It’s a match made in, well, a romance novel.
Bea and Leah Koch, the sister duo who founded and own Los Angeles’ romance bookstore The Ripped Bodice, have signed an overall deal with Sony Pictures Television, the studio announced on Wednesday. The Koch sisters will partner with Sony to develop romance-focused projects for television based on their unique connection to romance readers and authors.
How the deal came to be is a meet-cute straight out of a classic rom-com, think The Shop Around the Corner. The Ripped Bodice is located in Culver City, Calif., only a few blocks from the Sony Pictures lot. “It actually happened whereby employees of Sony studio walked into our store,” Leah tells EW. “We started talking with them and eventually started imagining what a partnership could look like.”
Lauren Stein, executive vice president of drama development at Sony Pictures Television, tells EW the team was immediately drawn to the sisters’ intelligence and passion for promoting women’s voices when they visited the store. “I’ve been really focusing on female-centric programming and trying to find more female voices,” Stein says. “We went in there and we met Leah and Bea, and they are so fantastic and smart. They focus on female voices and diverse voices, and that was instantly attractive to us.”
In a time when romance is gaining increasing traction in Hollywood, the Koch sisters are poised to make a difference on the small screen, bringing their unique and expert opinions to help shepherd titles to television.
Shonda Rhimes recently announced her production company Shondaland is working on an adaptation of Julia Quinn’s beloved Regency-set Bridgerton series as part of her new Netflix deal. And there are screen adaptations in the work of best-selling rom-coms Helen Hoang’s The Kiss Quotient, Sally Thorne’s The Hating Game, and Christina Lauren’s Roomies. In other words, the time has never been more ripe for the Koch sisters to enter the fray.
Even though we’re seeing a rom-com resurgence in Hollywood currently, Bea notes, few studios are taking advantage of the rich source material of the romance genre. “There are so many amazing rom-coms coming out right now, but very few of them have been based on romance novels,” she says. “That’s what we’re really focused on. Because we love original projects, but romance novels are there and they’re waiting to be optioned and made into things. Like actually seen through to the finished product. We know a lot of romance gets optioned, but we rarely see it get to the finished product.”
Initially, Leah explains, the deal will involve recommending projects to the team at Sony and facilitating relationships between the studio, publishers, and authors. Down the line, as projects get greenlit, Bea says their responsibilities will shift to include The Ripped Bodice as a direct role in marketing efforts. “We have access to this community and we hope we’ve built their trust and we hope they’ll trust us to make the projects we all want to see,” she adds.
The sisters aren’t shy about admitting a deal of this nature was always something they envisioned for themselves since the store first opened in 2016. They are admirably unapologetic about their goals. “We like to be honest about how ambitious we are. We think more female entrepreneurs should be honest about how ambitious they are. We hoped,” Bea says. “We thought being in Los Angeles that we would be uniquely placed to do something like this.”
They had talked with an assortment of producers and industry folk over the last two years, but the sisters were particularly impressed by Sony’s vision. “We were excited to hear that they were excited about focusing on diverse projects and women’s voices, which is our raison d’etre,” notes Bea.
Leah adds that their top priority from the get-go will be to raise up diverse voices. “Our number one priority is working with authors of color and getting a seat at the table that we have been offered and making sure Hollywood knows about their books,” she says.
“The world we live in is really diverse,” adds Stein. “It’s important to find those new stories and new voices. That is something really important Leah and Bea also value. It’s opening up our world to different people.”
The romance genre has always been a feminist endeavor — a product made largely by and for women. As the genre has evolved to be more reflective of the world around it and romance publishing continues to examine its startling lack of inclusivity, Hollywood rom-coms need to do the same — something the Koch sisters can’t wait to be a part of as this partnership kicks off.
“We love movies and TV as much as we love romance novels,” Bea says. “We also love the rom-coms of an era past, but when we’ve been watching them recently, we think some of them need a rewrite. We need some rom-coms with more modern views on gender and sexuality and a woman’s role in a relationship and what that is.”
And that’s a happily-ever-after the world deserves.