‘Equity’ shows Hollywood that women can produce, lead in a strong, complex film

Anjalee Khemlani//August 30, 2016//

‘Equity’ shows Hollywood that women can produce, lead in a strong, complex film

Anjalee Khemlani//August 30, 2016//

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One year after it began filming, the movie “Equity” has grown beyond the production team’s wildest dreams.The movie, which focuses on women on Wall Street, was backed and produced by a number of women — some of them New Jersey natives and linked to Rutgers University.

After filming in the summer last year in New York and Philadelphia, the low-budget film produced by stars Alysia Reiner (“Orange Is the New Black”) and Sarah Megan Thomas (“Backwards”), made its way through Sundance, had its rights bought by Sony Pictures Classics, released nationally at independent theaters and is now being tapped by Tri-Star Pictures for a possible television show.

All proof that women can be leaders in Hollywood, according to Candy Straight, one of the producers as well as a former investment banker and Rutgers University board of governors member.

“It’s obviously a long shot, but it’s being considered and Tri-Star will try to develop it so that’s really exciting,” Straight said. “It was a good journey and it shows that women can produce interesting films.”

New Jersey people involved in the production of the movie
Co-producer Suzanne Curry, Rutgers alumni
Film-backer Beverly Aisenbrey, Rutgers alumnus and on the Rutgers business school advisory committee
Director Meera Menon, New Jersey native
Producer Candace Straight, Rutgers board of governors
Helped sell rights to Sony: Tristen Tuckfield, Rutgers alumnus

She credits the complexity and open-ended nature of many of the lead characters, played by Reiner, Thomas and Anna Gunn (“Breaking Bad”).

By now, Equity has been critiqued by major U.S. news organizations and seen by movie-goers around the country.

It’s no “Wolf of Wall Street,” as many critics have noted, but that’s why the audience at a private screening of “Equity” said they liked the movie.

Nancy Cantor, chancellor of Rutgers University-Newark, said the movie was “complex, doesn’t stereotype, but goes right to the heart of how hard it is (as a woman on Wall Street).

Cantor was one of about 50 event attendees at the screening hosted by Executive Women of New Jersey on Monday evening in Montclair’s Claridge Theater.

Barbara Kauffman, executive vice president of Newark Regional Business Partnership, said she was impressed by the movie’s success.

“That (Straight) pulled it together … being able to be at Sundance and having it be accepted, and then the rights bought by Sony and doing it in record time” is great, she said.

Kauffman also drew comparisons between the goals of EWNJ and the plot of the movie: empowerment of women in the workplace.

Especially since some of the women on Wall Street are in fact Jersey commuters.

Michellene Davis, president of EWNJ and an executive vice president at RWJBarnabas Health, noted even the commute is a different experience altogether for women.

“Oftentimes, the men in the family leave early and get in and avoid a lot of traffic and congestion, but we need to make sure the nanny has what she needs, our kids have what they need and there is that aspect for those of us who are sandwich generation,” Davis said. “So, I think that adds to the balance that we need … women need to call upon their multitasking skills so much more.”

Davis said she appreciated “the diversity and complexity that they applied to each woman within the movie.”

Straight said she feels the goal of the movie — to prove to Hollywood that women can produce and lead in a strong, complex movie — has been met.

“It was a good journey and it shows that women can produce interesting films. And we wanted to start a discussion,” Straight said. “The only way we could do this is to do it ourselves.  A studio would have never done this. We thought that by proving it and showing a good movie, maybe Hollywood would start to think differently. “