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Sundance: Wall Street Movie ‘Equity’ Starring Anna Gunn Was Made by Women for Women

Sundance: Wall Street Movie 'Equity' Starring Anna Gunn Was Made by Women for Women

Actress-producers Alysia Reiner (“Orange is the New Black”) and Sarah Meghan Thomas (“Backwards”) launched their company Broad Street Pictures a year and a half ago in order to produce thought-provoking films that employ more women in front of and behind the camera. Their first effort, suspenseful 100-minute Wall Street drama “Equity,” in which they co-star with “Breaking Bad” lead Anna Gunn, was scooped up before its Sundance debut on January 26th by Sony Pictures Classics. 
Their mandate was to “create content with strong roles for women,” said Thomas, whose husband works in finance on Wall Street, where she was “fascinated with the women I’ve met, and curious why there were not more women in the upper echelons of these firms. I thought it was a great idea for a movie — and people love Wall Street movies.”

She and her friend Reiner, who she knew from the New York stage, decided to start a production company. Reiner met with a friend who was a management consultant for Fortune 500 companies, who told stories about women sleeping with men in the work force, “that blew my mind about what it means to be women in corporate America. These were similar stories from my experience as an actress in Hollywood. I thought, ‘this is brilliant.'”

They hired playwright Amy Fox, who worked through many drafts and table readings with actor friends in front of Wall Street insiders, who told them “it was the most realistic Wall Street movie they had ever seen,” said Thomas. “We had to get the details accurate for it to work.” 

They approached various investors and found early supporters interested in the cause of helping women on Wall Street. One investor built on another, even without a cast in place. Broad Street formed an LLC and raised a modest budget in the low millions. Camerawoman and director Meera Menon had won the Nora Ephron prize at Tribeca, and even though they met directors with more experience, “she understood the script and these worlds, she was one of the only directors who didn’t necessarily think Wall Street was evil and bad,” said Thomas. “She was interested in grey lines and subtleties.” 

They chose Anna Gunn to star because “when you think about an amazing powerful woman, you can’t help think of Skyler in ‘Breaking Bad,'” said Reiner. “We wanted someone who had a real gravitas to her, who you believed in this world. She has it in spades.” 

It was important to the filmmakers that in “trying to depict a realistic Wall Street,” said Thomas, “we wanted her to feel real, with an age-appropriate love interest [James Purefoy]. We wanted that relationship to feel real.” 

The production was tough. The film shot in Philadelphia with tax credits, with some Manhattan exteriors and scenes on the New York trading floor. They had a significant number of women on the crew, including producers, director, sound, and production design. The cinematographer and editor were both men. “On one of those days where I was questioning everything, and this cut, in the middle of the edit, with a test screening that night,” said Reiner, “I was crying to my husband, ‘this isn’t going to work, we’ve given so much blood sweat and tears in the last year. We could have had a second baby instead of this.’ But this is a good second baby.” 

Then Trevor Groth called to invite them to join the Sundance dramatic competition. They finished the movie days before they had to leave for Utah.

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