There's a new production company whose co-founders are taking the issue of Hollywood gender equality into their own hands.
Broad Street Pictures was founded by the actresses Alysia Reiner and Sarah Megan Thomas. Their first movie, "Equity," is a Wall Street thriller that stars Anna Gunn as a senior investment banker caught in a web of scandal and corruption. After its premiere at this year's Sundance Film Festival, Sony Pictures Classics purchased the worldwide rights to the film.
Do you actually have offices on Broad Street? Or is this a bit of a joke?
Thomas: [laughs] Our offices are either of our apartments, depending on where we are.
Reiner: We're a small company. This is our first film, remember, so we actually came up with the idea because we loved that it was not just a double entendre, but a triple entendre — Broad Street as in Wall Street, because our first movie is a female-driven Wall Street movie. Also, we're two broads, right? And we're trying to make the world more broad, more vast, for women.
So, broadly speaking, Sarah, what is the intention of the production company?
Thomas: The intention is really to create more roles for women, in front of and behind the camera, while at the same time telling really entertaining stories for a broad audience. [laughs]
James Purefoy and Anna Gunn star in the movie, "Equity." Courtesy of Sundance Film Festival
This seems like something that anybody would think was a rational idea. But I suspect that you two are making this decision in reaction to what you're seeing in the rest of the entertainment world.
Reiner: Sure. If you read anything in reference to statistics right now — and we've worked with the Geena Davis Institute, which has done amazing, statistically significant research about women in the industry — it's sadly appalling.
Not only when you look at how many female directors or female producers there are, but also in front of the camera it is 77% male. So all the media that you're watching, be it a cartoon or a Wall Street thriller you really have to go see — it's 77% men in front of the camera. So women and girls are unconsciously seeing themselves as a minority.
Let's talk a little bit more specifically about "Equity." You've set your story on Wall Street, which is probably 80-or-85% male, and you focus on a female protagonist. Can you talk about the world in which this story unfolds?
Thomas: My husband works on Wall Street, actually, so I'm a Wall Street wife. I was always fascinated with that world — I love Wall Street films, I watch all of them. But I've been fascinated by how they don't show the people that I see on Wall Street, and also how there are so few women in these movies.
So when we were thinking about a project to do, this female-driven Wall Street movie came up as an idea that hasn't been done. You asked about the statistics, how male-dominated Wall Street is, and what's interesting is that, out of graduate school or college, it's almost 50/50. They hire 50% women, but it's really an issue of retaining them and getting those women to the top.
Anna Gunn stars in the movie, "Equity." Courtesy of Sundance Film Festival
You've formed this company to give women jobs, both in front of and behind the camera, to tell stories about women, and the films I suspect have a woman's point of view. But as actors yourselves, what did you see in your own careers that made you despair over the situation in Hollywood right now?
Reiner: Wow, what a great question. Just as Sarah's a Wall Street wife, I'm married to an actor. And the amount of opportunity presented to my husband — David Alan Basche, who I love dearly — was outrageously different than the amount of opportunity presented to me. I met him when I was still in college, and that was a big piece of it for me.
And did it change once you hit a certain age, as well? That there's an age bias that's specific to women?
Reiner: Well, yeah. For me, I would by lying if I said it got worse — I've been very fortunate past 28, while most women are afraid to turn 30 or 40 or 50 in our industry. And part of it is amazing show-runners like Jenji Kohan and Shonda Rhimes, who hire amazing women regardless of age. I'm deeply grateful for that.
"Equity" opened on July 29 and is currently in theaters.