The financial world has been explored on the big screen from Gordon Gekko’s greed in “Wall Street” to the housing market bust in “The Big Short,” but a movie has never looked at this cutthroat world from a female perspective — until now.
For over two years, the movie “Equity” was the passion project of actresses Alysia Reiner (Natalie Figueroa in “Orange Is the New Black”) and Sarah Megan Thomas, who — along with screenwriter Amy Fox — spent time embedded with females who work on Wall Street to capture the challenges they face through a compelling feature drama.
The project grabbed the attention of director Meera Menon and “Breaking Bad” star Anna Gunn, who signed on to play the film’s lead, senior investment banker Naomi Bishop.
“I just wanted to know more about this world and this woman,” Gunn told Business Insider about why she took on the role.
Menon felt the same way, as she was drawn in by the perspective of women working in a male-dominated work world.
“What really hooked me was Naomi’s speech in the beginning about why she does what she does is because she likes money,” Menon told Business Insider. “I wanted to understand who she was.”
The film follows Naomi as, recently denied a promotion, she attempts to one-up her male colleagues by taking the IPO for the newest social-media platform that’s taking the world by storm.
With only five months before cameras started rolling, Menon and Gunn worked on their prep. For Menon, it was creating, on an independent film budget, a world of high finance and luxuries that major players in the business live on.
Gunn not only talked to the people who confided in Reiner and Thomas — who also star in the movie — but she also found insight after taking a tour inside Goldman Sachs.
She admits that she was very keen to the fact that there were very few women there, but the ones she did meet helped greatly.
“We all had dinner that night, and in that less formal setting I got to do my detective work in terms of watching everyone and taking pieces of them all for Naomi,” said Gunn.
Menon and Gunn said that they couldn’t help but take some of the experiences from their own lives working in the male-dominant movie business and put it in the film.
“It’s that feeling of scarcity and wanting more,” said Gunn, comparing the lack of opportunities for women on Wall Street and the lack of roles for women in the movie business.
“The attitude of working 10 times harder to get half as far,” Menon added. “The constant fight for relevance that I don’t think men experience as acutely.”
This is highlighted in a scene in “Equity,” where Naomi, while frantic on the day her IPO opens on the market, finds that while having a snack with her team, the chocolate-chip cookie she’s given has less chocolate chips than the cookies her male counterparts received. This makes her goes ballistic.
The scene is funny, but is also a social commentary on equal rights in the workplace that hasn’t been lost on audiences. At the film’s screening at the Tribeca Film Festival, many of the women in the audience cheered loudly during the scene.
“That’s a story [Reiner and Thomas] was told of a real encounter that took place on the trading floor,” said Menon.
“It was a scene that made us laugh in rehearsal, but we never realised the impact it would have with audiences,” said Gunn.
Sony Pictures Classics bought the film at this year’s Sundance Film Festival and will release it on July 29. As word of mouth begins to grow for the film, Gunn hopes that there’s not just an empowerment female audiences get from the movie, but also an understanding that in a position of authority “likability” is not a necessity.
That’s one thing I’m proud this movie is exploring, the whole concept of being likable. I remember a lot of the women saying that, too, when I did research, “There’s a fine line to walk.” Hopefully, that question of whether a woman in a leadership role is likable or not will cease to be such a thing and it will be about the person’s talents and character and their goals. It’s something that I feel men don’t have to necessarily deal with.
“Equity” screens at the Tribeca Film Festival on April 24.