NEVERTHELESS Preview- Conversation with Award-Winning Filmmaker

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Sarah Moshman is an Emmy Award-winning documentary filmmaker and TEDx speaker. After directing two short documentaries about female empowerment in young women, (Girls Rock! Chicago (2010) and Growing up Strong: Girls on the Run (2012)) she set out to direct her first feature doc The Empowerment Project: Ordinary Women Doing Extraordinary Things (2014) which has been screened all around the US and around the world in schools, groups, organizations and corporations starting conversations about gender equality. Sarah's second feature doc, Losing Sight of Shore follows the incredible journey of four women who rowed across the Pacific Ocean.

Nevertheless is Sarah’s third feature documentary which takes a look behind the headlines of #MeToo and Time’s Up to shine a light on the sexual harassment crisis and use the power of cinema for change. Sarah says she is dedicated to telling stories that uplift, inform and inspire as well as showcase strong female role models on screen. Here, Picture This Post (PTP) asks Sarah Moshman (SM) about her reasons for making the film, and the particular challenges she faced.

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Sarah Moshman Filming 9 months pregnant

(PTP) When did you decide to make this film? What was the timing of this film in relation to #MeToo and the Weinstein story, how did that influence you as a filmmaker?

(SM) I decided to make Nevertheless when I was pregnant with my daughter Bryce in 2017. Becoming a parent, especially to a daughter, I was thinking constantly about being responsible for a girl in this world.  It forced me to rethink and re examine times in my career when I had been sexually harassed and never felt like I had the voice to speak up. I also thought about how every single one of my female friends and co-workers had a story about being harassed at work, and yet we all had decided this was just the price we pay as women in the workplace. I thought - what is happening in our workplaces? How did we get here? All of this frustrated me and so I did the only thing I know how to do in that situation - pick up the camera and get to work. I had my first shoot day for Nevertheless on October 4th, 2017. The,New York Times article breaking the Harvey Weinstein story came out on October 5th, with #MeToo to follow shortly after. Suddenly my film had a whole new timeliness to it, which is exciting as a filmmaker, but also adds a lot of pressure. I started to think about how to add to these dialogues that were happening, and how my film could contribute and be different. Although my film is not about Harvey Weinstein, the verdict was read a couple days after our film had its premiere in Los Angeles in February of 2020, so that landmark story has book ended this journey in an odd way. Our country has changed so much in these two+ short years, and we hope that things will continue to shift and change as time goes on and films are an exceptional way to push conversations forward and create empathy.

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Why did you choose these seven stories?

I chose these seven stories to shine a light on a variety of people— men and women, the transgender community, as well as different industries from white collar to blue collar, military veterans, to a middle school student— to help paint the picture that this is widespread, affects everyone in some way, and looks different in different environments. We tend to think that certain behaviors are bad across the board, but then we end up missing a huge part of the population that experiences micro-aggressions or less aggressive behaviors as if those aren't also part of the problem. I wanted everyone to see a piece of themselves, or someone they know in one or more of these seven stories. Research producer Carla Romo, and together we combed through articles, watched interviews and read stories to determine what people to focus on and why. We have a 911 Dispatcher, a Writer's Assistant on a very famous TV show, a Tech CEO, an Auto Plant Worker, a restaurant worker, a Navy veteran, and a mother-daughter duo at a midwest middle school, and each one presents such a different shade to this issue. I wanted all seven of these stories to provide a different context and texture to this movement, and I'm so honored that these seven people open up their hearts and homes to us to help tell their stories - which in most cases were about a very painful time in their life. I knew a film like Nevertheless needed to be rooted in intimate stories and empathy amidst the incredible experts we also feature that give the bigger picture, so the film is ultimately a combination of those two elements.

How was the making of this film parallel with your journey to becoming a mother? How did having a daughter influence you in this process?

I became a mother while making Nevertheless, which to some might seem like a crazy thing to do, make a movie while in the early days of parenthood. But for me, it was essential to my mental health. Becoming a mother is a time of such massive upheaval and change in your life, not to mention the swift identity shift that happens as soon as you come home from the hospital, it's so much to deal with. For me, having a film to work on amidst a time of uncertainty (and lack of sleep!) made me feel more like myself again than anything else. I have always wanted to be a filmmaker, it's a part of the fiber of who I am in the world, so I loved finding pockets of time each day to work on this film as my creative outlet, as my way of trying to make the world a safer place for my daughter to exist in, and for my own self-worth and confidence. I ran a successful Kickstarter campaign when she was three months old while breastfeeding, I traveled all over the US to do interviews. I read through, highlighted and made sense of over five-hundred pages of transcripts with my editor, and so much more. I dedicated the film to my daughter for inspiring me and motivating me through this process, but I also truly feel like making this film, with all of its challenges, helped me stay sane and survive the first two years of motherhood. I'm so proud and grateful that we are here now, sharing it with audiences, workplaces and schools around the world.

When and how did you land on your title?

