The Golden Moment

As published in LinkedIn Influencers on January 8th, 2018.

Hollywood is a big business. Film, television, content creation, and distribution are all big business. We are talking hundreds of billions of dollars. The Golden Globes is the annual kick off to awards season, where Hollywood repeatedly celebrates the best of the year, and make no mistake, it is a big deal. I, like many others, was watching last night with curiosity and hope that it would be different this year. That the personal would turn political. And not in a little way, but in a big way. I was not disappointed.

Before going into some of the highlights of the evening, imagine this. Imagine the biggest event possible in YOUR industry. Imagine all of the CEOs of all the major companies are present, imagine the best performers in each of those companies are also present, and imagine a room that is full of people deemed to be the most powerful in the entire industry. I will do it for my old industry; finance.

Front row would be the CEOS of all the major financial institutions; men like Lloyd Blankfein of Goldman Sachs, Brian Moynihan of Bank of America, Jamie Dimon of JP Morgan Chase, and Michael Corbat of Citigroup. And of course the hedge fund managers would be there; Ray Dalio of Bridgewater, Emmanual Roman of Pimco, and Stephen A. Schwarzman of the Blackstone Group. And finally, we would have to imagine that women and people of color where there too. In large numbers. Let’s imagine all the categories; Woman bond trade of the year. Male bond trader of the year. Best overall hedge fund manager. Best overall firm. You get the picture. And imagine that on this night, presenter after presenter, award winner after award winner, took a moment, or in last night’s case, many moments, to speak about the desperate need for the industry to change. Imagine that time and time again the culture of exclusion and harassment was acknowledged, and then it was demanded that this was the moment for it all to change. That is how big last night was for the entertainment industry.

“Good evening ladies and remaining gentlemen.”

The evening kicked off with Seth Meyers acknowledging the events of the past several months in his opening line. In a nearly note perfect opening monologue, he set the stage for what ultimately became a simultaneously powerful and entertaining evening, all while acknowledging the difficult balancing act the evening would, and rightly should be. But most importantly, he proved that the night would not be one where people would skirt around the problem, but rather that they were going to face it head on. People like Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, and Woody Allen were all name checked, and it was made perfectly clear that they no longer had a place at the table.

This continued with the award winners. Nicole Kidman won the first award of the night for her role in HBO’s Big Little Lies, which she also produced, and she used to her time at the podium to herald her female co-stars, pay tribute to her mom, and give a nod to the power of women. And it went on from there. Laura DernElisabeth MossAllison Janney, and Frances McDormand all used their time at the microphone to denounce a culture and society that marginalizes groups of people, and history was made when Sterling K. Brown became the first black man to win the Best Actor in a TV Drama award. He acknowledged creator Dan Fogelman in his acceptance speech, thanking him for writing a role that could only be played by a black man, and for allowing him to be recognized and seen as he is. It was a powerful night all around.

This trend was continued in the non-acting categories, as time and time again, films and television shows that celebrate women, empowerment, and complex female characters were rewarded. From films like Lady BirdI, Tonya, and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, and series like The Handmaid’s TaleBig Little Lies, and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel won the major awards of the night, the theme of the evening was very much that women’s stories are important, profitable, and here to stay.

But it wasn’t just the winners. Presenters throughout the night used their time on stage to joke about, yes, but also to bring attention to the many issues of inequality that still plague the entertainment industry. From the wage gap (Jessica Chastain), to the lack of female directors (Natalie Portman with one of the best zingers of the night), the women of Hollywood made it very clear that the culture of discrimination no longer has any place in this industry. In particular, my heart did a little happy dance when Thelma and Louise themselves, Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis, took to the stage to present, and they did not disappoint.

There are so many things to talk about from last night, from the sea of all black as both women and men eschewed the usual rainbow explosion that is often Golden Globe fashion, and instead wore black in solidarity with the victims of sexual harassment and abuse, to several of Hollywood’s biggest stars bringing well known activists as their guests, including Tarana Burke, the founder of the #MeToo movement. More importantly, many speakers, presenters, and award winners took the time to acknowledge that this is not just a problem that plagues Hollywood. This is a problem that spans all industries and cultures, and it is time for this problem to end. Earlier this year, a new initiative that was inspired by #MeToo was announced called Times Up. This initiative is a call to action to end the culture of shame and silence across all industries, and is an advocacy group calling for the end of sexual harassment and abuse. Finally, The Times Up Legal Defense Fund will provide financial assistance to women and men who have experienced sexual harassment and/or abuse in the workplace. To visit their GoFundMe page, please click HERE.

