Sarah Moshman is an Emmy Award-winning documentary filmmaker and TEDx speaker whose work has been featured on Upworthy, Marie Claire, CNN, and Good Morning America. 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 over 700 times around the US and around the world 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 and was released globally on Netflix in May 2017. Next up she's directing a documentary examining sexual harassment in the workplace entitled NEVERTHELESS. Sarah is dedicated to telling stories that uplift, inform and inspire as well as showcase strong female role models on screen.
1. When did your dream of becoming a filmmaker begin?
I have always wanted to be a filmmaker for as long as I can remember. My Dad is a filmmaker and TV Producer and so growing up cameras and production was a part of the conversation and part of my world. I got my first video camera when I was 16 years old, and really never looked back. Having this tool next to me suddenly gave me the courage to speak up and ask questions I might not have asked before. I started making documentaries and really loved the experience and knew I had found my medium for storytelling.
2. Why have you chosen the medium of documentary filmmaking?
I love documentary filmmaking because you get to meet and explore real stories, real places, and real people. I have been fortunate to travel all over the world and meet incredibly interesting people simply because I know how to tell stories and use the camera. It is truly the greatest career I could ever hope for. I would love to get into narrative storytelling as well, but for now it has been a joy to shine a light on stories that otherwise aren't being told. Film is such a powerful medium to gather people and create change, and I have seen that firsthand. I also love how accessible documentary filmmaking is to everyone. Story is really the most important part, you don't have to have a huge budget or the best cameras to make a compelling film.
3. What has been your greatest achievement as a filmmaker?
One might think my greatest achievement as a filmmaker would be an award or accolade or amount of revenue earned. Those things have been wonderful indicators that I'm on right path, but for me the great achievement has been the impact my films made. Hearing from viewers or meeting audience members in person that my films have inspired or motivated people in some way, is truly the greatest reward I could ever hope for. Those comments and feedback is what keeps me pushing forward more than any award ever could.
4. Tell us a little about the process for making The Empowerment Project.
The Empowerment Project is about five female filmmakers driving across America to interview inspirational women from all different industries to help create more role models for girls. The process to make it was empowering as well. We raised the money to make the movie on Kickstarter, we spent a few months in pre-production figuring out who to interview and where to travel, and then in September of 2013 drove across the country (over 7,000 miles through 22 states in 30 days) to shoot the film. From there we spent about six to seven months in post-production cutting it all together and completed it in April of 2014. It was like living in a bubble of inspiration for a year and a half and making the film was truly a dream come true. This is the film I wish I had seen in middle school, and the film I still felt like was missing as an adult. I wanted to do something to help the representation of women and girls in the media.
5. Did you ever feel it would see the success it has across the globe since its release in 2014?
I could have never imagined how far this project would go. We have screened the film over 700 times around the world - I have been able to travel with the film to places like New Zealand, England, Russia, Holland, and Djibouti. It has been incredible to see a film appeal to audiences as young as kindergarteners all the way up to a corporate environment with professional men and women. We have worked with awesome brands like Nordstrom, American Girl, Microsoft, and Charles Schwab that believe in this message and put their money and power behind this mission. I have had rock star moments like speaking in front of 16,000 people at WE Day California and cried with a small group of women in a yoga studio and everything in between. I love this work, and I love how film can spark a global conversation about gender equality.
6. Tell us a little about the process of making Losing Sight of Shore. WHY did you feel you needed to share this story?
Losing Sight of Shore is my second feature-length documentary which follows the extraordinary story of a team of brave women who set out to row across the Pacific Ocean from America to Australia. Making this film has been one of the greatest adventures of my life! This was never about rowing to me, it was always about the power of the human spirit. I was not on the boat, but I was able to meet these incredible heroes on land along the way. So I was able to film in San Francisco, Santa Barbara, Hawaii, Samoa, and Australia. When I first heard about this expedition, I knew I had to help shine a light on it, I knew that millions of people would be inspired by their courage and perseverance and friendship. I supplied the crew with cameras, microphones and hard drives so they could tell their own story at sea and then I interviewed the women on land each time they stopped. The voyage took nine months and then I spent another nine months or so in post-production putting it all together. The happy ending of this project was that after almost two years of piecing this project together and believing with my whole heart I would somehow figure out how to reach the masses, Netflix decided they would license the film in 190 countries! So now, I hear from people all over the world almost every day saying how much they love the film. The experience of making Losing Sight of Shore taught me to listen to that inner voice that guides me and to leave my comfort zone because that's truly where the magic happens.
7. Tell us about your latest project NEVERTHELESS and what it means during this time in history with everything that is happening with not only women in film, but across the board in terms of respect and equality.
My latest film is called NEVERTHELESS and it's about the sexual harassment crisis in America. I decided to tell these stories based on my own experiences with sexual harassment while working in television and how those moments made me feel so small and insignificant. Then when I found out I was pregnant with my daughter, something ignited inside of me to get started on this film and shortly after I started interviewing people is when #MeToo really took off and the Weinstein story broke. My take is that I want to examine how we got here as a country and where we are going now. What are those actionable tools and solutions we can all take with us back into the workplace so we all feel safer and more comfortable? I want to start these dialogues through film regarding how we are raising our girls and boys, how the legal system silences victims, and this concept of toxic masculinity and how men can show up as allies. We need to be heading towards better respect and equality for everyone. I think we all need more empathy, and I hope this film can encourage that.
8. What has been the greatest lesson you've learned during this journey?
I've learned so much about being an entrepreneur! Being a filmmaker is absolutely like being an entrepreneur, you are starting a business, creating a product, and learning about who your audience or consumer is so that you can reach them with your project or product. It's empowering to think of it that way, as well as find the artistry.
9. Finally, if you could share some words of wisdom for a young filmmaker just starting out, what would you say?
You are capable of more than you could ever imagine. I want filmmakers to know that they should start projects before they feel "ready." It is so powerful to have intention and focus, people will respond to your passion and if your film means enough to you, you will make it happen.