As she premieres her new feminist documentary Revolt She Said, featuring interviews and insights from the likes of Helen Clark, journalist Alison Mau, academic Dr Pani Farvid, writer and director of gallery Tautai Courtney Sina Meredith, filmmaker Louise Lever shares some of the lessons she learned while filming.
Revolt She Said premieres in Auckland on March 15 (tickets here), followed by screenings around the country.
I spent a lot of time in various archives in Melbourne and Auckland, carefully sifting through amazing material from the 1960s and 1970s, but found out that if I couldn’t successfully contact the copyright holders the material was unusable. That was tough. So many gems found, but not a lot actually got used due to not being able to track down the right people.
I learned that you’ve got to be persistently polite. That was the main thing that got me several great interviews, and when you’re going it alone, you’ve got to check and then double check you have a back-up battery to each interview.
Interviewing Helen Clark, I had the best time. We spent a good hour together, I’m just a bit disappointed we didn’t get a selfie! Helen raised some key points and arguments that I hadn’t explored deeply enough, including that for many women getting on the first rung on the ladder is a huge achievement and also the point that young men need to adjust their expectations as well. Women can have everything they want – family and career – if they choose, but men must step up and help with the unpaid labour.
Alison Mau was also a gem. We had a huge discussion about the #MeToo movement which she was documenting and investigating. I found her comments to be provocative and compelling and I loved our time together. She raised the point that we were the first to give women the vote – but we have problems that haven’t been solved today so where’s the real progress. I heard her say that and thought – yes, this is what the film is about. The progress is really lacking on key issues.
Dangerously sprawled out at RMIT University, blocking all the aisles, (where I was working at the time), with several hard drives plugged into my struggling laptop during my lunch break, as my colourist, Mars Williamson, taught me over FaceTime how to edit in Da Vinci Resolve which I had never used.
There were stressful moments leading up to the first screening in Melbourne. Trying to get the sound done and finish everything was a push, as I was working a 40 hour week as well. I would be up at 6am, and after work get straight into the edit until about 11pm. That was my usual date, plugged through with various strong Melbourne coffees and kind friends. I had great support through the producer Kate Whitbread who introduced me to fantastic people and kept telling me I could do it, and to keep going. That really helped.
The words of Gaylene Preston kept me going. She told me to connect in with the local community, get support, she was encouraging. Sue Maslin came to my Melbourne premiere and gave me some great advice. She told me, ‘you’ve got a strong film – you’ve got to cut it down to 100 minutes for the film festivals’. So I did. We keep in touch, she’s a total inspiration to me.
I also got good at the ‘hustle’ where I got corporate sponsors to help with the costs of the film. With archival footage costs (incredibly expensive) every cent went to maximum use and I was so grateful to them and I even managed to get in a product placement in the film with Wither Hill Wines.
What challenged me and pushed my conceptual limits, was the fierce debate in Melbourne around transgender women. I interviewed a person who is commonly referred to as a ‘TERF’ which is a trans exclusionary radical feminist, yet, it wasn’t that clear cut. I got to know her during our hour and half together, and what she had lived through in London being an out lesbian was horrific and frightening. She certainly hasn’t had it easy. Hearing her argument against transgender women was difficult and at the same time, I did appreciate her view was informed by her age, and life experiences.
In Revolt She Said, I also interview a highly articulate writer Quinn Eades who shares his experience of being transgender and how hard it can be, especially hearing these negative viewpoints. It’s not an easy discussion to have, and yet, we must dig deeply here and not scratch the surface with media quotes and take sides so easily. Like the gender binary, it’s not an easy demarcation to make. I personally think we must invite everyone into this debate and hear a range of opinions without jumping the gun. Everyone is allowed the time and space to be heard, and then to change their minds if they need or want to.
I also learned that my coffee and pizza intake greatly increased by 100 percent during my editing time! But it was worth it – it was SO WORTH it! I’m excited about March 15, the Auckland premiere, and getting to share what I have made. I am honoured to be in the position that I am and to have been entrusted with the stories of my community, has been an amazing experience.