So what if International Women’s Day was last week? Filmmakers Dyllan McGee, Betsy West and Peter Kunhardt have created MAKERS, a digital platform that encourages us to celebrate contemporary influential women, every day.
MAKERS, a project developed by AOL & PBS, has only begun as a digital interface. The feature length documentary will air on PBS in early 2013. This film originated as a chronicle of Gloria Steinem‘s life. McGee, Kunhardt and West wanted to recount Steinem’s monumental role in the Women’s Rights Movement. Ultimately, it evolved into a profile of 100 inspiring women who’ve made America what it is, including: artist and activist, Faith Ringold;Vagina Monologues playwright, Eve Ensler; comedian, Ellen DeGeneres; and the first female Supreme Court Justice, Sandra Day O’Connor. Each woman details their long journey to personal and professional success.
Their stories are truly inspiring. I spent nearly an entire day going through videos that incited genuine moments of tears and laughter. And, while not all of the women profiled were interested in becoming figure heads in the Women’s Movement, their work has undoubtably blazed a trail for every woman who’s followed.
Dyllan McGee was kind enough to answer a few questions about the project and give a little advice to future documentary filmmakers.
How did you shift from the singular story about Gloria Steinem, to the much greater undertaking of profiling 100 influential women?
We chose to focus initially on Gloria – as for many years she was one of the most prominent faces of the women’s movement in the modern American Women’s movement. However when we spoke to her, she quickly stressed the multitude of women who have been involved in the movement and that inspired us to broaden our focus. Over time, AOL and PBS got involved and the concept grew and grew – to the point we are now – with hundreds of stories from these trailblazing women.
How did your partnership with PBS, AOL and Simple Skin Care develop?
We brought the idea to both AOL, a premier digital media company and PBS, the nations largest non-commercial media organization because of their unique audiences and reach. We then worked with them and developed the aim of creating the largest and most dynamic collection of women’s stories ever assembled. Making its debut in the US, Simple sought to celebrate women who make America great and were therefore a natural fit to present MAKERS.
Will this project continue beyond the initial 100 women?
Yes – this is only the beginning! There will be new content that’ll continuously roll out on the site and we plan to eventually open up the platform where fans will be able to vote on women in their everyday lives to be MAKERS. There are really infinite growth opportunities!
One piece of advice for documentary filmmakers?
Believe in your ideas, make sure you have a good story to tell (not just an idea), and think about the online component not only as an additional distribution platform, but an integral to means to telling the story.
A common thread in many of these women’s stories seems to be that, at one point, they felt they may not accomplish their goals. Was there any point where you felt similarly about this project? If so, how did you overcome this?
Absolutely! It took 8 years and a lot of perseverance. Gloria’s belief in it made me know it would work.
I am thankful for an incredible team behind MAKERS and for the trailblazing women who have opened and continue to open doors for women in this country and around the world.
MAKERS is an inspirational project, and you should check it out regardless of your gender. Because, even though the site focuses on the achievement of women, this is not just Women’s History, it is American History. And, the wonderful thing is that many of the women featured have only begun their journeys. They are living, breathing and active role models for young women and those pushing for change. As the MAKERS platform expands, I look forward to seeing what new leaders emerge.
Thank you for taking the time to share, and for being a part of such a positive, educational and inspirational initiative, Dyllan. Perhaps you and Betsy should prepare for your own, MAKERS profile!
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