‘Egg’ Star Alysia Reiner & Composer Jamie Jackson Discuss Changing The Status Quo In Hollywood

Thanks to the Times Up movement these past few months in Hollywood have been like no other we have ever seen before. Women on all different levels, scared to speak up are now leading global conversations about what’s fair in the work place for every female, not just those in the entertainment industry.

Two people taking action during this time of great change are actress Alysia Reiner and composer Jamie Jackson, whom both worked together on the upcoming film Egg, which is premiering at the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival.

Alysia, who gained notoriety for her roles in ‘Orange Is The New Black’ & ‘Equity’, has been very instrumental in creating opportunities for women. Her latest project, ‘Egg’, for which she both stars and produces, being a perfect example of breaking down walls. Every main department on the film including the writer, director, line producer, director of photography, set designer, editor, sound, costume and composer are all females, making the crew in total 60-70% female. Alysia hopes to continue this trend with every project she produces.

Jamie, a composer who found success scoring the hit show ‘Cougar Town’, has noticed the lack of females in the composing world for many years now. Realizing that change begins with her, she brought in female vocalist Jamie Drake to sing on the ‘Egg’ score, as well as on her other current project, The CW’s ‘Life Sentence’. She believes established female composers should be mentoring young female composers, musicians, and engineers. Another specific thing she would like to do is challenge agents to make room on their rosters for unknown female composers.

In an exclusive interview below, Alysia and Jamie speak more in depth on the diversity issues in their respective fields.

Alysia, You are both the star and producer of Egg. What attracted you to this project?

In October 2017 David and I were on the ferry from KISMET Fire Island (IT WAS KISMET!) and we bumped into Risa, the writer. We had done a reading of the play version of ‘Egg’ years before and she said she just had seen ‘Equity’ (the first film I produced and starred in – sold at Sundance 2016) and “would we want to read the screenplay of ‘Egg’?” We of course said yes – IT WAS KISMET.

As a producer, I felt like it was an incredible story – even more timely and relevant, and a story that had not been told. David agreed and we invited the incredible Michele Ganeless to join us because she has such acumen about both business and indie comedy coming being president of Comedy Central.

 As an actress, I love playing Tina because she says things I feel like everyone sometimes thinks but are afraid to say. It is a role that scares the shit out of me. She is definitely not ‘likable’, she is complex and complicated and I feel so honored to bring her to life.

We heard that 95% of the crew on ‘Egg’ was female. Was it completed before the recent female empowerment movement started or was the crew selection a result of that?

I am thrilled to say we had all female heads of every main department: writer, director, line producer, DP, set design, editor, sound, costume, and of course composer! The crew in total was 60-70% female. A huge and statistic breaking number (but don’t want to exaggerate).

Regarding the female balance of crew, is this going to be your goal now for every production you produce?

Yes! It’s WHY I produce. Truly. To create opportunity for women. To change the game.

You told Variety that ‘Egg’ was a “Stereotype-breaking story about parenthood.” Could you elaborate on this?

I actually love what Tribeca said: “Egg is a sharp and uproarious satire about the decisions women—and men—make around parenthood, zeroing in on the personal, social, professional, and ideological implications of bringing a new life into the world…it lays bare the complications, contraindications, heartbreaks, and absurdities implicit in how we think about motherhood.” 

I was so excited to make a movie that explores these very things and make people TALK about the problems implicit so hopefully we can FIX THEM.

You have been acting for a long time now. With the recent events that have been going on in Hollywood in the past year. Have you started to see a shift in the industry now?

Well, I am part of the TIMES UP movement and what we have achieved in under 3 months amazes me! The tide is shifting and I just want to serve and advocate for more change. TIMES UP is about safety and equality in the workplace for EVERYONE and I am so excited to insight that change.

You have a female composer by the name of Jamie Jackson scoring ‘Egg’. How did you find her? How involved were you with her and the scoring process?

Michele met Jamie on a panel at a fabulous TV festival, and immediately they were kindred souls. She was obviously so talented and we had already decided we wanted a woman to score the film, so again KISMET! I was lucky to be intimately involved with creating the score every step of the way and it was a true joy collaborating with her!

Why do you think there are so few female composers in the business today?

