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SXSW Women Directors: Meet Sara Hirsh Bordo – ‘A Brave Heart’

SXSW Women Directors: Meet Sara Hirsh Bordo - 'A Brave Heart'

“A Brave Heart” is Sara Hirsh Bordo’s film directorial debut. She has held senior roles at Paramount Pictures and MGM Studios as Co-Founder of NowLive and Producer of TEDxAustinWomen. In 2012, she attended The White House Champions for Change Summit, has been twice nominated for Fortune’s Most Powerful Women Entrepreneur, and is a member of the Producer’s Guild New Media Council and Women’s Impact Network. (Press materials)

“A Brave Heart” will premiere at the 2015 SXSW Film Festival on March 14.

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

SHB: Born with a rare syndrome that prevents her from gaining weight, Lizzie was first bullied as a child in school for looking different and, later at 17, when she discovered a YouTube video labeling her “The World’s Ugliest Woman.” Our film chronicles Lizzie’s physical and emotional journey up to her successful TEDx talk and follows her pursuit from motivational speaker to anti-bullying activist on Capitol Hill.

W&H: What drew you to this story?

SHB: Lizzie and I met when she gave a talk at the first TEDxAustinWomen event, which I produced. She was a local hero whose time had arrived. Bullying is a subject that historically yields stories of victims, rarely stories of heroes. The inspiration Lizzie ignites crosses ages, genders, and ethnicities and proves that hope has no demographic. My opportunity was to simply provide a wider platform for Lizzie to inspire beyond the boundaries of an 18-minute speech.

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

SHB: Lizzie and her family had said no to many requests to a documentary being made in the past. All I hoped was that my instincts would yield a film that would do justice to her brave life and her incredible family. 

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

SHB: I hope people feel inspired and frustrated at the same time — inspired by Lizzie’s courage in whatever way is personal to the people that see it and frustrated that, after 8 years of efforts, Congress has yet to pass a Federal Anti-Bullying Bill protecting students in school. I hope that inspiration and frustration can be the right combination to ignite change.

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

SHB: My advice to other filmmakers would be to ask enough questions to give you a general direction and then follow your instincts. When you’re on a tight budget and timeframe, it comes down to thoughtfulness under pressure. 

What makes the impossible possible is just to try something that most people might say “You’re insane” to — like when I said I was going to deliver a fine cut in less than 7 months from fundraising to final cut. Not knowing any different, or what is “normal,” allowed me to just follow my gut.

W&H: What’s the biggest misconception about you and your work?

SHB: I don’t think there are any conceptions or misconceptions quite yet because this is my first film. I will say that, while my company is named Women Rising and is centered around elevating the stories of women and girls through content and experiences, it doesn’t just attract the attention of females.

Just like Women Rising did with TEDxAustinWomen, we wanted to create an experience that made people think about the impact of the issues — the impact on their daughters and wives, sisters and colleagues. We must be on the right track — more than half of our Kickstarter campaign for this film was backed by men.

W&H: How did you get your film funded? Share some insights into how you got the film made.

SHB: My company Women Rising funded the pre-production, our Kickstarter campaign covered shooting and early editing, and our incredibly generous private investors supported us through the end of post.

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

SHB: Because of its timeliness and bravery, I’d like to trumpet Laura Poitras’ work with “Citizenfour.” 

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