Sarah Moshman is a filmmaker whose positive and empowering outlook, approach, and projects we value greatly and are excited to share. She brings us inspiring true stories of amazing females who challenge and stretch the limits of possibility, while encouraging us to reach past our own comfort zone and find what lies beyond. But she doesn’t just show us these things on screen, she also puts the same ideas into practice in her own life. Obviously, we were eager to talk more with her about her latest documentary LOSING SIGHT OF SHORE and life in general.
What is it that draws you to documentary film?
True stories are so powerful, they make us feel less alone and help us process our own emotions and experiences. I love the whole process of making a film—from the lightbulb moment of an idea, to crafting the story in production and post, as well as building and finding an audience who will be first in line to see it when it’s done. I love how many hats I get to wear as an artist and a businesswoman, and I think of myself as an entrepreneur as well as a filmmaker. I like thinking about the whole vision from idea to completion, each phase is dependent on the other phases, and when it all comes together for an audience to enjoy, for me it is the ultimate feeling of empowerment.
What is your history with documentary film? Is there a red thread that has followed you throughout your career?
I made my first documentary when I was 16 years old for a high school English class, and when I showed it to the class and saw their reactions, I was instantly hooked. I felt a strength and courage with a camera next to me I hadn’t felt before. Being a filmmaker has always been my dream, and I feel so lucky and grateful to work in this field.
I am so passionate about making documentaries that spotlight strong, complex, real girls and women so we can shift the way media represents and portrays what it means to be female in our world. This has been an ongoing theme with my work, and I know it will be a continuing theme as I continue to make films. It is so important for women to see themselves reflected back to them in film and television, and it is my mission and passion to help make that happen.
You have worked in television but also independently on your own documentary projects. In your experience, what are some of the biggest differences working on these two sides of the business?
The biggest difference is creative control. Often times working in television you are a small part of a large team, and it’s hard to take ownership of the content you are producing. And when the show ends, you move on and have no role in it anymore. What I love about making documentaries is the freedom to be creative, to push myself, and leave my comfort zone. I am constantly learning new skills out of necessity, and making mistakes that I am forced to face and learn from. It can be a lonely and isolating experience at times.
Some days I certainly fantasize about getting a steady job again, and I’m sure I will again at some point. But for now, I am very self-disciplined, and I love how my films stay in my life. I finished my first feature documentary The Empowerment Project over three years ago and it is still very much a part of my life—showing it in schools, groups, organizations, film festivals. When it’s your own project it can be the gift that keeps on giving if you have the right strategy in place. I hope that Losing Sight of Shore will live on in many forms for years to come.
The question “what would you do if you weren’t afraid to fail?” has played a motivational role for you in the last several years. Do you have any advice or tips on following this question through to its answer in one’s own life, and even turning fear and possible failure into something positive?
Yes, that is the tagline of my first feature The Empowerment Project and has been a very motivating sentiment in my life. Failure is integral to success and growth, although we may all define failure and success differently. I recognized early on in my career that for me, failure means not trying, not pushing myself. And once you have an experience where you are so far outside your comfort zone and it goes well, you can use that experience to get you through future moments that may seem insurmountable. We are all way more resilient than we give ourselves credit for. I have learned so much more from being let down and rejected, and it honestly makes the moment of joy and glory that much more meaningful.
Losing Sight of Shore has been one heck of a journey getting it made, it was the biggest risk of my professional life. I had no idea if these four women would make it even one third across the Pacific Ocean, but I knew I would always regret it if I didn’t try to tell their story. That’s why this quote is so motivating and important to me.
Thinking about your commitment to featuring strong, complex women and girls on screen and the importance of their visibility in today’s media landscape naturally brings to mind the impact of female role models. How important is it to see people that look like ourselves who are also breaking and pushing the boundaries of what is possible?
There are thousands of messages that we are getting as consumers every second of every day as we interact with technology. A lot of those messages when it comes to referring to or representing women tend to be objectifying, sexualized, or simply incorrect and misleading. These messages have a huge impact on how we perceive the world, and in turn, how we perceive girls and women. I am dedicated to working towards changing that through film and shining a light on stories of complex, flawed, strong, female leaders and innovators that are paving the way for the next generation.
It is a proven fact that when girls see more characters and images that look more like them in the media, they can see more of their limitless potential. I have seen firsthand the impact positive media can have on a young girl and an adult woman, as well as for boys and men redefining unconscious biases they may hold. That’s part of the reason why I was so drawn to the story of the Coxless Crew. These are four people, who happen to be women, doing something so far outside anyone’s comfort zone and redefining what we may view as an athlete, as a rower, as an adventurer or explorer.
It seems clear that you were the perfect filmmaker to team up with the Coxless Crew to make LOSING SIGHT OF SHORE and tell their story of rowing across the Pacific in their boat Doris. How did you meet the rowers and learn about the monumental task they set out to achieve?
I met the Coxless Crew through a blogger in the UK named Fiona Tatton who runs a site called Womanthology. She emailed me a few months before they set off on the row asking if I’d like to be introduced to them. What began as pleasantries for our first Skype call, ended with me certain this was a story I had to help tell. This was about so much more than rowing. This was about the power of the human spirit. Natalia Cohen, one of the rowers said it best: “I believe everyone has a Pacific to cross,” and that’s when I knew this was too extraordinary to pass up. It has been an adventure of a lifetime ever since.
After seeing a documentary, many people are eager to take action or apply what they’ve learned to their own life. Is there something specific you would like viewers to do or a conversation you would like them to have after watching LOSING SIGHT OF SHORE?
We want to hear about YOUR Pacific. We all need to lose sight of the shore once in a while to grow and learn, but it can be scary. We encourage people to share with us what ‘Pacifics’ they are about to cross or have crossed in their lives—like writing a book, or overcoming an injury or illness, it can mean anything. Share with us on social media by using #MYPACIFIC so we can support one another as we lose sight of shore.
What would your documentary playlist consist of?
Oh I love this!
LOSING SIGHT OF SHORE is Influence Film Club’s featured film for May 2017. Each month Influence Film Club hand-picks one of our favorite docs as our club’s featured film to watch and discuss together. Throughout the month, starting with our newsletter and continuing on our website and social media, we will extend the conversation by exploring the various issues touched on in the film, providing filmmaker interviews, suggesting ways to influence, and discussing documentaries in general—because after all, We Love Docs.
Interview by: Nicole Smith