Meera Menon was recently selected to be a fellow at 20th
Century Fox’s Global Directors initiative. Her directorial
debut, “Farah Goes Bang,” premiered at the Tribeca
Film Festival, where Menon was awarded the Nora Ephron Prize for a
groundbreaking woman filmmaker by Tribeca Film Festival and Vogue Magazine. Menon was selected by Glamour Magazine as one of 35 women under
35 Running Hollywood. (Press materials)
“Equity” will premiere at the 2016 Tribeca Film Festival on April 19.
W&H: Describe the film for us in your own words.
MM: “Equity” is a corporate suspense, female-driven Wall
Street film that centers on the story of Naomi Bishop, played by Anna Gunn. Naomi is an
investment banker who is striving for a much-desired promotion while leading a
high-profile tech IPO, but is challenged by several players around her that are
looking out for their own interests as well.
Thematically, the film is about
the resistance women face in male-dominated corporate environments, and the
lines people are willing to cross in service to their own ambition.
W&H: What drew you to this story?
MM: I was completely drawn into Amy Fox’s script, and its
ability to create really strong character detail underneath a greater sense of
plot and mystery. Naomi Bishop, as Amy wrote her, was a character unlike
one I had seen — strong, vulnerable, unapologetic about her choices and sense
Creating a portrait of a female point-of-view in an environment
that we’ve pretty much exclusively understood through a male perspective — “Wall Street,” “Wolf of Wall Street,” “Arbitrage,” etc.) — was beyond exciting to me. It felt downright necessary. And I felt really
inspired by Alysia Reiner and Sarah Megan Thomas’ agenda in telling these type
of unique, feminist stories. Both of them produced and acted in “Equity.”
W&H: What do you want people to think about when
they are leaving the theater?
MM: I’d like them to leave thinking about the challenges
women face in the workforce, but more importantly, to really feel the emotional
highs and lows of those challenges — to have really experienced that
unsettling place where ambition crosses over into something else entirely.
W&H: What was the biggest challenge in making the film?
MM: The biggest challenge I experienced in completing this project was finding
a tonal balance between the exploration of the characters’ psychologies and the
larger structure of corporate suspense. Amy’s script read like a novel — the
characters were complex and the scenes were dense — it was the kind of material
that made working with the actors a dream.
The comparison I always think of is
“Mad Men” — Amy’s writing in its purest form should be experienced
in a longer, more methodically built format. There is so much more material I
wish we could have packed into this feature film, and my greatest challenge was
in knowing what was absolutely essential.
This story operates in a world of scale and of opulence. The
fact that we were able to tell it credibly speaks to Alysia and Sarah’s truly
Olympic feats of producing. The entire creative team was able to make so much
out of relatively little, from Eric Lin (our Director of Photography), to Diane Lederman (our
production designer), to Teresa Binder Westby (costume designer) and, of
course, the one who solved all the problems we created for ourselves in
production, our editor Andrew Hafitz.
We had a big story to tell, and often
very limited resources to tell it with. These people made miracles happen — truly.
W&H: What’s the biggest misconception about you
and your work?
MM: That it is only for a female audience. I think this film
is completely accessible to everyone. It is a corporate drama filled with
suspense and intrigue. The characters just happen to be female and have some
detailing built into them that reflect that.
W&H: What’s the best and worst advice you’ve
MM: The best advice I’ve received is to stay focused on the
long game, and realize it is okay to not have all the right answers — that’s why
you should surround yourself with people you trust and can learn from.
worst advice I’ve received is from folks that think the director is a sort of
demigod, and should have all the answers. I am a firm believer in knowing what
you know, knowing what hills you want to die on, but more importantly,
knowing what you don’t know and filling those gaps with the brilliant
people around you.
W&H: What advice do you have for other female
MM: Don’t wait for the right opportunity to get on set and
start directing. Create your own opportunities, whether that means raising the
money to direct a feature, or calling your friends over on a free weekend, cook
them lunch and recruit them to help you direct a scene in your living room. I
really believe in putting in your 10,000 hours, and when it comes to directing,
that can take different forms.
W&H: Name your favorite woman-directed film and why.
MM: “Ratcatcher” by Lynne Ramsay. That movie does what a great
movie should do — it’s visual language is completely born out of the emotional
journey of its main character. The young boy’s desire to escape the conditions
of his life is felt in the simplest of ways, hiding behind the silhouette of a
lacy white curtain, blowing in the wind, jumping out a window and running free
through a golden wheat field. Each of these moments is like a photograph, and
they tell us the whole story in a single frame. It’s both beautiful and heart
“Salaam Bombay” by Mira Nair and “Lost in
Translation” by Sofia Coppola are close seconds!