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DOC NYC Women Directors: Meet Brenda Goodman – ‘Sex(Ed)’

DOC NYC Women Directors: Meet Brenda Goodman - 'Sex(Ed)'

Brenda Goodman is a producer of independent films, documentaries, television, and music videos. Her credits include Anna, Emma and Elvis, Mac, Prisoners of Inertia, and The Ballad of Little Jo. Her documentary credits include Observance Observed (ABC), Blues Story, No Place Like Home, and Chuck’s Story. She has also produced documentaries for PBS, including Roses in December, Growing Up Poor, and Heartstrings(USC)

Sex(Ed), her first film as director, will play at DOC NYC on November 14.

W&H: Please give us your description of the film playing.

BG: Remember how you learned about sex? Sex(Ed): The Movie captures the humor, shock, and vulnerability people face when learning about sex, through the lens of the often hilarious, only sometimes informative sex-ed films from 1910 to the present day. The giggles. The euphemisms. Looking back though, we can’t help but laugh at how we learned.

For over a century, America utilized films as the primary method of sex education in schools. Sex(Ed): The Movie illustrates how emblematic this education is of both our evolving culture and the changing moral, cultural, and political attitudes and agendas that inspired them.

W&H: What drew you to this story?

BG: As a professor at the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts, I discovered that many college students had less-than-adequate sex education. This led me to look at how America has been communicating about sex. I discovered that in this country we have been making sex-education films for over 100 years and have made over 100,000 films. Inspired by the film The Atomic Café, I thought it would be interesting to track the trajectory of sex education films through the ages.

W&H: What was the biggest challenge in making the film?

BG: It was challenging to watch that many sex education films and very challenging to figure out a structure for using them. Early in the planning stage, I decided to not have a narrator in Sex(Ed): The Movie, and that proved very challenging for myself and the editor, Monique Zavistovski.

W&H: What do you want people to think about when they are leaving the theater?

BG: I want them to reflect on their own sex education and be open to a conversation with their partner, parent, or children about what it means to have a positive sexual relationship. My hope is that our film will give people a chance to engage with each other in an open and honest way about sex.

W&H: What advice do you have for other female directors?

BG: Hang in there, and don’t give up! For any filmmaker, you need fortitude and a passion for your work.

W&H: How did you get your film funded?

BG: I got some early grants — not enough to make the film, but enough that I could not turn back. I then wrote personal letters to people I thought could donate to us through our fiscal sponsor, LA Film Forum. I was also fortunate to get some services from USC.

W&H: Name your favorite women directed film and why.

BG: Oh no, not just one. There are so many. I have been fortunate to work with many talented women directors. I produced The Ballad of Little Jo, a film Maggie Greenwald wrote and directed. It’s an amazing, genre-bending Western. We are working on a new project, Sophie and the Rising Sun. I am also knocked out by Transparent, directed by Jill Soloway, and love the voice of Nicole Holofcener. I loved Real Women Have Curves, directed by Patricia Cardoso, and the work of Chris Hegedus, particularly The War Room. That’s just a few, I could go on and on.

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