How Two Badass Actresses Are Making Hollywood Better For Women

"Orange is the New Black" star Alysia Reiner and "Backwards" actress Sarah Megan Thomas are creating the first-ever Wall Street film starring a woman. Here's why.

It seems like every single day brings with it another depressing statistic about women in film.

Like how out of the top grossing 600 films between 2007-2013, only 1.9 percent were directed by women, for example, or how Jennifer Lawrence made $2 million less than Jeremy Renner for "American Hustle," or -- perhaps most shockingly -- how the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media recently revealed that females make up only 17 percent of movie crowd scenes. It's both maddening and extremely depressing to read these numbers and see their implications play out on the big screen, which is why it's also so important to celebrate those who are putting their money where their mouth is; working their butts off to improve those statistics one movie at a time.

"Orange is the New Black" actress Alysia Reiner and "Backwards" star Sarah Megan Thomas are two such people to be celebrated, thanks to their equality-friendly production company Broad Street Pictures. The duo will release their first project, the Wall Street-centric "Equity" starring "Breaking Bad" stunner Anna Gunn, next summer -- and when they hopped on the phone with MTV News last week to discuss their work, it was clear that making the first Wall Street film from a female perspective was nothing but a labor of love.

"We announced the company in June, our writer started in July, and we’re shooting in July," Reiner said. "We’re making a movie in a year, and I don’t know anyone other than Sarah who could have pulled that off."

The reason they moved forward on the project without much of a staff or a deal with a major studio is, per Reiner, because "we wanted to put the money into the production, and we wanted to put the money into making the best movie that we could." Which will hopefully result in a whole lot more cash for the ladies down the line, because as Thomas tells it, when they were creating their business plan and doing research for the film, "we discovered that every Wall Street movie makes money... the public likes these Wall Street movies, and they’ve never seen one from a female perspective."


Reiner and Thomas were also attracted to the male-dominated Wall Street culture due to its many parallels with Hollywood, and at least a small part of the reason why they chose Gunn for their leading lady was her inherent toughness -- which was proven, unfortunately, when she was targeted with sexist attacks by "Breaking Bad" fans who hated her character.

"You cannot fake this Wall Street brilliance," Thomas explained "These woman are... just like that. There are so many amazing, intelligent, incredibly brilliant women, but Anna was always in our heart from her incredible performance on 'Breaking Bad,' quite frankly. We interviewed so many of these real-life women, and we have no doubt that she can, she will embody them in this spectacular way."

Which isn't to say that this will be a "women only" Wall Street film -- in fact, "Equity" will be far from it, because to fill the New York Stock Exchange mostly with females would venture into the realm of fantasy... and that's not the genre Reiner and Thomas are going for this time around.

"We don’t want to make an unrealistic world in this film, and the truth of Wall Street is that it's an 80% male-dominated world," Reiner said. "We visited so many trading rooms, we visited the New York Stock Exchange, and in truth, it is 80 to 90% men there. So we’re not going to make that unrealistic, because I think that would tell the wrong story... that would be a lie. However, in every bar scene and on every street we will make sure that it is 50% women."

Reiner and Thomas also made sure that the woman telling Gunn's character's story was female -- and not only because of the aforementioned abysmal status of women working behind the camera. As Thomas explained, telling the story of a woman "making it" in a male-dominated world might not be so effective if the ship was being captained by men.


"I would not be producing a movie for 20-year-old boys about, you know, what it’s like to be a guy in college going through X, Y and Z," Thomas explained. "Like 'Boyhood'... I could not do that movie as a producer, until my sons are 20. For 'Boyhood,' if I was a male producer I may want a male director, because a male director would understand that storyline more intimately than a female producer. So I think it starts with a female producer... and then it makes more sense to have a female director, in those stories that relate to them."

Here's where Thomas and Reiner again broke the mold, with the hiring of relative newcomer Meera Menon -- because as we learned in the documentary "Celluloid Ceilings," women in the industry have been hurt by Hollywood's repeated hiring of the same small handful of female directors.

"There are some extraordinary female directors that we love and admire, and everybody knows their name -- like the Catherine Hardwickes of the world," Reiner explained. "But one of the things that was important to us was to give a chance to an up and coming starlet. Mira won the Nora Ephron prize at Tribeca [Film Festival]; her first film did amazingly well considering how tiny it was, both budget and scale-wise. It had no stars in it, it had small distribution. We were so excited not only because she really spoke to us in her presentation and talking about the project was so in line with the story we wanted to tell, but also it was exciting to us to give an opportunity to an up and comer."

And of course -- speaking of giving opportunities to up-and-comers -- Reiner is excited that her producer platform has given her the opportunity to cast some of her own favorite up-and-comers in new roles... mainly, her fabulous "Orange is the New Black" costars.

"We definitely have a cameo for an 'Orange' member in the movie, I guess you’ll see who when we premiere," she teased. "It was an interesting blessing... there were a lot of people who I considered casting, and I didn’t want it to be too 'Orange-heavy because I wanted them to stay in the movie, and [not] be like 'oh, look at all those people from 'Orange is the New Black.'' That was a really big thing, because I think everyone is so freaking talented. I wanted everyone in the movie."