Sarah Moshman, Documentary Filmmaker
Two years ago after becoming more aware of how women are portrayed in all forms of media, Sarah Moshman decided to take matters into her own hands and make a documentary about extraordinary women in America who’s stories aren’t being told. After raising $28,590 on Kickstarter, she set out on a month long cross-country road trip from LA to NYC with an all female film crew in tow to interview 17 inspirational women from all walks of life. The result is the inspiring feature-length documentary The Empowerment Project which was completed in May of 2014.
The big question posed in the film is, “What would you do if you weren’t afraid to fail?” The film has also won four film festival awards including Best Documentary from Lady Filmmakers Film Festival and has screened to audiences as small as 10 and as large as 1000. You can watch the trailer and get more information about hosting your own screening here: http://indieflix.com/empowermentproject
What inspires you?
I am constantly inspired by strong, entrepreneurial women around me, and that I read about all the time. Women are making tremendous strides in so many career fields and I feel like I’m a part of this movement of equality and empowerment. We all stand on the shoulders of the trailblazers that came before us so I just want to use my time and talents to make the most of those privileges I am afforded because of so much hard work and history.
Also when my producing partner Dana Cook and I travel with The Empowerment Project and tour in schools, groups, organizations and corporations I am inspired by the people that speak up and share their stories of triumph and struggle as well as their fears and dreams. I am inspired by bravery and honesty.
Who has had the most impact in your life?
Growing up in a household with cameras always around, I can’t dismiss the tremendous impact my Dad Harvey Moshman has had on my life and my career. He taught me the basics of how to be a good producer and filmmaker and watching him problem solve, think on his feet and produce exceptional television in Chicago has probably impacted me more than I can articulate. And now in adulthood, he is less a mentor and more of an equal and a friend to bounce ideas off of since I’ve earned some stripes in this business. He has taught me that a career is a journey and not a destination.
My Mom Diane has always been there for me as an inspiring career woman to look up to. She switched careers from chemical engineering to law when I was a teenager, which I really admire. The two of them together have been the ideal foundation of support and motivation and I share all of my joy and success with them every step of the way.
What is the hardest lesson you’ve had to learn?
Patience. Patience with myself and with others when it comes to working on a project that really matters to me is a hard lesson to learn and one I’m still working on. When you are so wrapped up in a film and it’s your number one priority it’s hard to understand when it isn’t someone else’s number one. It’s important for me to stay present and value the talents and skills of the people around me and have faith that the product will be that much better because I didn’t do it alone. Also realizing that the dots may not connect until you can look back and see how it all makes sense for your path. Maybe you weren’t ready for that opportunity when it first came up.
You can plan as much as you want but sometimes the universe has even bigger plans that you never could have imagined.
What cause(s) or nonprofit(s) do you support?
I am a supporter of the EmpowHER Institute where I participate as a mentor for middle school girls in Los Angeles. EmpowHer’s mission is to empower marginalized teen girls by helping them gain the skills necessary through education, training and mentorship to seek fulfilling and productive lives. I truly value my time working with them and hope they expand to more schools and cities. They embody the saying “If you can see it, you can be it.”
What is your favorite city and why?
Chicago will always feel like home to me since that’s where I grew up – I love the people, the food and all that there is to do and explore there. It manages to have a big city feel but still so much community rooted into it. When the weather is nice, it is the greatest American city. I love LA too; it’s a city of imagination with an electricity of creativity running underneath it. It can be overwhelming at times but there is unparalleled opportunity here and I still feel the magic of being on a studio lot.
I look forward to discovering more cities nationally and internationally while on tour with The Empowerment Project next year and hopefully for years to come.
What creative person, e.g. writer, architect, fashion designer, do you most admire and why?
I hugely admire Amy Poehler and Geena Davis. Both of them are big talents in television and film, but perhaps more importantly have used their platforms to better the lives of women in media. Amy runs Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls and Geena heads up the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media. Both are changing the conversation around strong women in front of and behind the camera and are leading by example being the change they wish to see. I hope to work with both of them someday since our missions are so much in line.
And it should be noted that Amy’s character on Parks and Recreation (Leslie Knope) is the single greatest female character in the history of television as far as I’m concerned. That show is so funny and so important for women in comedy!
What advice would you give to other women starting out?
The architect we interviewed in The Empowerment Project Katherine Darnstadt said it best – “Be bold and naïve.” Know that there will be obstacles and huge mountains to climb to achieve your dreams and goals but that’s what makes it so special to complete them. The past two years bringing this documentary to life has been the most challenging, rewarding, incredible and empowering experience I have ever had. And if it had all been easy I wouldn’t feel as accomplished as I do now, and I wouldn’t have learned as much. You learn from struggle and failure more than triumph and success. Give yourself a chance, be your own biggest fan and ask “Why not me? If not now, when?” Empower yourself in your career and it will transfer to all parts of your life, as well as to the people around you.
Ask yourself “What would I do if I wasn’t afraid to fail?” then follow that path and see the magic happen.