Playwright and screenwriter Amy Fox ’05 M.F.A. says that the idea for the film Equity (Sony Pictures Classics), which premiered July 29, came out of conversations she had with actor-producers Sarah Megan Thomas and Alysia Reiner about the lack of strong roles for women, specifically that of female protagonists in what they call “Wall Street thrillers.” Fox would go on to write a screenplay that countered this narrative.
Written, directed, and produced entirely by women, —called the “She-Wolf of Wall Street” and a “scrappy, admirably fem-centric film,” by Rolling Stone magazine—stars Anna Gunn of AMC’s Breaking Bad as Naomi Bishop, an investment banker jockeying for the top position at a competitive Wall Street firm. Suspense underpins Bishop’s attempts to shepherd a controversial IPO in a post-financial-crisis world. Reiner (recently of Orange Is the New Black on Netflix) and Thomas play a driven prosecutor for the U.S. attorney’s office and Bishop’s put-upon deputy, respectively.
Fox, who graduated cum laude from Amherst College with a bachelor’s degree in business administration finance in 1999, came to Brooklyn College after several years of success as a playwright—she has more than a dozen theater productions to her credit. “Having worked as an artist and a professor, and not in a financial field, it would have been easy to make glib assumptions about what working in finance is,” says the Boulder, Colorado native. “As the project progressed, I became interested in what it’s like for women to really have the type of ambition surrounding managing hedge funds and the like. I began interviewing women on Wall Street and found there were lots of reasons they got into the financial business, and they were not apologetic about those reasons.”
“The timing has been interesting vis-à-vis a woman running for president,” says Fox. “Working on this film has helped me understand the impact of sexism, and the compromises made. There is also this assumption that women who have careers are constantly striving for the perfect, yet elusive, work/life balance. I spoke to a woman who works at a noted global financial firm, who has three children and she told me that the last thing she wanted to do was slow down—there’s this sense of competition,” says Fox, which plays itself out in the film in the complex relationships among the female and male characters.
“I was already working steadily as a playwright and screenwriter,” says Fox, “but I wanted to teach at a university level, and I wanted a new challenge. So I went into the M.F.A. program in fiction writing at Brooklyn College.” Her first film Heights, a Merchant-Ivory production based on her stage play of the same name and directed by Chris Terrio, was in production when she began her graduate work. Fox began writing a novel (on which she is still working) while earning her master’s degree. Today she is a member of the faculty at NYU/Tisch Graduate School of Film and Television.
“What’s been very meaningful,” says Fox, “is that Equity works as a financial film that is also very feminist in nature. It’s hard to achieve both of those things and I’m really gratified that we were able to remain true to both of those ideas.”
Equity opens in theaters nationwide on September 2. For more information visit social media:
Twitter: @EquityTheFilm / @SonyClassics