It has been more than a year since local activist Lilly Ledbetter signed a deal to turn her crusade for equal pay for women in the workforce into a movie. But since organizers of the Athena Film Festival took notice in February, the film has slowly started to gain traction.
The Athena Film Festival is an annual festival hosted by Barnard College in New York City that celebrates films, documentaries and shorts highlighting leadership and strength in women. This year organizers also recognized four unproduced screenplays featuring strong leading roles for women that deserve to get made, marking the first “Athena List.”
Landing on this year’s list is “The Good Years,” which tells the story of Ledbetter, who served as the inspiration for the 2009 Fair Pay Act.
“This movie script is about a real woman who made change for herself, and in turn, made change for all women,” said Melissa Silverstein, co-founder of the Athena Film Festival. “There are so few stories like that in the big picture.”
As of yet, no production date has been set for “The Good Years” because much of the financing for a film is heavily contingent on the cast selected.
“It’s a slow process,” said director Rachel Feldman. “We are still trying to lock in A-list talent.” Feldman currently serves as an adjunct professor at Loyola Marymount University.
Although the roles in the film have yet to be determined, according to Feldman, Cathy Schulman of Mandalay Pictures has signed on to produce it. Schulman earned the Academy Award for Best Picture in 2005 for her work on “Crash.”
Feldman said she hopes to film locally in Calhoun County. She believes it is important to the film’s authenticity to shoot in the locations where the events actually happened.
Calls to Ledbetter went unanswered, but she continues to participate in speaking engagements, and delivered the commencement address at Jacksonville State University’s graduation ceremony earlier this month.
Other screenplays on the Athena List included:
• “On the Basis of Sex” by Daniel Stiepleman, a portrait of Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s early years dating back to her law school days and first major sexism case.
• “Audrey’s Run” by Emily Abt, a fictional story profiling an African-American woman running for mayor of Boston.
• “The Sky’s the Limit: The Story of the Mercury 13” by sisters Maria, Gabrielle, Ursula and Jennifer Burton, an account of the female astronauts who were grounded because of their gender in NASA’s early days.