“For the past 30 years, everything we thought we knew about food and exercise is dead wrong. Fed Up is the film the food industry doesn’t want you to see. From Katie Couric, Laurie David and director Stephanie Soechtig, Fed Up will change the way you eat forever.” (Fed Up website)
Women and Hollywood talked with director Stephanie Soechtig about why she made Fed Up, what she hopes it accomplishes, and what action viewers can take to fight against big food business companies. Fed Up is now playing in theatres.
Why did you want to make this film?
Food issues have always been an important part of my life — my parents owned a restaurant growing up, and when I read Diet for a New America in high school I knew I wanted to become a filmmaker and shed light on the truth behind the food we eat. When my partners and I started Atlas Films, our goal was to make films that inform and inspire so this was a perfect fit for us.
We all need to eat to survive so how can you make people understand what needs to change?
I think when people see this film they are handed the most important tool, which is information. Before making this film, I thought if something was labeled healthy that it had to be healthy. This film demonstrates that if a food product needs to have a “healthy” label, it more than likely isn’t the best option.
What was the biggest challenge in making the film?
Getting the food industry and government officials to participate was by far the most challenging part. Everyone from the food and beverage industry declined, as well as many government officials. It was really important for us to tell a balanced story, which became more challenging when so many people from the food industry refused to talk.
Another major challenge was balancing my work and my family. I had a baby while making this film, and I vividly remember giving notes on a cut on the night of my c-section. Trying to direct a film and be a new mom (and do both of them well) was a huge challenge.
This film is clearly a call to action — what action can we all take?
Knowledge is power. After people see this film, they should never look at what they eat the same way.
We need to create a safe environment for our kids by taking junk food out of schools and putting healthy foods back in. Even if you’re feeding your child well at home, there’s no way to control his or her choices at school. Call your child’s school and ask for soda and junk to be removed so that there is no temptation! Make sure you read labels when grocery shopping. Look for hidden sugars and try to buy things with as few ingredients as possible.
Cook with your family and regularly eat meals together. Turn off electronics at the dinner table, and really enjoy your time together! Families that eat together frequently — and stay seated at the table until everyone’s finished — have children with lower weights and Body Mass Indexes.
Big food business companies prey on all of us and especially children. The junk food is everywhere. How can we as regular people win against these big companies?
We vote every day with our fork. These companies only care about their bottom line, so if we send the message that we want minimally processed, healthy food — that is what they will make!
We can also use petition websites like change.org
to urge movie studios not to license cartoon characters to sell junk and fast food. We can gather signatures urging sports and pop stars not to endorse sodas and other sugary drinks. We can tell grocery stores to offer candy-free aisles so that our kids are not tempted while shopping.
There are so many takeaways from this film but for me it was that the mice went for the sugar faster than they went for the cocaine. That sugar is more addictive than cocaine. What takeaway affected you the most?
It depends what day you ask me, but I think the idea that all sugar is created equal and that there are no healthy alternatives affected me the most. And that low-fat and other “healthy” foods aren’t actually healthy at all.
How did you work with Katie Couric and Laurie David?
Three years ago, I was promoting my film Tapped on Katie Couric’s online show, and as I was leaving I jokingly asked her to call me if she ever wanted to do a documentary. Much to my surprise, she actually called me a week later about a film idea she had. She wanted to make a film about food, and asked if I would help her bring the idea to life. I was immediately taken by the concept, and agreed to make the film without hesitation.
A year into our research when Katie and I were discussing what we wanted the film to accomplish, we said we wanted to do for the food movement what An Inconventient Truth did for climate change. Shortly after, we teamed up with Laurie David, the creator of An Inconvenient Truth. The three of us were already heavily involved in food issues and had seen all the other food documentaries out there, but once we started doing more research and tracing the obesity epidemic back to its roots, we realized had only just scratched the surface.
Not only did I have the privilege of working with Kate and Laurie as Executive Producers, but nearly my entire team was made up of women. We created an incredibly nurturing and supportive environment, and I think our film benefited greatly from that.
What’s your advice for other female filmmakers?
My advice to female filmmakers is to help other women — particularly the generation behind you. Historically there have been so few jobs for women that I think we can sometimes be competitive with each other. We need to break that cycle and support each other.