The Conversation: Q&A with Suzanne Curry, Co-Producer of Equity
The Hollywood Beauty Detective recently asked Suzanne Ordas Curry, Media Consultant and Co-Producer of the newly released Sony Pictures Classics film, Equity, to talk about the movie, how she got involved, and what it was like working with a mostly all-female production. Equity is a tech thriller, written, directed, and produced by, and starring, women. It is the story of a female investment banker trying to climb the corporate ladder, but finding out in this competitive industry that relationships can mean nothing and money means everything.
Interview by Kathi Van Zandt
Writer/Consulting Producer, The Hollywood Beauty Detective
Q: Tell me a little about how you got involved in Equity.
A: Candy Straight, one of the Executive Producers, is a friend of mine. A few years earlier, I had met her at an educational seminar and we connected. In addition to an interest in education at the time, we were both working on different Web series. She was a producer and knew I had producer credits. I think I was the first person she asked about coming on board with Equity.
Equity had several introductory parties for potential producers. I attended a few in New York City. Alysia Reiner (Orange is the New Black) and Sarah Megan Thomas (Backwards Movie) were very motivating and inspiring. They had a plan, and it was a well-thought-out plan. They were reaching for the stars. I was very impressed with what I heard, though backing anything in entertainment assumes risks. You have to be in it because you love movies, or you love the subject. Making money with independent films is harder than making money in the stock market!
Q: You have your own PR agency. Did you always want to be involved in Public Relations/Media/Film?
A: When I was in high school, I was editor of the yearbook and the school newspaper. I wanted to be a journalist. When I first started at Rutgers, I joined the newspaper club. The local editor told me that there are very few jobs out there in journalism, they’re not high-paying, and you can be on call all the time or working odd hours. So I moved to Communications, setting a course for a job in Public Relations. I think I am one of those few people that are actually doing what I studied in college. I had an internship in PR at a local library and have been doing it ever since. After two jobs in NYC, I became Vice President of PR at a local ad agency in NJ. When I got married, I started my own firm. It wasn’t the in-thing to work at home back then, and I often paid to use a local office for meetings and such.
I had all types of clients: retailers, doctors, lawyers, pizza places, entrepreneurs, etc. I specialized in small businesses. Then one time about six or so years ago a friend of mine told me that her daughter was on a reality show and wanted to be an actress. I told her that she should make the most of her 15 minutes of fame, and they hired me as her publicist. I also ran into another woman whose son was on a reality show. She wanted press for him as well. And I started meeting people in the industry. When you show you can do the work and produce results, word spreads and you become in their circle of trust. I say that, because in entertainment, people often gravitate to entertainers for different reasons. I feel that in this industry, more than others, you have to show that you are there to do the work and don’t have ulterior motives. But that is not to say that when you meet interesting people that can help you or bring you to another level, that you don’t keep up the contact. I always tell my children, people come in and out of your lives and you should never miss an opportunity. It’s always good to build up your rolodex, or in today’s terms, get that LinkedIn contact. You never know where it may lead you in the future. When I look back at the zig-zag line of people I have met that lead me to working on this movie, I’m like, wow, one thing leads to another and you never can predict what will happen. Life is one big opportunity.
Q: Because Equity deals with women in the cut-throat, sexist world of finance/Wall Street, can you talk about any situations you may have had personally (since we all have had them at some point in our careers!) and how you dealt with them?
A: I would say that I am fortunate enough that I have never had any kind of career problem being a woman. Yes, I have gotten comments I would not have had I been a man, like saying I should lose some weight or comments about my choice of handbag! However, being in business on my own, I have not had to deal with men or women who felt I was a threat to them. They came to me because they wanted me to make them more well-known or make them money. In this regard, I do not have a frame of reference as the ladies in the film do.
Also, I have been on many boards and involved in local politics. I have had people say things that were negative, but I don’t think it had to do with me being a woman. It was about my opinion or something I said.
Q: What captivated you most about this story, and how did your cameo, along with your son, come about?
A: I absolutely was thrilled that this was a female-driven production. It was about a female, written by a female (the fantastic Amy Fox), directed by a female (Meera Menon, who became attached to the project after I came on board, another fantastic choice) and starred many females. It wasn’t until many months later that it appeared that most of the producers would be female, and actual female investment bankers to boot.
