The synopsis: Celebrated senior Wall Street investment banker Naomi Bishop (Anna Gunn) fights her way to the top of an international banking firm while negotiating gender obstacles, competing agendas from co-workers, betrayals, and unrelenting pressure to bring in “big money deals.” Set in the post-financial crisis world where regulations are tight and trust is everything, Naomi lands a large and important tech IPO for the firm assuring her selection to replace the outgoing head of the company.
The movie also features a mostly female cast. In addition to Anna Gunn, Alysia Reiner (of Orange is the New Black), and Sarah Megan Thomas. Thomas and Reiner co-wrote the screenplay with Amy Fox, professor of screenwriting at NYU. Equity is directed by Meera Menon. 80% of the film’s producers are women, including Indianapolis native Judy Singleton.
A special screening of the film included a panel discussion between emcee and investor Judy Singleton, Executive Producer Candy Straight, former WellPoint CEO, co-founder of The Policy Circle, Angela Braly, of The Braly Group and Indiana State Treasurer Kelly Mitchell.
Judy Singleton has been friends with Candy Straight for years. The two became acquainted through national politics at an event to promote women to office. Singleton is a co-founder of The Lugar Series. The two have tracked one another’s efforts involving women.
Sitting down to lunch together last year in New York City, Candy said to Judy, “I have this movie that I am working on with female leads – it is going to be great!”
“When Candy approached me to produce this movie,” shares Judy. “The offer came at the right time for me with my career. I was looking for something fun and exciting and this fit.”
Judy wanted to get out of her comfort zone and the offer to invest in a movie about strong women on an otherwise male-dominated Wall Street was serendipitous to her desire to experience something new and different. Judy has written books about women who have broken gender barriers, including Indiana Trailblazing Women. Judy will be on a panel during a breakout session at the Indiana Conference for Women titled, Lessons From Wise Women, Nurturing The Dream.
It’s been 27 years since Melanie Griffith hit the big screen in Working Girl. Equity approaches the male-dominated Wall Street scene with a group of tough women. And while the characters are not without flaws, grit and competition dominate the tone.
The film was selected for Sundance and the day before it premiered, SONY Pictures Classic bought it. While it is not official, the entertainment company is exploring turning it into a pilot.
Candy indicated that selection of her investors was very personal and she had structured the deal to provide the investors with a return on their investment, which is highly unusual for a group of first time film investors to turn a profit. While the number is not disclosed, it’s understood that the producers were quite happy with their outcome.
From the time SONY Picures Classic committed to opening the film, the number of theaters was quadrupled by the time the contract was final. “SONY thought it was a good film,” shares Candy.
“Men throw one another under the bus all the time. Women will support women if they are all in the same bonus pool at work, and everyone does their own work – it’s silly for us to keep saying that,” states Judy. “In business, when it’s about money, it’s just business. It’s hard to explain this to some women.”
“It was not on my bucket list to invest in a movie, but Candy knew my desire to promote women
and virtually everything done around this movie was by women,” says Judy Singleton, who also indicated that she was ready to explore options totally out of her comfort zone.
When the film opened in NYC, the turnout was tremendous. Articles ran in the NY Times, Rolling Stone, and CNN featured a few segments on it.
Efficiency during filming was key. “Women are more efficient in their thinking and organizing,” says Candy. “We all understood the budget. We maximized the time and worked our plan.”
Research commenced ahead of the screenplay to incorporate true stories from “The Street”.
The story originated from Sarah Megan Thomas, whose husband worked for Lehman Brothers. She was fascinated by what happened in 2008. She had experience with other films based on personal experience, such as Backwards, about women’s rowing. Along with her friend Alysia, they formed a production company with the goal of creating stories with roles with women.
It was decided that Wall Street films make money. After six to nine months of research, of real life stories from “The Street”, the script was complete. One of these stories centers around a highly stressful moment and some intense comments about a chocolate chip cookie.
The movie is entertaining. The lessons are tough, characters are flawed, but the real sense of accomplishment is that the film works. It appeals to audiences, has a great story line and asks some tough questions.
“What’s that thing that really gets you up in the morning?” asked by an attendee at a meeting of all women to Anna Gunn’s character, Naomi.
Naomi’s answer, “I like money.”