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Telling Women's Stories to Drive Social Change

Updated: Aug 20, 2019

"Across the globe, people are celebrating International Women’s Day by sharing economic, political and social achievements that women have made. The many successes in the pursuit of gender equality are a result of strategic efforts to transform culture and politics and inspire women to take action. One of the ways women have done this is by using different media platforms – like zines, music, books and film – to reach other women, challenge stereotypes of women in pop culture and to tell the stories of their lives. In honor of International Women’s Day, I talked with Sara Landas and Holli Rae, the filmmakers behind the new grassroots documentary, The Goddess Project, about their film, the role of media in driving change and why it is important to tell stories about women’s lives." - Annie Neimand from FRANK

In the summer of 2012, while living in San Francisco, Landas and Rae met inspiring women who were overcoming their fears and changing the world by being themselves and creating transformative projects. After meeting these women, the two filmmakers said they wanted to travel the country and tell the stories of women who were doing similar work as a way to empower other women to do the same.

So, they sold all their belongings, had three successful crowdsourcing campaigns to fund their project and hit the road in a mini school bus powered by vegetable oil.

After speaking with more than 100 women from all walks of life – from professionals and scholars to musicians and other women searching for their next role in life, they are now wrapping up post-production of their film and are prepping for its release.

Q: What inspired your film?

In 2011, we made a pact to start living out our dreams and to contribute to the world in a bigger way, and we immediately met other women who were doing the same. After getting to know these women, we saw that our fears and obstacles were so similar. Through our conversations, we were able to learn different ways to overcome them. We realized how empowering it is to hear stories from women that you can relate to, so we decided we wanted to travel the country and share the stories of women.

We also wanted to see a broader spectrum of women in the media. Movies play a huge role in shaping our culture, and we felt frustrated by the constant bombardment of the same stereotypical roles. Women need more content that empowers them rather than focusing on their problems, so we decided to document inspiring real-life stories.

Q: Can you tell us a bit about your film?

The goal of our film [The Goddess Project] is to educate and empower viewers to leave the theatre feeling like they have the ability to overcome their personal obstacles and begin to contribute to the world in a bigger way.

Our call to action is “Others see their possibilities in your reality,” because we have personally witnessed the incredible transformation that comes when you find a role model who is relevant to you. By showcasing diverse women in the same frame, we aim to bridge the gaps that separate us from one another and broaden the definition of empowerment and success in today’s society.

Q: What is the role of media in driving change?

Audiences worldwide are looking to social media, television and movies to learn about themselves and discover who they want to become in life, so media is shaping our culture now more than ever.

We believe that media is one of the most powerful tools we have to work with today.

Creating content that cuts through the chatter and really connects with your audience on a real and intimate level is one of the most effective ways to drive change.

Creating a connection for someone through a story is a powerful way to transform beliefs and move people to take action. If a story resonates with someone on an emotional level, it produces a sort of empathy that has the potential to create real and lasting change.

Q: Why is it important to tell stories about women’s lives?

So often the stories we are told about women’s experiences are oversimplified and one-dimensional. It’s important for women to be able to see themselves in the media we create, so it’s time that we have more diverse subjects and tell complex and impactful stories. When we see others doing amazing things, we can see possibilities for ourselves. As Geena Davis says, “If she can see it, she can be it.”

It’s also important to have people behind the camera that can deeply understand the experience of those in front of the camera. When you have diversity in all aspects of production then you are able to successfully tell different and complex stories.

Our film is powered by women. From the women in the the film to our music score, to our animators, to our team of lawyers, we wanted our film to be collaborative and reflect the lives and diverse viewpoints of women.

Q: Your project was completely funded through crowdsourcing campaigns. How did you do that?

We realized that in order to reach our goal we had to broaden our audience and we had to ask people for help. Most of the time people were willing and excited to contribute, the hardest part was building up the courage to ask.

It’s challenging, but continued outreach to individuals, organizations, companies and influencers that share a similar passion or vision is fundamental to a successful campaign. There are so many people out there just waiting to connect and help contribute to your mission.

Using social media is one of the most effective tools when running a campaign. We used Vimeo, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and Instagram to find people who believed in what we were doing and who wanted to be a part of it. It was important for us to build a community with our followers, so we spent a lot of our time fostering relationships through social media.

Resilience is also key. You need to be so passionate about your project that you're willing to live and breathe it 24/7.

What is your advice for others using film to drive change?

Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there and learn along the way. It takes a lot of energy and self motivation, but if you have a clear message and you continue to charge forward you will have an impact.



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