We had the good fortune of connecting with Sarah Moshman and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Sarah, can you share the most important lesson you’ve learned over the course of your career?
As an independent documentary filmmaker, my career has taught me not to wait around for an opportunity to come to me, but to go out and create my own opportunities instead. I see being a filmmaker as a parallel journey to that of an entrepreneur. I’m coming up with ideas, fundraising to get projects off the ground, creating and shaping the project with a team of talented people, and then finding a way to distribute the project so that it can make the most impact and revenue. Many of us wait to be picked, wait for permission or to feel “ready” when the secret is that no one ever feels completely ready to take on a new project or huge endeavor. You’ve gotta jump in and figure it out piece by piece. I’m grateful to hold that lesson close to my heart everyday.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I am a documentary filmmaker, and my work really sits at the intersection of storytelling and activism. My mission is to showcase strong female role models on screen and shine a light on the stories and issues that impact women. I am most proud of my 3 feature-length documentaries, as they were all made independently, from the heart, opportunities I created for myself, and I am so proud and empowered by each of those journeys that it took to make those films, and the impact they are now having in the world. My first feature doc is called “The Empowerment Project: Ordinary Women Doing Extraordinary Things” which follows myself and four other female filmmakers as we drive across America to interview inspirational women from all different career fields – from a pilot, to an athlete, astronaut, mathematician, and much more – we challenge the audience to ask themselves: What would you do if you weren’t afraid to fail? We finished this film in 2014 and since then we have been screening it in schools, groups, organizations and corporations around the world (I just had a virtual screening of the film in Nigeria this morning!) even 6 years later. It has been an incredible lesson in grassroots film distribution as well as what kind of impact a documentary can make in the world if you are willing to put in the work to get it out there. My second feature doc is called “Losing Sight of Shore” which documents the incredible journey of four women who rowed a boat across the entire Pacific Ocean from America to Australia – over 8,000 miles! I learned about this story in January of 2015 and although I had no experience in the sport of rowing and didn’t even know people did endurance sports of this magnitude, I knew their story needed to be told and I knew it would be about way more than just rowing – it was about the power of the human spirit. They rowed for 9 months, 24 hours a day in 2 hour shifts, and they set two world records in the process! I spent 2 years making the film about their journey struggling to raise money and keep the production going, but somehow, some way they crossed the Pacific, and in some ways, so did I. I ended up licensing the film to Netflix in May 2017 so the film was seen in 190 countries and subtitled in 25 languages! It was such a dream come true to see this seed of an idea, and no guarantee that they would make it across the Pacific became such an internationally visible film. My third feature doc is called “Nevertheless” and it takes a look behind the headlines of the #MeToo movement to tell the stories of 7 individual men and women who have experienced sexual harassment and assault in the workplace or school context. I started making this film when I was 8 months pregnant with my daughter Bryce, wanting to try to make the world a safer place to exist in. I was tired of hearing so many stories of sexual harassment from my friends, having my own stories and experiences, and feeling helpless like this is just the price we pay as women in the workplace. This film is about the systems that are in place that perpetuate this behavior, and how we can all come together and be in allyship to one another. I am so proud of “Nevertheless” and that it is now being used as a tool for impact and change in workplaces and schools worldwide. My hope is that the film will be used as part of sexual harassment training programs, and incite important dialogues to make sure workplaces are facilitating healthy work environments for their employees and people aren’t afraid to speak up. And this year in 2020, due to COVID-19 and many productions put on hold, I decided to write a book! I am a teacher and speaker as well as a filmmaker, and I love to encourage other women to get behind the camera and tell the stories that matter to them. So my book is called “Empowered Filmmaking: How To Make a Documentary On Your Own Terms” and I hope it will be a helpful reference for aspiring and veteran filmmakers alike on everything from developing an idea, conducting a successful interview, how to use a camera, fundraising, distribution, marketing, impact and more. In the book I use my 3 films as a case study for what worked and what didn’t work on my path. It has been a nice creative outlet this year to write the book and it can be found on Amazon now! All in all, the work that I do is tied together by empowerment. I want to feel empowered making my own opportunities and not waiting around to be picked or chosen, and I want to empower others to find their own definition of success, and work on projects that matter to them and can help change the world.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I’ve lived in LA 12 years and this year it has been hard not being able to soak up the city in all of its glory, so this is fun to think about! If my best friend was visiting the area, I would want to take her on a hike at Fryman Canyon, shopping at the Glendale Galleria, walk or bike along the beach in Santa Monica, go to lunch at some of my favorite restaurants in the valley – I love Granville in Studio City, Sweet Butter Cafe in Sherman Oaks, go wine tasting at Malibu Wines, see a movie at Arclight Cinemas, go on the Warner Brothers Studio Tour because I never get tired of being on a studio lot, and drive along the ocean!
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I want to give a shoutout to all the other independent documentary filmmakers that inspire me – especially women in this industry paving their own path and creating their own success. This is not an easy path to take, so I am constantly uplifted and inspired by the work that so many of my peers are doing in this space. I wouldn’t be where I am without being able to look around and see role models paving their own way too. Special shoutout to moms in film, working moms, any mom that finds a way to still bring films to life while caring for little ones, I am in awe as a mother myself. Check out the work of so many documentary filmmakers working hard every day to bring important stories to life: Grace Lee, Liz Garbus, Ava DuVernay, Rachel Lears, and so many more.