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Tribeca Women Directors: Meet Amy Berg (Every Secret Thing)

Tribeca Women Directors: Meet Amy Berg (Every Secret Thing)

Amy Berg is a critically acclaimed, Emmy-winning and Oscar-nominated documentary filmmaker. She was nominated for an Academy Award for her documentary Deliver Us From Evil (2006). The film tells the true story of Catholic priest Oliver O’Grady, who admitted to having molested and raped approximately 25 children in Northern California between the late 1970s and early 1990s. 
Most recently, Berg directed West of Memphis, a documentary about the failure of the justice system in the West Memphis Three case. Berg also directed Polarized (2007), which premiered at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival as part of Al Gore’s Live Earth campaign. 
Berg just completed her first narrative feature, Every Secret Thing, which will premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival this year. She is currently in production on several films at her company, Disarming Films, which includes a project about music legend Janis Joplin.
Every Secret Thing, written by Nicole Holfcener, will debut at the Tribeca Film Festival on April 20.
Please give us your description of the film playing.
Every Secret Thing is a psychological thriller about a small, suburban New York town that must revisit a tragic murder from seven years earlier when a young girl goes missing in broad daylight. The film is important because it examines the gray area — the why and how things happen. It really takes you on a journey inside different experiences of the same thing.

What drew you to this script?

I was drawn to the script because it takes a look at things in a very realistic light. Nicole is so great at writing characters that are true. 

What was the biggest challenge?

There were many challenges. Possibly the greatest challenge was the depth of great characters and how to slim the story down into a simpler narrative as the script followed six lead characters, and in a thriller its so important to engage emotionally and mentally. 

What advice do you have for other female directors?

There are projects out there that are desperately in need of a female voice, vision and perspective, so the advice is to put yourself out there. Obviously, there is an inherent bias against us. But I believe there is also a sea change coming.

What’s the biggest misconception about you and your work?

I don’t really know. I guess people are always surprised when they meet me, as I have covered such heavy, dark terrain and am a pretty light, happy person in general.

Do you have any thoughts on what are the biggest challenges and/or opportunities for the future with the changing distribution mechanisms for films? 

The challenges are that our business is changing before our eyes, and I think this is exciting in many ways. I think the film business is less “brand”-oriented today and there are visionaries who are opening new distribution platforms. I think this provides opportunity for new voices. 

Name your favorite women directed film and why.  

Cinema is full of varying voices, so its hard to just name one film. But Kimberly Peirce ‘s Boys Don’t Cry was a film that really pushed me to make films myself. It was so perfect in its ability to make you feel deeply. As for the others, Claire Denis, Agnes Varda, Julie Delpy, Sophia Coppola, Jane Campion, Sarah Polley and Nicole Holfcener. Walking and Talking was seminal indie-filmmaking and set a tone of her work to come.  

The list would not be complete without Patty Jenkins, as Monster was a beautifully executed piece of work. And my colleagues in doc-making are my heroes in the trenches for the right reasons. Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady, Barbara Kopple, Liz Garbus, Laura Poitras, Ondi Timoner, Lauren Greenfield, and Lucy Walker. It’s a short list now, but there are many more to come.

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