Director Sarah Moshman was hooked on filmmaking from a young age. It all started after she received a camera on her fifteenth birthday. Her family had a darkroom in the basement so we wondered, was it a hint? Turns out perhaps it was! Her dad is a happy and successful director and TV producer in Chicago, so it’s a good guess he hoped she’d get the filmmaking bug. Turned out she did! Her experimentation with photography led to her becoming obsessed with the concept of “having an idea, filming a bunch of stuff, putting it together in a compelling way, and sharing it with an audience.” Looking back, Moshman says, “I’m so grateful that being a director was not a far fetched idea… my parents encouraged me endlessly to go for it regardless of my gender.”
Fresh out of college, she started her professional career working in reality television for network shows on ABC, NBC, MTV, Lifetime, Bravo and the Food Network. Between producing gigs Moshman reclaimed her passion for documentary filmmaking in 2009 when she directed two short documentaries Girls Rock! Chicago (2010) and Growing up Strong: Girls on the Run (2012). Shortly thereafter, Moshman went on to make her first feature-length documentary called, The Empowerment Project: Ordinary Women Doing Extraordinary Things. The film began its journey in 2014 and was nominated for a Chicago/Midwest Emmy Award for Outstanding Documentary. Most recently, Moshman directed Losing Sight of Shore which follows the extraordinary story of four brave women who set out to row across the Pacific Ocean from America to Australia. It is now available on Netflix worldwide. In between making kick ass documentaries, Moshman continues to work as a field producer on popular television shows like Minute to Win It, MADE (on MTV), and 10 seasons on the hit show Dancing With the Stars.
“The film transcends gender, this is awe inspiring stuff for everyone.”
While her Dad continues to be a great role model and mentor (he is a documentary filmmaker himself), encouraging her to “put in the hard work to achieve your goals,” Moshman still had to face obstacles, including “fear, imposter syndrome, self-doubt, and of course the need for more funding. As a female in the industry, I have found I have to prove myself constantly. I am often not taken seriously for my craft, and when working in television, I experienced harassment in many forms which was awful.” But all of these experiences, Moshman believes, “make us stronger and more empathetic to others, which is a very important quality as a storyteller.” While she wishes that men were asked more often about the obstacles they’ve had to face in the industry (like we asked) she remains optimistic and says, “It’s not an easy path to take, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I guess I’m a glass half-full kind of gal.”
While a positive attitude can take you far, Moshman notes that access to mentorship and funding is paramount for any filmmaker. “Making a documentary can often be an isolating experience, and there is so much knowledge to be shared between artists.” She encourages filmmakers to apply for as many programs, fellowships and grants as they can for their projects. She finds the experience of grant writing to be incredibly valuable to her development as an artist. “I am on my third feature-length documentary now and the hope is that with each project things get easier. Every project presents new challenges, there is always something new to learn.”
Representation is another important part of the story. What Moshman really wants is for her phone to ring with directing opportunities she didn’t have to create for herself. “We need agents and managers that will fight to get us in rooms and meeting with top executives so that we have a seat at the table.”
“One of the best documentaries I’ve ever seen. Period.”
Moshman is a firm believer in not waiting for permission to go after your dream. “If you have a story you need to tell, find a way to tell it. The tools are all there for us now. Cameras are lighter, crowdfunding makes it possible to rally an audience around your idea, and you can even self-distribute your film successfully now. Make your voice heard.” Moshman explains that it’s extremely empowering to be in control of your own destiny. “I can easily trace back to what some of the most valuable and significant experiences of my career have been because I didn’t wait for someone to give me the green light. I gave myself the agency to make it happen.”
According to Moshman, the female artist’s point of view is largely missing from the media landscape. Currently in early production on her third feature-length documentary called Nevertheless, which is about the sexual harassment crisis in America, Moshman has found the subject to be very enlightening and interesting to dive into. “I am humbled by the responsibility to tell these stories and work towards solutions and change.” She feels, “it’s time to get out there and tell our stories in front of and behind the camera.”
She is currently crowdfunding for the project on Kickstarter and invites you to join in the fight. We are all for it. Excited, too? You can donate and share her campaign HERE,or check out her TEDx Talk HERE!