I love the word nevertheless, it says so much. I love how when you break it down it says Never-the-less as if women are never less than men. I also love it as a word we all use to say "well, we still have work to do." And then I kept seeing the rallying cry at protests and marches "Nevertheless She Persisted" which is from the Mitch McConnell quote to Elizabeth Warren on the Senate floor. I love that expression, but I also wanted to make it more universal for this film. The film is really about all of us coming together to make change so the tagline is: we persist.

Did you know where you wanted the film to go before you embarked on making it? Or did you find the many poignant themes in the editing room?

I knew that I wanted the film to be a mixture of personal stories and expert interviews giving the larger picture of society and culture and how we can move forward. I didn't know how those things would intertwine, but in the edit room we found ways to link sentiments and stories together so that it would flow. It's a lot of information coming at you in this film, a lot to digest, and that's what I love about it. There's a lot to unpack here depending on who's watching it. The film doesn't offer up one solution, it offers up many calls to action and it's up to each person, each company, each organization to take what they need from it. The film ends with "What happens next?" and that's up to all of us how we proceed from here.

Why and how did you choose the experts you feature in this film?

I knew there were certain buckets and themes I wanted to address when it comes to sexual harassment, and so I sought out experts that could speak to those themes. I knew I wanted to hear about toxic masculinity, intersectionality, privilege, gender identity, victim blaming, gender roles, our legal system, and more. I started with even more themes and then inevitably we couldn't include everything, so we found ways to relate these themes to the stories we were telling. It was so clear to me that if we don't talk about the root of the problem, nothing gets solved. So with Carla Romo's help we reached out to diversity and inclusion experts, sexual harassment training prevention consultants, activists, authors, lawyers, professors, and more. We did about forty-five interviews on camera, and probably three times that many over the phone, landing at about twenty-five interviews in the actual film, so there was a lot of research and thought put in to this narrative. I feel so lucky and grateful I got to ask the brightest minds about this issue of sexual harassment and their thoughts on the many layers of it in our society. I learned so much!

Please share with our readers the pros and cons of being both director and producer of the film.

Well, I don't really know how to divorce the two roles when making a feature-length documentary like this as an independent project. As a director and producer you are constantly making decisions and compromises to reach your goal. I am inherently using both sides of my brain all the time - creatively problem solving, which is what I love about making a film. I love the entire process, from coming up with the idea, to fundraising (hard, but still a fun challenge), choosing what lens to use, asking interview questions, editing, marketing, distribution, and everything in between. Although I would love to have a bigger team and more support, there is something so empowering about having a concept in your mind and bringing it to life. I love hiring really talented people to enhance the vision and make the project even richer and better than I thought possible. I do work as a director for hire on shorter form branded content and I value and love being able to focus solely on the directing part of the project in that scenario.

Why did you choose to make this documentary feature-length?

We actually have two versions of the film - an eighty minute and a fifty minute. We made the shorter version so that schools and companies could screen it within a shorter time frame and add on a panel discussion, Q&A, workshop, training, etc. The film is feature-length to begin with because there was so much great information to include intertwined with the personal stories, we pack a lot in to eighty minutes!

How do you envision Nevertheless impacting different audiences— college age women? older women? men of varying ages? etc.

I'm working with the social impact distributor Indieflix, and with their help we are bringing Nevertheless right to the people and communities that could benefit from this message the most - workplaces, organizations, and schools. This film is designed to be seen as a collective experience, and then discussed in some form afterwards. We have a discussion guide that accompanies the film with a glossary of terms, questions, activities, resources, and more. We also have the full ability to facilitate virtual screenings that include a survey, a follow along quiz, and a tip sheet. Our dream is that this film is a companion or supplement to mandatory sexual harassment training in companies worldwide, and a way to begin this dialogue to our future workers and leaders in business schools, colleges, high schools, middle schools and other education-focused environments. We want everyone to see this film - but we especially need people in positions of leadership, managers, directors, CEOs, and men across the board to hear these stories and consider their own biases, privileges and complicit behaviors so that the system can actually see change long-term. We are all in this together, but it would be foolish to think that if only women and girls see a film like this, anything will change. We need everyone at the table to see significant impact. So instead of putting this on a digital platform and hope people find it, we are distributing the film in a very intentional and impactful way. Anyone can host a screening of the film at neverthelessfilm.com/host-a-screening

What do you hope this film uniquely adds to the #MeToo conversation?

I hope Nevertheless adds to the #MeToo conversation by not just raising awareness - we have that. I hope this film helps people take a wider look at our society and how it functions, and how we can all be a part of the solution. We simply do not value women and girls in our society as much as boys and men, and that has become apparent in a multitude of ways. My intention with this film was never to point the finger at any one bad company or person. For long-lasting social change, exiling the people that do the worst possible things will only take us so far. What we really need is a cultural shift, and for every person in our society to be a part of that change. This isn't a film about celebrities or sensational headlines. It's about the real people behind the headlines you may have never heard of who's lives have been impacted by harassing behavior, and what we can learn from their stories. Nevertheless sits at the intersection of activism and storytelling and I'm so excited to see where it will go and who it will inspire.

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