But even with all of the above, last night truly belonged to one woman. Oprah. In receiving the prestigious Cecil B. DeMille award, the first black woman to do so, Oprah delivered a fiery and impassioned speech that some have interpreted as her opening bid for the White House in 2020. It was a beautiful, big, and bold, and I simply cannot do it justice. Please take a moment and watch it below.

Wow. Can we all just agree that Oprah should be President of the World?

In my end of year post, I wrote about a power shift. I wrote about the crumbling of the patriarchal matrix that is the world we live in today, and last night on the Golden Globes, we witnessed that happening in front of our eyes. This shift is about power with, not power over. It is about the idea of the we being bigger than the me. It is about talent, about inclusion, about fairness, about justice, and it is about respect. And if you are not happy about all that happened last night, if you are not feeling joyful and hopeful and excited that change is finally happening, then perhaps this quote applies to you. “When you are accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression.” Well, to quote Oprah, “A new day is on the horizon”, and for once, it doesn’t feel like the dawning of this new day is an unattainable goal. It is within sight, and it is glorious to behold.

Big thanks to Laura Moore for partnering with me on this piece.

“I Will Not Be a Bystander to Suffering” – One last post on Wonder Woman

As published on LinkedIn Influencers on August 22nd, 2017.

This summer has been a tough one for the domestic box office. The final tally for the summer is estimated to end up trailing 2016 by 12%, or half a billion dollars, and overall, 2017 has racked up about 4% less in ticket sales than last year. There were several big budget bombs, including King Arthur, Baywatch, and The Mummy, and under-performing franchise instalments such as Transformers: The Last Knight, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, and Alien: Covenant. And then there was Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, which is shaping up to make just over half its budget back, even after accounting for the ever more lucrative foreign box office. This is not to say that the summer didn’t have its bright spots. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 got the summer off to a rousing start (loved it), and Spiderman: Homecoming managed to score both critical acclaim and box office success despite the fact that this was the character’s third reboot and sixth film in 16 years. However, the brightest spot on the summer calendar was easily the release of my favorite film, one that I’ve seen four times now and love it more every time: Wonder Woman.

Wonder Woman roared onto the big screen on June 2nd, and began breaking records on its opening weekend when it became the highest grossing opening weekend for a film directed by a woman. Since raking in over $100 million that first weekend, Wonder Woman has gone on to gross over $404 million domestically and over $800 million worldwide. It’s the highest grossing film by a female director ever, and its total domestic gross is not only the highest grossing DC Extended Universe film, it’s also the top grossing superhero origin story film in history. That’s right. Wonder Woman has outgrossed the debut films of Iron Man, Captain America, Batman, Superman, Thor, Guardians of the Galaxy, and every single X-Men film released to date. Just for good measure, she’s also outgrossed the domestic take of every single Harry Potter film and Frozen. That’s right. Wonder Woman outgrossed FROZEN.

Not only did Wonder Woman burn up the box office competition, but she arrived awash in critical acclaim and glowing reviews. Sporting a 92% on Rotten Tomatoes and drumming up great word of mouth, Wonder Woman is slated to be the most successful film of the summer. The only film to outgross the Amazon princess in 2017 is the Emma Watson-led Beauty and the Beast that was the hit of the spring, meaning that the top two grossing films of the year so far are female driven hits. If this does not get Hollywood’s attention to initiate more female led content I don’t know what will.

I’ve made no secret over the years, the many, many years, about my unabashed love for Wonder Woman, and I couldn’t be happier that not only did she finally arrive on the big screen this summer, but she did so in a great movie that was worthy of the character I’ve loved since I was a child. Wonder Woman‘s release also gave me an excuse to let out the inner fangirl in me. As a collector of memorabilia for over 20 years, I finally pulled everything Wonder Woman together in one place, and holy moly. I had pieces here and there around my house, in my closet, packed away in bins, but I had never put it together in one place. When I did, even I was shocked! I ended up doing a local television spot around the collection and the film’s premiere here in Utah, which then got picked up on NBC National News. My collection, by the way, is set to increase tenfold, as this film’s success has led to a boom in Wonder Woman related products. Recent additions for me include a cool WW Bomber Jacket, salt and pepper shakers, and miniature iron clad characters.

