Equity, Hollywood’s latest film about Wall Street, has the telltale signs of a financial flick. It is, of course, set in New York City, and power, money and greed abound.
But the film—written by Amy Fox ’97 and directed by Meera Menon—is unlike others about Wall Street in a groundbreaking way: it’s Hollywood’s first female-dominated depiction of corporate America. And there are just as many women behind the camera as there are on screen.
Directed, written, produced and financed by women, Equity tells the fictional story of Naomi Bishop, a senior investment banker played by Anna Gunn of the AMC series Breaking Bad. Producers and co-stars Alysia Reiner (Netflix’s Orange is the New Black) and Sarah Megan Thomas (Backwards) developed the concept for the film and found the backers to fund it. “Our investors were primarily women who had worked on Wall Street and wanted to see this story told,” Fox says.
Fox studied acting and English at Amherst. After graduating, she moved to New York City and began her career as a playwright for the Ensemble Studio Theatre. “They produced my first play, got my work noticed by The New York Times and are still one of the first places I go to develop a new project,” she says.
Fox’s first screenwriting gig stemmed from her work with EST. A play she’d written there caught the attention of Merchant Ivory Productions, which asked her to adapt it for the screen. The film, Heights, premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2005, starring Glenn Close and Elizabeth Banks.
Equity is Fox’s second foray into screenwriting. Thomas and Reiner approached her in 2014 with the idea of developing a story about female financial investors. Together, they interviewed women in finance and law whose experiences became the foundations for Equity. “Although it is not a documentary,” Fox says, “the film is inspired by the hundreds of real stories these women told us about working in male-dominated fields.”
Based on those interviews, and on her own experiences working in Hollywood, Fox concluded that the financial and film industries are similar in that they fail to give women and men equal opportunities to advance. “One of the fastest ways to change this is for women to mentor and invest in each other,” she says, “and this film is a great example of that.”
Equity premiered at Sundance this year with positive critical reviews, and it was released in theaters nationwide late this summer. “It’s an independent film that started on four screens and has now spread to 250, so that feels terrific,” Fox says. “I want the film to have a long life, because I’m proud of the work of everyone involved, and also because the film portrays complicated, powerful women that we don’t often see on screen, and prompts important conversations about gender in the workplace.”
Rachel Rogol covers the arts in Amherst’s Office of Communications.