I liked the script, I read an earlier version which underwent many changes. A script is one thing, but what you visualize in your head is rarely what you see on the screen. I knew that it could be something great and these ladies and the production team made it come alive.
As a co-producer, we were promised a cameo in the film. A few days before, Candy called me and said they needed some men. My son and my husband went down to Philly to shoot it with me. Neither of them had ever been on a set before so it was a cool experience for them. My scene was that I had to look skeptical and unhappy in a board room. Though I thought I would have had to pull from some acting classes I took while in high school, my family joked that no acting would be needed for this scene as it’s a common occurrence for me in real life! Unfortunately, my husband got edited out but my son made the cut.
Q: Is there a moral to this film’s narrative?
A: The point of this film, aside to entertain, was to show many different types of women. There’s Naomi, who is a successful woman struggling to stay on top. There’s Erin, also successful but not where she wants to be. There’s Sam, who wants to do the right thing for herself and her family. I have heard some people say that the women were not portrayed in a good light (and neither were the men). Well, as I said this is meant to entertain. Naomi has many role-model qualities. She works hard and plays by the rules. Also, there were men that served as mentors to the women who had a lot of redeeming qualities, which is what many of the female investment bankers said they had. Overall, I think the movie does a good job giving a glimpse into the competitiveness of this industry for both men and women.
Also, to me, any movie that shows women as an integral part of the workforce is a step in the right direction. I had little of that when I was young. Every step means something.
Q: So how was it working with all women on this film? Liberating?
A: It was a wonderful experience. These women were so hard-working. They had a plan, and they weren’t afraid to ask for help when they needed it, even if it was just for a contact. That’s one thing I think women do better than men: they ask for help when they need it.
There were hundreds of people that contributed to the making of this film. There were mostly women at the helm, but so many talented men helping as well. We were all #TeamEquity.
Q: I want to know what was going through your mind as the film was accepted with such accolades at Sundance. And what you were thinking as you walked the Red Carpet at the film’s premiere?
A: Sundance was always the goal. Having some experience in the ‘biz’, I knew just how lofty that goal was. Sarah and Alysia worked really hard to get everything in to Sundance when it was needed, because they felt that timing was everything with this female-driven film. We were ecstatic when it got in. And then it got sold before it even premiered there. Sundance in general was a great experience, The second time going to Sundance would be even better because it takes awhile to learn the system as well as what to wear to all the different parties! I got to see John Krasinski premiere The Hollars there. That was really exciting. So many of the movies I saw there are hitting theaters now.
We had a Red Carpet at the Tribeca premiere in NYC. I enjoyed being on it with my fellow producers. My son went with me, they wouldn’t let him on it!
Q: Please talk about the Web series you are currently involved with: The Other F Word.
A: Many of the projects I work on are female-driven. I was attracted to this series because it’s also made by a woman, Caytha Jentis who’s done three movies already. It features women that I can relate to at my age. It’s really like a Sex and the City but with older women, and instead of looking to find men and get established in their careers, they are dealing with kids in college, marriage issues, and what comes next at this stage in their lives. It’s a really well-done show that is now streaming on Amazon. The big problem is that networks are not looking for shows about women in their fifties. That is so unfortunate because they’re the ones that have money to spend and the time to spend it. This is the tail-end of the baby-boomer generation. When people say that 50 is the new 40, they’re correct. With each generation, with advances in health care and a greater drive to do more and live life to the fullest, the fifties should not be an ignored decade. Think of what all the millennials will be doing when they’re in their fifties. This is a vibrant time of life and advertisers and networks should be interested in this market rather than turning down shows about it.
One of the many things I liked about Equity was that they (Alysia and Sarah) set out looking for a lead actress over 45. I think Anna (Gunn) did a great job of being real.
Q: How do you think women bring a different perspective to the Creative process?
A: As much as I would like to say that women are more creative, I think creativity is sexless. I am trying to think if perhaps women think more about each detail then men do. I don’t know, but I think sometimes women may think longer about the little details than men do.
Q: Who has been your biggest inspiration in your career? In your personal life?
A: After reading Young Miss magazine as a pre-teen, Ms. magazine is what I read as a teen. I can’t say that there are any specific PR people that I used as a role model, rather I took inspiration from any women that I saw making headlines for a good reason, whether locally or nationally. My mother told me when I was 10 that a woman can be President. My dad always said ‘It only takes one.’
