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April 02, 2019 | posted by Lara Klaber in Filmmakers
When was the last time you saw a woman in a really strong leading role? If it was “Thelma and Louise,” the year was 1991. Times change, or do they?
Since the early days, Hollywood and the film industry are notoriously known as a male-dominated industry. Even today, actresses are not getting equal pay for their roles in films and stories of female directors being replaced with men on high-profile projects are rampant.
It’s just recently that woman have been speaking out on the issue.
Filmmaker Tom Donahue captures their stories in his latest feature documentary, “This Changes Everything.” He talks with actresses such as Geena Davis, Meryl Streep, Taraji P. Henson, and Cate Blanchett, about their experiences.
“We started by identifying the most vocal people on this issue and asking them for interviews,” says Donahue. “I knew within the first year of production that I wanted to tell the stories of Maria Giese [director] and Geena Davis [actress]. They both represented opposite sides of the same coin—Geena represented the struggle for greater equality in on-screen representation and Maria represented the struggle for equality in the workplace. It was this duality that would form the basis of the film’s structure.”
The film was a three-and-a-half-year journey, he says, and he makes it clear that he “was not hired by anyone to make the film,” but rather it was his independent production company—built on a reputation of featuring documentaries about social justice—that undertook the endeavor.
“We never go into a project with any sort of agenda,” he explains. “We approach our films as investigations.” His intent is to listen to each subject and then determine the best way to present the issues as well as potential solutions around a given topic.
More than 180 people were interviewed for his film. And he listened to each subject, created transcripts, found the best soundbytes, and created topic sequences. Eventually, he ended up with a “three-act structure” that editor Jasmin Way was able to build.
Along the way, he learned some disturbing information.
“I was probably most shocked by the stories of sexual harassment and abuse,” he says. “In 2015, a lot of those stories had not come out yet. I certainly knew these kinds of things happened but I did not know how prevalent and truly systemic they were.”
—Anne M. DiTeodoro
PHOTO: After watching one of his films, filmmaker Tom Donahue considers it a success if somebody feels “what it’s like to walk in someone else’s shoes for 90 minutes.”
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