Wonder Woman will soon wrap up her first big screen run, and it couldn’t have gone better for a film with so much pressure, anticipation, and stakes attached to it. My lifelong dream of seeing a Wonder Woman film, a great Wonder Woman film, has been achieved, and now all there is to do is sit back and wait for the sequel that’s coming in 2019. Not to mention her appearance in the Justice League film that is due to arrive in November. Can’t wait for that.

So you may be thinking to yourself, “So what? Why does any of this matter?” My answer is multifold.

1) This film made history. In a world where only 7% of the top 250 grossing films of 2016 were directed by a woman, this film’s success shatters the celluloid ceiling. Trust me, I wish I lived in a world where we had something close to gender parity in the film and content industries, but we don’t. The reasons for this are multifold and I invite you to dig into the research if you are interested. My best reports list has a robust section on arts, entertainment, film, and media. So the fact that this film was so successful matters to the industry as a whole.

2) The film showcased what can be accomplished through consumer power. Fans of this character waited decades to see this film, and we proved that not only will we show up, but so will broader audiences when the buzz is strong. What really helped this film perform so well was the momentum of passionate filmgoers, those who did theater buy-outs (I did, photo from the kick-off party above), posted on social media, wrote reviews, and so much more. This is all clear evidence of the power of the purse!

3) The message. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I wake up most mornings anxious and sad about the state of the world. There is so much hate and so much anger out there, and what my favorite character gave us on the big screen was the complete opposite. Though we may not have HER superpowers, we all have superpowers ourselves. We make choices every single moment of every single day on how we show up. Do you lead with love, with compassion, and with the intention to make the world a better place? Or the opposite? What we see on screen, any screen, affects us, and we need more characters like Wonder Woman and more content that lifts up, not pulls down. She is inspirational and I believe that matters.

4) It’s personal. Today I am packing up my collection, leaving a few pieces around the house on display, but clearing off my downstairs table where the collection has been on display for the past few months. So many times I have gone down there and just sat and stared at all those items thinking about my journey to become a champion for women’s rights and inclusion. My origin story with the character can be read here, in my Wonder Woman report, but the reason why collecting has meant so much to me is because it has paralleled my life’s journey to activate my power – my financial resources, my voice, my influence – to make the world a better place. Wonder Woman has been with me every step of the way.

So this will likely be my last post on Wonder Woman for a while, as yes I am capable of writing about other things, but if you did see the film, take a second to reflect on your favorite scene. If it happened to be the No Man Land’s scene, that was mine too. I have the honor of knowing a very special man, Jim Greenbaum, and on the bottom of his emails he has this quote: “Being a bystander to suffering is not an option.” To me, this perfectly summarizes the character of Wonder Woman. If every one of us felt that way and did something, and then did something more, maybe our world would indeed become a better place.

For fun, here is a summary of the media/press I was featured in around the time of the film’s release.

Why Wonder Woman is an Equally Important Film for Boys as it is for Girls

Wonder No More: ‘Wonder Woman’ Shows Female Focused Action Flicks Can Be Hits

Wonder Woman’s Biggest Fan is a Real-Life Warrior for Equality

Wonder Woman Finally Gets Top Billing

Utah’s Own Wonder Woman

Wonder Woman Arrives

As published on LinkedIn Influencers on May 25th, 2017

May 25th, 2017. I’ve only been waiting for this day since I was eleven years old. What day exactly is it you might ask? It’s the day that Wonder Woman finally makes it to the big screen. If you’re thinking, “Jacki, the film opens on June 2nd” you would be right, but the opening night in Los Angeles is on May 25th, today, and I will be there. And yes, I am over the moon about that.