Q: What other films do you wish you could’ve been involved with (a Wish List of a couple, recent or otherwise).
A: I could name you a few of my favorite films. Many of them have Hugh Grant in them! I am a big romcom fan. I would love to be involved in the next Love Actually. I just saw Brooklyn and loved it.
Q: If you weren’t doing what you’re currently doing, what alternative career path do you think you might have taken?
A: Inside most PR people lies a writer. I have my own entertainment website, www.SuzeeBehindtheScenes.com. When I was in my thirties I published a magazine for seniors. I just love to write. I have a few books started, but not finished.
Q: And, to circle back to The Hollywood Beauty Detective … our mission is to re-frame beauty, make it more inclusive and hopefully, along the way, inspire women to be their true selves. What is the best beauty advice anyone ever gave you? And what would you give to others?
A: Don’t be so hard on yourself. The world is so focused now on looks. Everyone is taking selfies and photos and posting them all over the place. Unfortunately, all these photos only show outer beauty and not inner beauty. People judge one another on looks way too much. I also get amazed when I see wrinkle creams and other products being targeted towards 20-somethings. I would say, take care of your skin, but don’t feel as if a few wrinkles are bad, you just look your age. And looking 20-something is wonderful. When you get older, you look back and think about how crazy you were to dislike what you saw in the mirror. It’s okay to look your age.
At a summer job I had while in college, a woman who was older than me, said, it doesn’t matter what your size or the size of your bank account was, you can always look neat and polished.
I must add that I rarely leave the house without makeup, though it may be in varying degrees. I think it’s important to experiment to see what makes you look your best. I have had some makeup people at the department stores do my face and I sometimes leave thinking, ‘what were they thinking?’ I know why actors and actresses have their own people!
Makeup artistry is an art and you can’t expect yourself to do it right without any guidance. As you age, your look changes, and sometimes you need to tweak your routine. A makeup artist on the set of Weight, showed me how to apply browns and peaches to my jawline to compensate for what I thought was the beginning of a little ‘neck droop’ that was starting. As you age, the right makeup will become even more important. And I understand why so many people do some kind of ‘maintenance’ on their faces. There are so many options now.
Q: Because we all learn from our mistakes, and in fact, that’s how we grow, is there one mistake you may have made in your career that you particularly learned a great deal from?
A: I can’t look back at any career mistakes. After I graduated from college, I wanted a job in the Big Apple on Madison Avenue. But the only way to get it, even with a college degree, was as a secretary. I had never taken a typing course in my life. I was hunt and peck on a typewriter for the few courses in college that required a typewritten document (and we would pay people per page to type for us). So the summer I graduated, I bought a book on how to type because that’s what we did back then. I learned how to type and got my speed over 50 words per minute. I got a job as a secretary in a well-known PR firm (now defunct). I got fired because I was not a secretary, did not want to be one, and was not happy typing. I think I was upset back then, but it really was a blessing. It made me realize what I didn’t want to do. Being a secretary is a great job, but I wanted to write the ads, not type them. So the next job I got, which was still as a secretary because it was the best way in at the time, turned out differently. I had a great woman boss. She knew I wanted to do more and gave me extra work–her work–which I gladly took.
Q: So what’s next for Suzanne Curry?
A: I hope to do more producing, perhaps even some writing. I am looking at a few scripts now. One is called Falcon Lake. I’ve met a lot of great people the last five years, and I think that the next five years will be a whole lot of fun too.
Starring Anna Gunn (Breaking Bad)
James Purefoy (The Following, Hap and Leonard, Rome)
Sarah Megan Thomas (Backwards Movie)
Alysia Reiner (Orange is the New Black, HTGAWM, Rosewood)
David Alan Basche (TvLand’s The Exes)
Craig Bierko (Lifteime’s Unreal)
Sophie Von Hasselberg (Bette Midler’s Daughter)
Margaret Colin (Independence Day)
James Naughton (The Devil Wears Prada)
Carrie Preston (The Good Wife, Crowded)
(with cameos by Suzanne Curry and Ian Curry)
Equity, starring Anna Gunn, is now playing in theaters nationwide. Equity is produced by Broad Street Pictures and is a Sony Pictures Classics release.
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