The Making of MAKERS
Mar 27, 2012
They say that good things often come out of rejection. This project is certainly evidence of that. Almost eight years ago, I went to Gloria Steinem in the hope of doing a film on her life. And Gloria, in her egoless way, declined. For Gloria, her story had meaning only as part of a collective of stories. She didn't want it to be all about her – she wanted the bigger picture.
So my partner, Peter Kunhardt and I went back to the drawing board and found out, amazingly, that she was right – no definitive documentary on how women have advanced in America over the past half century existed. How could that be? We have epic documentaries on the Civil War, on the Presidents, on Civil Rights, but nothing on the modern American women's movement?
After researching it a bit, we could see why. As filmmakers, the thing we found most surprising – and intriguing - about this story is that it's so vast and also so private. It includes not only the story of feminism and the political change taking place for women over the past 50 years, but also the personal stories happening behind the scenes of women fighting for equality in the workplace and at home. Documenting this collective would present the unique challenge of multiple narratives.
But we were excited by the challenge and instead of starting with a film, we developed a digital first concept – a living library as we like to call it. We knew that if we could conduct over 100 interviews with groundbreaking women form all walks of life, edit each interview into a short compelling story, and put them online in a dynamic video archive, we could tell that vast and personal story without being confined to a single narrative of a film. And then we could build a documentary from the ground up out the best material and not worry as much about what stories we were leaving out.
So seeing the site launch, eight years after our first conversation with Gloria, is certainly a surreal and gratifying milestone for us. The fact that Gloria helped us as an advisor throughout and finally agreed to let us tell her story for HBO is certainly an added bonus. We will forever be grateful for everything she and so many incredible individuals did to get it off the ground.
But it's really only the beginning. It's the beginning of getting to tell this epic, collective story of women's modern achievements and advancement. It's the beginning of working with AOL and PBS to carry these inspiring stories to as many people, as many screens, as many future leaders, as possible. And, we sincerely hope, it's the beginning of an ongoing conversation about how far women have come and where we all still need to go.
// Dyllan McGee is an Emmy-Award winning Executive Producer at Kunhardt McGee Productions, the acclaimed documentary company that specializes in bringing cutting-edge scholarship to popular audiences. McGee oversees all documentary and web programming along with her partner, Peter Kunhardt. In addition to her film work, McGee also sits on the Board of Directors of The Gordon Parks Foundation and the Meserve-Kunhardt Foundation, both not-for-profit organizations with a focus on photography. From 1997 to 2007 she served on the Board of Directors for The Taft School. She lives in Katonah, NY with her husband and two sons. //