t get enough money to direct short films? Or do they get enough money to direct their first short, but they don’t, on the basis of those shorts, get the same opportunities to direct their debut feature? Or does the bottleneck come after their first feature? I’m curious where our most meaningful opportunities for impact are.”

Edens is credited as a producer on Bad Genius and Little Ray Media’s second film, Charlie Harper, which is slated to shoot this fall. One of her co-producers on Charlie Harper is Wyck Godfrey ’90, who produced the Twilight Saga, The Maze Runner, The Fault in Our Stars, and more than 50 other films. She says the most stressful part of producing movies is budgeting and reporting to bond companies. A film bond company acts as a guarantor for a film — in other words, insurance that a film will get made. “Reporting to the bond companies is accounting work that isn’t that sexy or fun but is so necessary,” says Edens. She says her favorite parts of producing movies are working on costumes and developing scripts.

“The art of costumes is very fun for me. It marries two industries I’ve worked in and love.” She says finding well-written scripts and working with writers to develop them is fundamental to producing good films. “I think of a great film like a house, and to me, the writer is like the architect of the house. The bones of what the thing ultimately becomes, as well as its constraints, are defined by the writer. Working on a script and iterating with a writer is really exciting to me.” Edens also tells PAW that Little Ray Media recently launched a new vertical within the company, Little Ray Sports, which has an unscripted sports project in development. “Sports content is an area of film and TV that I’m really bullish about,” she says.

Edens graduated with a degree from the Woodrow Wilson School (now the School of Public and International Affairs) and says she encourages more Princeton students to pursue careers in creative industries. 

“Doing anything creative is incredibly entrepreneurial. I wish we celebrated that more,” she says. “That it’s not only an OK thing to do with your Princeton education — who are the arbiters of that anyway? — but that it’s incredible and badass and should be celebrated.”