Anna Gunn stood onstage at the 2016 Tribeca Film Festival Tuesday night flanked by the producers, writer and director of her new film, Equity, a Wall Street drama that is as remarkable for putting a female character at its center as it is for the fact that all the creators who stood onstage with Gunn after the screening — all of them — were women. This included the film’s director, Meera Menon, who described the intention behind the story as creating “morally complex female characters,” beginning with Gunn’s investment banker, Naomi Bishop, whom we meet at the apex of her career just as everything starts crumbling around her.
After the film’s screening, Gunn spoke about loving the “gray areas of all these characters,” including Bishop’s old friend and adversary from the district attorney’s office, played by Orange Is the New Black‘s Alysia Reiner. Reiner produced the film under her company Broad Street Pictures with a self-given mandate to put the right woman at its helm. (“What woman have you worked with that’s gonna win an Academy Award?” she asked a producer friend, who then introduced her to Menon, who had only directed one feature before this.)
Joined onstage by producing partner Sarah Megan Thomas, who also stars in the film, Reiner noted “how similar the stats are on Wall Street and in our industry” in terms of female representation — or, as Thomas put it when describing movies typically made about Wall Street, “There’s the women in the background … where’s all the other women?”
Afterward Menon was joined for a panel discussion by Mary Harron (American Psycho) and Jennifer Westfeldt (Friends With Kids) to share advice and war stories from the director’s chair. Westfeldt recalled how, at the start of her career as an actor, she “kept getting the girlfriend part or the supportive wife” and marveled at the progress suggested by the fact that this year’s Tribeca Film Festival claims 40 percent of its features were directed by women. Harron added that the key to success is to “pace yourself, find allies” and that one’s career is “a long corridor with many doors, and eventually one will open. And you only need one.” Menon, while enjoying the warm reception of her new film, admitted she’s still figuring out “how to be developing the next thing but still pay the rent.”