I think there are so many female composers out there who just need to be heard. It’s convenient for the studios and networks to hire the composers that already have success. I am not sure what the current numbers are but in 2016, Variety reported only 1% to 2% of composers working on the top 250 films at the box office were women.

Why is that? I wish I had an answer but I am not going to sit back and wait for someone else to fix this. It starts with me. I have to admit in the past I’ve been so tunnel vision while focusing on my own career. Fighting so hard for opportunity. I was not paying attention. I was part of the problem. No more. Like Alysia said, the tide is changing. Women are paying attention and together we are gonna fix this but it starts with me.

Have you ever felt like you were an outsider in the business because of your gender?

I became used to being the only woman in the room.  This started early on for me. I am originally from Mississippi and went to a performing arts school in jr. high and high school and I vividly remember walking into my music theory and composition class and being the only girl. I was very shy in school and, yes, I felt like an outsider. Sadly, that pattern continued on, and being the only woman in the room became the norm. It was all I knew and expected. I don’t think that will be true for much longer.

What do you think needs to be done to bring more females into the composing industry?

I’d like to challenge agents to make room on their rosters for unknown female composers. Get them in the mix.  I am lucky to work with a wonderful agent, Rich Jacobellis. He represents some amazing female composers like Wendy and Lisa, Laura Karpman, Zoe Keating, Deborah Lurie and Rachel Portman. He has seen a shift. Studios and Networks are starting to seek out female composers, and they should. Increased diversity in storytelling will make them more money. 

Also, I will say this again – it starts with me. Established female composers should be mentoring young female composers, musicians, and engineers.

Why is it important to you that women support other women?

Look at all the women that have made sacrifices and paved the way for us. It is our turn. I have a three year old daughter. When she starts her career in 15 or so years, whatever that may be, this conversation has to be different. I want to be part of the movement for every little girl out there though, not just my daughter.

Can you tell us about your experience on Egg?

It was amazing. The process was really fast. I blinked and it was over and I wanted more. Alysia mentioned how they found me. I was speaking on a “Women in Entertainment” panel at a TV festival called Series Fest (imagine a SXSW but for television). Michele Ganeless was on that panel and we had an instant connection. I felt like I had known her for years. She told me all about this film she was producing called ‘Egg’ and sent me the script. I was so inspired. It’s an honest and thought-provoking script. It struck me on so many levels as a woman, friend, mother and artist.

She eventually asked me to submit a demo and they offered me the gig. I sat down with the director Mariana Palka and listened to cassette tapes of the music she used to listen to as a child and from there I worked very closely with the producers – Alysia Reiner, Michele Ganeless and David Alan Basche. They were so supportive and pushed me to find a sound that I am proud of.

The characters and their relationships in this film are so complicated. Because Alysia and David also acted in the film, I feel like I was able to dive even deeper into the psyche of the characters with their insight. There’s a vulnerability to this score thanks to the producers’ direction.

How would you describe your score?

The producers say the score is like a character in the film. It supports the journey of a complicated female friendship. The issues that bring these two women together and the issues that could potentially tear them apart. It’s intimate, raw and vulnerable. The film is structured like a play. The layers of the characters and their relationships slowly peel away as the film progresses. There are fun yet awkward/ironic comedic pizzicato pieces (with a live cellist), single note piano pieces, along with confessional/ joyous pieces that feature a female vocalist by the name of Jamie Drake. Her voice adds so much vulnerability and joy.

What are you doing in particular to try and change the female composer problem?

I pound the pavement not only for myself but for other women when I can. As a composer and mom to a three year old, there are not enough hours in the day but I make a point to add actions to my calendar. I’ve committed to reaching out to local female musicians and writing with them. A year ago, I started writing with the artist I mentioned above named Jamie Drake. I had no idea where our writing would take us but I set an intention and committed. I’ve been lucky to have her be a part of two projects this year.

She sang on the score for ‘Egg’ and also co-wrote and sang on a theme song my husband and I were hired to do for a CW series we work on called ‘Life Sentence’. It was her first opportunity to write for television. That excites me.  Jamie Drake is so talented. She not only elevated the score and theme song but my overall experience on these projects. Look out for her first full-length record. It’s going to be released sometime this year.

I believe when the whole is stronger, the individual is stronger. Bringing more diverse composers into the mix will certainly strengthen our industry.



One Comment

  1. Great article…..great insight….
    great women!!!!

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