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What career women can learn from actor-filmmaker Elizabeth Banks

Frustrated by sexism in the movie industry, Banks started her own production house, became successful, and has now become an investor in another business.

May 28, 2021 / 09:44 PM IST
Actor Elizabeth Banks started Brownstone Productions, and made 'Pitch Perfect 2' which earned millions (Photo by David Shankbone via Wikimedia Commons 3.0. Image cropped).

Actor Elizabeth Banks started Brownstone Productions, and made 'Pitch Perfect 2' which earned millions (Photo by David Shankbone via Wikimedia Commons 3.0. Image cropped).

“I felt underused. I just knew there was more for me to be doing,” the actress Elizabeth Banks once said about the Hollywood system.

A lot of women feel this when sexism or office politics derails their careers. They can draw inspiration and specific pointers from Banks, who used her disenchantment as motivation to start her own production company in 2007 – Brownstone Productions. It took on women-focused projects, and Banks, a mother of two, also became a director and producer.

Brownstone tasted success. In 2015, the Banks-directed Pitch Perfect 2, made for about $30 million, reportedly earned $280 million worldwide. She also wrote, produced, directed and acted in 2019’s Charlie’s Angels. Her coffee mugs began to carry the honorific ‘Badass’.

This month, Banks diversified her financial bets. She became an investor in a woman-led wine venture – Archer Roose. The label will serve quality vintages in environmentally friendlier aluminium cans, so that wine becomes as portable and easy to enjoy as beer.

If you feel you are not getting enough opportunities due to gender or race, this is what you can learn from Banks. Incidentally, another female star, Reese Witherspoon, started her own shop recently, and made women-led hits such as Gone Girl and Wild.

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“I was a frustrated actress, I was bored,” Banks told The New York Times a few years ago. She then spoke about the industry to actresses she admired and studied research from the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media.

“It told me that I was not the problem (and the system was),” she said. “There just came a moment where I was like, I need more control over all of this. I also like money, and that is O.K.”

In an interview with Forbes, Banks said, “I tried to be a little bit of a 'disruptor' in my own industry—although I’ve never called myself that. As a female leader in Hollywood, someone who runs a production company and makes film and television, and has the Pitch Perfect franchise under my belt, I care about telling stories in new ways and highlighting interesting, underserved voices. Especially women’s voices.”

The wine company Banks is a shareholder in has a woman CEO, Marian-Leitner Waldman, who is also the brand’s co-founder. Banks calls her a “doorbuster”.

“I felt like Marian and I shared an ethos,” Banks told Forbes. “I could sense a real story in the company she has created and is trying to grow. And I felt like I could help tell the story—opening up this market to women. She’s a doorbuster and there’s not enough women CEOs in this industry.”



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