After being the first woman appointed president of New Republic Studios, Mindy Raymond chats about the growth of film production in Austin, gender inequality and how she transformed from an actress to running a film-production company.
Story and photo by Emily Benson
Mindy Raymond, an Austin-based actress and entrepreneur, recently became the first female president of film-production company New Republic Studios. Located just outside Austin on 200 acres of land stretching across the Colorado River, the studio houses three sound stages, two private screening rooms and provides on-site construction and set design. Raymond is no stranger to leadership, serving on the Austin Actors Conservatory board and the Texas Motion Picture Alliance board. Shifting her attention from her acting career, Raymond is now focused on helping Austin become a production hot spot for filmmakers.
Austin Woman caught up with Raymond to talk about Austin as a rising city for film, pay inequality between co-stars and how the #MeToo era has affected women in the film industry.
Austin Woman: How did you decide on Austin for the studio?
Mindy Raymond: The studio has been there for about 10 years. When [John Robison] found it, he and the owner were coordinating for about two years. I was fortunate to be brought into the conversation initially back before we took our space out there. Sheila Newsom brought me in. She knew John for a long time, she and I were working together and she was like, “You need to be at the studios, doing this and running it.” I knew a lot of people in Texas from TXMPA, so it was a very natural fit for me to start taking that position at the studio. I think we’re in a perfect place out there. Austin is growing like crazy, but we’re in this nice little niche. We’re not too far away. It’s quiet. It’s 200 acres. People love coming out there. They feel like they’re getting away from the hustle and bustle and do their work. We’re excited to grow and expand.
AW: Have you ever felt belittled as a woman working in the film industry?
MR: Yes. I noticed it more when I moved out to LA, as opposed to New York. There was definitely an environment of “You’re a cute, young girl. Let me help you with your career.” It was, you know, this sleazy agent or this manager. It was sort of those situations where it comes with the territory. If you’re a successful woman, you do not need to be going through that awful situation to get to a position of power. I’m glad this is coming out. I think for those men who do [take advantage of women], they definitely have those fear factors up because it’s not business as usual. They can’t sit there and say whatever they want or wine and dine somebody and think that they’re going to get something at the end of the night, you know, offer help and guidance when really there’s an ulterior motive. That is definitely coming to an end. I hope that this next generation of women—women producers, directors and writers—won’t have to deal with having outside situations hindering what they can do. It’s like this veil has been lifted and women are rising now.
AW: How has the #MeToo movement affected the film industry?
MR: There’s no straight path in an acting career, and people will take advantage of that. There were definitely situations that I was put in where it was terrifying. It’s gut-wrenching. I am so thankful that this has come out because now we’re able to take back this power that we have never had. It’s always been something that was…behind closed doors. You didn’t talk about it; it was just expected. When all these people were bringing it up, it was like, “Oh, that’s just part of the industry,” and it’s a shame that that’s how we thought [the industry] was. It was this virus that was everywhere. Everything is now coming to light and we’re not standing for this anymore. Women feel empowered. We’re getting positions of power too, as executives, and we’re able to tell our stories. We’re not putting up with this and we’re coming out on top by allowing ourselves and people in power to be women now.
AW: National attention has sparked Hollywood to confront gender inequality and eliminate the pay gap. What has been your experience with pay inequality?
MR: You know, I did a movie a few years ago and my male co-star was getting back-end points, and I was the star in the film. I was like, “How are you getting back-end points and I’m not?” And it wasn’t until I had the conversation with the producers and I was like, “This is not fair. Why does he get this [benefit]and I don’t?” Having those conversations ultimately is what made it right. I think now people are a lot more comfortable having those conversations from the get-go. It’s no longer a retroactive kind of thing. Now we’re saying, “Here’s what I’m worth and we’re not going to back down.” Why should we?
AW: How is the industry changing?
MR: Every single company, organization, nonprofit needs video content. The need for that content to be created is bigger than it ever has been, and we see that out at our studios. We’re going to see more of it as immersive media starts taking over with [virtual reality]and [augmented reality]. … There’s almost not enough content right now being created. There’s that thirst [for video content], and it’s never going to be quenched. Austin is in a great place right now; we have a lot of independent features, commercials, music videos, all this cool, traditional filmmaking. In five years [from] now, everything is going to be so melded together and feed into each other; it’s not going to be this siloed experience anymore. New York and LA have been around forever, so they’re kind of like the godfathers, if you will, of filmmaking and they’re very traditional union states. LA is very ingrained in traditional studio filmmaking. New York has a whole other way of doing business. And Austin is still a young, fluid city and we can really create a huge industry here based on the content that is being created. Austin is in this really sweet spot because we have so many tech companies coming here, so we are now able to harness that technology and start creating that industry here.