Earlier this week I shared something I wrote many years ago about my obsession with Wonder Woman. About how I quit my job at Goldman Sachs to, in part, write a superhero screenplay. Well that did not happen, but it is kind of spooky how much of the narrative for my made up screenplay has manifested itself in real life. But that is not what this post is about. This post is about the history of the film that I will be seeing TONIGHT. And for those of you who are thinking, “What does this have to do with business?”, let me assure you, this film is big business!

Warner Brothers first began development on a Wonder Woman film back in 2001 at the dawn of the superhero boom in cinemas, and since then we’ve had three Spider Mans, two Batmans, two Supermans, and 14 Marvel movies and counting. Hollywood has also managed to make a whopping nine movies featuring Hugh Jackman as Wolverine, but no Wonder Woman. Until now. Sure she popped up last year for about 10 minutes to be the only good part of the otherwise dreary Batman vs Superman, but it is not until tonight that she gets her own story. I will finally get to watch my favourite superhero kick ass across the big screen.

I would love nothing more for Wonder Woman’s opening weekend to break records as the largest opening weekend in history, but I’m pretty sure nothing can touch Star Wars at this point, so I’m going to settle for something even better. I want this movie to be the one that puts Hollywood executives on notice that they can no longer ignore the buying power of women. I want women, and men, but especially women to show up en mass and prove to Hollywood (again!) that female fronted content is a lucrative business. I want to remind these executives that we are currently living through a golden age of content creation, with over 400 scripted television shows and counting currently available to viewers, meaning it gets harder and harder every day to convince people to get up off the couch and head to the cinema. According to the MPAA, women make up more than half of moviegoers and buy more than half the tickets, so with their entire business model dependent on wooing customers away from Netflix binge marathons, Hollywood can continue to ignore women at their own peril.

I’ve long been an advocate of shopping your values and using your spending dollars to support the causes and issues most dear to you, and equal representation onscreen happens to be one of mine. The research shows that only 29% of protagonists in 2016 films were women, and only 32% of all speaking parts belonged to women. Yet a quick scroll through the cast list of Wonder Woman reveals the opposite, as the overwhelming majority of its cast members are female, so hopefully this film will help bring 2017’s overall score closer to parity.

However, it’s not just in front of the camera where Wonder Woman is going against the grain in Hollywood. Wonder Woman is a DC property, and DC Entertainment is currently headed by a woman, Diane Nelson, and the film is being directed by a woman, Patty Jenkins. Girl power! In an industry where only 4% of the top 100 grossing films of 2016 were directed by women, this is a big step in the right direction to have a female director for one of the most high profile releases of the year. Especially considering this is only the second time in history that a female director has been given a budget of over $100 million. Furthermore, early indications online indicate that not only is Wonder Woman the first female fronted superhero film since 2005’s Elektra, but it is also the best female fronted superhero film ever. Some are even calling it the best DCEU film to date.  These early reviews are great news, because Wonder Woman  has a lot riding on its release, and I’m thrilled that she appears to be rising to the pressure.

So what can you do? Support this film. Not only show up on opening night, but pre-buy your tickets and help make its opening weekend numbers as big as possible. I am doing my part by partnering with a friend and fellow Wonder Woman Fan, and effectively buying out a 300+ theater in Salt Lake City on June 1st. Yes, it is possible to do that. If buying out a theater sounds a little extreme, then just buy a ticket, in advance, and invite your friends to do the same. Easy right? Then go do it. Now. Then use the hashtag #WWParty and join the party on TWITTER. Come on people, let’s make the hashtag trend.

To Wonder Women everywhere, this is my call to arms. It’s a call to everyone, but in particular, I’m calling out to women that this is the one to show up for. Even if superheroes aren’t your thing, I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that you would like to see more women on the big screen and more talented women directors having their shot at $100 million+ budgets.

So how did I get myself to the premiere you might ask? One of my dearest friends made a request of one of her friends who works at DC Comics. She said that her “friend, Jacki, is one of the biggest Wonder Woman fans there is and has been waiting her whole life to see her on the big screen.” True That. I am, and I am so grateful. It is a dream come true.

If you jump over to my personal blog and search for Wonder Woman you will see over 20 posts I have done on the subject over the past 8 years. Yes that is me all dressed up. At this point it should not surprise you that I collect WW memorabilia.