“A” For Alpha is the first film that I’ve watched that explicitly addresses gender roles in relationships. Hollywood has never spoken about it in clear and concise terms. We always discuss equality and we hear the conversations about the big pay disparities between A-list male actors versus their A-list female actresses. With such an important call for change, why does it take an indie short film such as this to finally address the issue? Being a fly on the wall as I watched the team made up of Reggie Lochard, (the writer, producer and star of the film) his producing partner Kelley Kali (the 2018 Student Academy Award winner and DGA winner) and director Greg Cally take this project across the finish line right at the cusp of a major global pandemic and I could not help but think what timing.
We’re living in an era where everything is being questioned and the old school ways of thought are becoming outdated. Women are no longer waiting hand and foot for a man to pay their bills or provide them with financial security.
According to the Forbes Fortune 500 list in 2018, there were 6.4% of women CEOs in 32 running major firms versus the 0.2% in 1996. This tells us that women are taking seats at tables normally headed by men. “A” For Alpha is not just a story about gender norms it is actually a case study on something very current and relevant happening right now in America and across the globe. In China, Yang Huiyan is a billionaire property developer and the majority shareholder of Country Garden Holdings. She is the richest woman in Asia at the young age of 38 years old. In the US, we have Miko Branch, the co-founder and CEO of Miss Jessie’s, a multi-million-dollar haircare brand for women with naturally curly hair. Gone are the days where women were submissive and dependent on men for financial support and success. Today, women are as successful as their male counter parts, which drives the essential question of the movie: What are the gender roles in today’s society? What is the new normal? How do we define maleness?
In speaking with writer and producer, Lochard says the inspiration behind the film came together after a visit to a high school friends’ home, where his friend’s wife asked him to do the laundry and the friend was so offended by the request that he blatantly said "No." Lochard recalls the moment so vividly and it wasn’t until he left that he realized how deep rooted and ingrained these ideals are into the fabric of our society. It’s like making money, being strong, not crying, playing sports are the attributes that defines what a man is traditionally supposed to be — whereas cooking, cleaning and raising the kids are the attributes that defines what a woman is traditionally supposed to be.
In “A” For Alpha, we see DeShawn White play Vanessa, a successful attorney on track to making partner at her corporate law firm and we have Lochard as an out of work personal trainer who spends his days doing food delivery services to hide the fact that he’s out of work. Why the lying you might ask? Because a man isn’t supposed to depend on a woman to provide for him; that’s taboo, embarrassing and unequivocally unmanly. The man is supposed to be the breadwinner and the film asks: what’s wrong if a woman is the one doing it?
“We’re not trying to solve the world’s problem with this film," said Lochard. "I’m not trying to tell people what is right or wrong. I’m simply trying to start a conversation and to use this film as a catalyst to a conversation about gender norms in today’s society," citing this as his reasoning for writing and producing this film and its relevance in today’s society.
Courtesy of "A" for Alpha
Bringing this film to life has been a labor of love and a lot of faith from the powers that be. Heavy hitters like HBO have endorsed and sponsored this film, Film Independent has come on board to fiscally sponsor the project as well and nonprofit organizations like Equality Now and White Ribbon foundations have also endorsed the equality message the film pushes. The film has so far screened virtually at several film festivals Toronto Black Film Festival, Cinequest Film & VR Film Festival and Garden State Film Festival where the film won Best Original Score in a Drama Short. Keep your eyes open as this film makes its way to a festival near you.
Tarah Williams is the script supervisor of "A" for Alpha.