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Sundance 2016 Women Directors: Meet Meera Meenon – ‘Equity’

Sundance 2016 Women Directors: Meet Meera Meenon - 'Equity'

Meera Menon was recently selected to be a fellow at 20th Century Fox’s Global Directors initiative. Her directorial debut, “Farrah Goes Bang.” premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival, where she was awarded the Nora Ephron Prize for a groundbreaking woman filmmaker by Tribeca Film Festival and Vogue Magazine. Additionally, Menon was selected by Glamour Magazine as one of 35 women under 35 Running Hollywood. She received her MFA from USC. (Press materials)

Equity” will premiere at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival on January 26.

W&H: Please give us your description of the film playing.

MM: “Equity” is a suspenseful, female-driven Wall Street film that centers on the story of Naomi Bishop (Anna Gunn), 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.

Thematically, the film is about the resistance women face in male-dominated corporate environments and the lines people are willing to cross in service of 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 and unapologetic about her choices and sense of ambition.

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 for me. It felt downright necessary. And I felt really inspired by Alysia Reiner and Sarah Megan Thomas’ agenda in telling these types of unique, feminist stories. [Both of them produced and acted in “Equity.”] 

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 knowing what was absolutely essential.

This story operates in a world of scale and opulence, and the fact that we were able to tell it speaks credibly to Alysia and Sarah’s truly Olympian feats of producing. The entire creative team was able to make so much out of relatively little, from Eric Lin (our DP), 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 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 advice do you have for other female directors?

MM: Find other women to make movies with that have a shared bottom line. I did that with my first film and found an incredible partner in the inimitable writer/producer Laura Goode. I did it this time around by pairing with the forces of nature that are Amy Fox, Alysia Reiner and Sarah Megan Thomas. All of these women share an activist’s desire to be the change they want to see — and with that passion comes great purpose and great possibility.

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: Name your favorite woman-directed film and why.

MM: “Ratcatcher” by Lynne Ramsay. That movie does what a great movie should do — its visual language is completely borne 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 of 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-wrenching.

“Salaam Bombay!” by Mira Nair and “Lost in Translation” by Sofia Coppola are close seconds! 

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