Meghan Rienks is one of the stars of The Honor List, a movie that follows former best friends who reunite when tragedy strikes before their high school graduation. Get The Honor List on iTunes now, and on DVD May 15!
To the women of The Honor List,
Thank you for being my partners in this movie. Thank you for all the work I did and did not see you do. Thank you for the hours you put in when nobody was watching. Thank you for believing in this story as much I did. They say it takes a village and I couldn't be prouder of the one we created.
I still pinch myself trying to wrap my head around how we got here, creating a movie about women and friendship, made by women; a movie we made together. It feels too good to be true, because I honestly never thought we'd make it this far. The experience was so perfect, I expected something would derail it. I envisioned road blocks and hoops too high to jump through, some hiccup that would make this all just a fever dream, but every step was a stride and every hurdle is behind us.
This movie is special, not just because of the story it tells — of four young women coming together to celebrate life — but because everything from the script, to the cast, to the crew celebrated females. This was the first movie set I'd ever been on that was dominated by women — in front of the camera, behind it, calling the shots, making it happen. I can't begin to describe what that energy felt like. Everyone marveled at how calm and supported we felt being surrounded by women. There was no sense of competition, only respect.
It's unheard of to be on a set where nobody yells. Where it doesn't feel like you're on vacation with your friend and their parents start fighting in front of you. There was no power play, there were just powerful women.
Often stories about women are told through a male lens, both literally and figuratively, but not in this film. In the scenes where our wardrobe (or lack thereof) was nerve-racking, we weren't pressured to "hurry up" or rushed into set with statements like "you're holding up production" or "everyone is waiting on you." Instead the director, Elissa Down, and actors sat in a room talking about every logistic of the scene, going over a play-by-play until we felt that everything had a purpose, and we were comfortable to shoot it. That's unheard of! It's unheard of to be on a set where nobody yells. Where it doesn't feel like you're on vacation with your friend and their parents start fighting in front of you. There was no power play, there were just powerful women.
At my first fitting, I said something about how I'd probably be stuck in flats the whole movie. As a 5'8" woman, I'm conditioned to lie about being shorter, slouch, do whatever I can to make the men cast with me look taller, making me in contrast, dainty and desirable. At The Honor List, the stylist told me I'd be in heels. That our director Elissa (another tall woman) could care less about the height difference between me and my male costars. Her goal wasn't to make me look like someone who needed protecting; she wanted me to be somebody who had the strength in herself. It might sound inconsequential, but that moment meant everything. Suddenly, I realized I wasn't in a set where I'd be asked to wear chicken cutlets in my push-up bra or take photographs in lingerie sets to send to male producers to approve. Not only was I given a voice in the room of what I felt comfortable in, I knew I was supported in my choices.
It was the first set where I didn't feel pressured to look a certain way or maintain a certain image because of my gender.
While filming, there were no expectations of our appearances. Our zits weren't fully covered, my bruised legs were left alone, and our bras never matched our underwear. It was the first set where I didn't feel pressured to look a certain way or maintain a certain image because of my gender. My appearance was never commented on. The gaffers didn't talk about the breakout on my chin as if it wasn't attached to my face. The producers didn't whisper about my (lack of) cleavage as wardrobe rushed over to hoist my t*ts to perk up.
I had become so desensitized to those things, that it wasn't until they were no longer happening that I realized how f*cked up they were to tolerate. The subtly sexist nature of film sets was something I had been conditioned to not only deal with, but go along with. I had grown used to directors complimenting me on my appearance every time I arrived on set, as if what I looked like had anything to do with the performance I was about to give. I'd say thank you, because it sounded like a compliment.
The first time I arrived on this set, our director didn't tell me I looked pretty, not because she didn't think so, but because what I looked like had absolutely no correlation with the job I was there to do. I didn't feel insecure without the doting; quite the opposite, actually. For the first time, I felt important and valued for something other than what I looked like. Not only did somebody see more in me, they expected more of me. I'll never forget everything this experience and each and every single woman that was part of this movie taught me.
So thank you for listening to my outrageous ideas, my strong opinions, and my nonsensical ramblings.
Thank you for validating my emotions, hearing my fears and reassuring me that you had my back.
Thank you for valuing diversity, for understanding that feminism is intersectional and that strides break barriers far quicker than baby steps.
Thank you for accepting no bullsh*t and not giving up.
Thank you for ignoring everyone who said it was a "man's job" as you continue to fight for gender representation.
Thank you for squeezing my hand between emotional takes.
Thank you for your silent company and knowing looks.
Thank you for creating an environment where I felt comfortable enough to bare it all (in more ways than one).
And, finally, thank you for believing in me.
Every step of the way, we seemed to collect more and more women who resonated with this story, who were able to see themselves and their friends in these characters and in this place. We are a film comprised of women taking chances and betting on other women succeeding. We made a movie about women, for women, by women, and I can't thank you enough for that.