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'Equity' Screenwriter Amy Fox Talks Feminism and Motherhood

Photograph by Gregory Pace/BEI/Shutterstock

The Women's March on Washington happens on January 21, and women will be traveling from all over the country to visit Washington, D.C., or participating in one of the satellite events. Among the issues that women and men will be marching for is workplace equality.

Screenwriter and mom Amy Fox knows all about that. After all, she penned the screenplay for one of last summer's most-talked-about independent films, "Equity," about Naomi (Anna Gunn), an investment banker who gets caught in the middle of a financial scandal while navigating the typically male-dominated Wall Street.

Fox talks to Mom.me about tackling such a femme-friendly topic during a pivotal time in our country, how she balances her work with being a mother of a young daughter and son (she's also a screenwriting professor at New York University), and whether moms can really have it all.

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What inspired you to write this story?

The original concept was brought to me by the producers. Sarah Megan Thomas and Alysia Reiner—they're both actors who are in the film—had formed a production company to create more interesting and complicated roles for women, so it was their concept to do their first film as a Wall Street film. They've identified that as a genre that's very popular but where we've never seen it from a female perspective. And then they came to me. I had worked with both of them a few years ago in theater, so they came to me and asked me about writing it. I was really excited by it and excited by the challenge, and I said yes almost immediately.

How has this experience been for you?

It's very cool to feel like you have a piece of art that is really reflecting on something that the culture is dealing with right now. Also, because the team that worked on it was small, just a really collaborative group, I was able to be involved in a lot of the aspects. Sometimes the writer just writes the script, and no one ever talks to them again. In this case, I was able to be on set a lot, I was able to be in the editing room sometimes, I've been able to do press with everybody and Q&As, and I love that. I loved being part of the whole process.

How did being a mom affect your writing on this film, especially when one main character is single and without kids and another who's pregnant?

I'm not a person who thinks that there are any "shoulds" for anybody in life. I've always been very interested in the choices people make and honoring those choices. A lot of times I see people giving advice, like, "Are you going to have another kid?" "Are you going to have kids?" "You should. You should have another." It's not really my way. My way is to really trust people make the right choices for themselves, so it was very important to me that we show these women that each had different personal lives.

For Naomi specifically, I never wanted anyone to feel sorry for her that she didn't have kids or that she had to regret that choice. It was something that a lot of the women of that age who started on Wall Street in the '80s [experienced]. Some of them had families, but a lot of them did not because they worked too much or didn't feel supported. They didn't meet the right man or whatever, but it was a common theme and it was important to me that we show that but not have that be something that is a judgment or that we feel like is a regret for her.

It became really important to me also to find something that was my own, because I feel like parenting is a very giving activity.

You are a professor, as well as a writer and a mom. How do you balance everything?

It's very hard, as I'm sure everyone knows. Before I had my kids, I got this full-time teaching job in the NYU Film School, and I thought that was a flexible enough job for me to juggle with my writing. Then after my kids were born, after my daughter was born, I realized, "OK, now I have to juggle that with being a mom," and really there was not room for all three at that time. And it took me a bunch of years. I did a few other projects that were much smaller, but "Equity" was really the first major project I took on after having my kids. My son was 18 months when I started working on it.

It became really important to me also to find something that was my own, because I feel like parenting is a very giving activity, and I was starting to feel that I needed to give myself some time for my own work. I took on "Equity" personally for that reason. It seemed like a great opportunity that would be worth shoving into my life even though there was no room for it. It was a tough period of time when I worked a lot of weekends ,and I really took on a lot with the kids, and I pulled all-nighters. It was pretty intense, and it wasn't very sustainable, but I thought if I could do that then we can see what my options are afterwards.

Once your kids see "Equity," what do you hope they get out of it?

I hope that it's not as revolutionary for them as it seems to be for the people who are seeing it right now, because I'm getting so many comments from people seeing the film who just are not used to seeing these really empowered, complicated, flawed women on the screen. There are a lot more characters like that on TV right now; it's a better space. In film, there's really not a lot. People are really astonished to see this film and realize, "I'm not seeing this very much," so I hope it's not so shocking to my kids because I hope there's more of it out there. But I also hope that they really see what it is to be an empowered, strong woman and that both my son and my daughter, that that feels normal to them, something that is to be embraced.

There's a scene in the movie, when a character is looking at her phone and that popular Atlantic story from Anne-Marie Slaughter pops up, saying that we can't have it all. Do you think that we as moms can or can't have it all?

I think the most important thing is to take that question away from individual moms. I think that I myself and some other women I know, we've managed to cobble together this life where we have child care and we're going to be with our kids some of the time and do our work some of the time. I'm really grateful. I feel like I have a really good balance with that. That's a very privileged position. That's only because my husband has amazing child care through his job, because I am married to someone who is fully co-parenting with me, because I've managed to find work that's flexible in its hours and it's on my schedule, so I am very aware that the majority of women in this country do not have that. Too much of the tone is put on individual women to figure this out, and I think we need the policies and the child care and the family leave and all of that stuff to make it possible for people.

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