SXSW 2022 Women Directors: Meet Julie Cohen and Betsy West – “Gabby Giffords Won’t Back Down”

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Julie Cohen and Betsy West are Academy Award-nominated, Emmy-winning filmmakers who directed and produced the theatrical documentary “RBG.” Their movie “Julia” was launched theatrically by Sony Photos Classics in 2021 and was shortlisted for an Academy Award. “My Identify Is Pauli Murray” premiered final yr on the Sundance Movie Competition and was launched by Amazon Studios. Earlier than they started their filmmaking partnership in 2015, West and Cohen each had careers in broadcast journalism and impartial documentaries. Cohen directed “The Sturgeon Queens” and “I Stay to Sing.” West is the Fred W. Pleasant Professor Emerita at Columbia Journalism College.
“Gabby Giffords Received’t Again Down” is screening on the 2022 SXSW Movie Competition, which is happening March 11-20. Discover extra info on the fest’s website.
W&H: Describe the movie for us in your personal phrases.
JC&BW: This can be a movie about one of the vital spectacular human beings you’ll ever come throughout. Her complete life, Gabby Giffords has been a font of power, smarts, toughness, and charisma. After a 2011 assassination try, whereas she was a younger congresswoman, Gabby deployed these traits and extra to relearn to stroll and speak, and finally to begin her personal group to scale back gun violence.
Her husband, astronaut-turned-senator Mark Kelly, documented Gabby’s journey on videotape. With that valuable archive and extraordinary entry to movie the couple’s skilled and residential life for 18 months in 2020 and 2021, we have been capable of put collectively a movie that’s each Gabby’s story of resilience and Gabby and Mark’s love story.
W&H: What drew you to this story? 
JC&BW: We have been launched to Gabby Giffords in early 2020. Even on Zoom, she and her husband, Mark Kelly, blew us away. She started the dialog by lifting up her foot to indicate us her RBG socks, and inside a couple of minutes of speaking to them each — studying about their journey, how Mark had documented a lot of it on video, and the chance to movie their new ventures — we knew we needed to make this film. 
W&H: What would you like folks to consider after they watch the movie?
JC&BW: We wish folks to stroll out of the theater — or away from the display screen — interested by what steps we are able to take as a nation to scale back gun violence. However maybe much more, we would like audiences to consider the intelligence, willpower, and sheer drive of will that has pushed Gabby Giffords’ ongoing restoration from a shattering damage and in regards to the position that deep love can play in therapeutic.
W&H: What was the largest problem in making the movie? 
JC&BW: In contrast to many movies the place entry is an issue, working with Gabby and Mark was a pleasure. 
However, like so many different filmmakers, we needed to navigate filming throughout the time of COVID. As we dropped out and in of Arizona and Washington to movie verité scenes, we turned increasingly more snug with well being protocols and located it simpler to shoot although the pandemic lasted longer than most of us anticipated.
W&H: How did you get your movie funded? Share some insights into how you bought the movie made.
JC&BW: We don’t go round saying the phrase “blessed” on a regular basis however we have been completely blessed to have Time Studios, and particularly our ongoing associates and companions at CNN Movies, are available from the begin to fund and function the executives on this film. The workforce supported this undertaking in each sense of the phrase.
W&H: What impressed you to turn out to be a filmmaker?
BW: OK, this may date me, however I fell in love with the surfer documentary “The Infinite Summer time” directed by Bruce Brown when my sister and I noticed it at a seedy artwork home in 1967. I later turned obsessive about the British “World at Struggle” documentary collection created by Jeremy Isaacs. As a community information producer for a number of many years, I stored shifting away from breaking information protection to long-form video storytelling, and after I noticed “Hoop Desires” directed by Steve James, I noticed you can marry journalism with compelling filmmaking. After I left the networks a few decade in the past, I began making an attempt to just do that. 
JC: It’s not only a matter of getting impressed. So many elements of creating a film are arduous and anxious that you really want to remain impressed for every movie, and typically on a week-to-week foundation when you’re within the course of of creating the movie. Typically what evokes me are different movies I see. In 2021, for instance, I used to be impressed and rejuvenated by Wes Anderson’s “The French Dispatch.” Each line of dialogue, each quirky set, each digital camera angle, is a murals. The admonition the Invoice Murray character offers his writers, “Simply attempt to make it sound such as you wrote it that method on function,” works properly as recommendation to filmmakers, too!
W&H: What’s the perfect and worst recommendation you’ve acquired?
JC&BW: Finest recommendation: We received’t give away the context, however our movie comprises some glorious recommendation from Gabby Giffords herself: “Straight forward. Carry on preventing.”
The worst recommendation is something that locations limits on you, particularly based mostly in your gender, race, age, or seems to be. 
W&H: What recommendation do you might have for different ladies administrators?
JC&BW: Properly, Gabby’s recommendation suits effectively right here, too: “Straight forward. Carry on preventing.” Set clear targets for your self and your workforce after which preserve trudging alongside, step-by-step, on the course you’ve set. 
W&H: Identify your favourite woman-directed movie and why.
JC: “Favourite” is an enormous phrase, and I don’t need to use a solution I’ve given to W&H in the past, so I’ll identify one favourite from 2021: “Faya Dayi” by Jessica Beshir, a documentary about how chewing the psychoactive plant Khat impacts folks in Ethiopia. The storytelling and the cinematography are attractive and unique, and the dreamlike filmmaking type is an ideal match for the subject material. Go discover this movie. You received’t quickly overlook it.
BW: I really like the style of feisty younger ladies tales, like “A League of Their Personal” by Penny Marshall and “Bend It Like Beckham” by Gurinder Chadha. Considered one of my all-time favorites is “Whale Rider,” Niki Caro’s astonishing story of a Maori lady’s dream to turn out to be the chief of her tribe. Her thrilling trip on the again of a whale is a fantastic metaphor for feminine empowerment, and one of the vital magical and breathtaking scenes I’ve ever seen in a movie.
W&H: How are you adjusting to life throughout the COVID-19 pandemic? Are you protecting inventive, and if that’s the case, how?
JC&BW: We work extra from our respective properties now, however really feel extraordinarily lucky to have been capable of preserve pursuing documentary filmmaking — albeit with a number of changes — by way of the pandemic. Our predominant technique for protecting inventive and productive: ample face-to-face communication, although the faces are normally in containers on a Zoom.
W&H: The movie trade has an extended historical past of underrepresenting folks of coloration onscreen and behind the scenes and reinforcing — and creating — adverse stereotypes. What actions do you suppose must be taken to make it extra inclusive?
JC&BW: One of the simplest ways to have extra genuine illustration of individuals of coloration on display screen and extra inclusion behind the scenes is to have a number of — not just some — folks of coloration in key inventive and govt positions. Folks usually don’t prefer to say it so bluntly, however cash issues.
Endlessly on this enterprise, the studios and different funders have been extra snug having their cash movement in direction of white males. That’s starting to alter for girls, and it’s starting to alter for folks of coloration too. It wants to alter sooner in order that filmmakers of coloration have the sources to execute their inventive visions and enterprise plans.



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