In the summer of 2012, Holli Rae and Sara Landas criss-crossed the United States in an amazing painted bus. Their goal was to interview women who, as they say, "are committed to transforming themselves and the world around them"—but it's clear that they also transformed themselves and the world they encountered in their journey.
The result of their trip: The Goddess Project, a beautifully shot documentary film in progress. Here's a sneak peek:
I caught up with Sara and Holli, who are in the final stages of fundraising to get their film completed and distributed.
Julie Ross Godar: How did the idea of a road trip come to you? How did you plan your itinerary? And what kind of response did your bus get?
The Goddess Project: As artists and activists, we wanted to see a broader spectrum of empowered female role models in the media. We felt frustrated by the constant bombardment of the same stereotypical roles and decided to hit the road to document real life stories of inspiring women across America with a passion for the life they live!
Our goal was to film as many women as possible who were living their dreams, going through at least 30 states across the country. When we hit the road, we had originally planned on finding women through word of mouth and social media—but everywhere we went, we encountered individuals eager to share their stories. We met people at gas stations, in parking lots, at coffee shops, and even on Twitter while driving on the highway! By the end of our 10,000-mile journey, we visited a diverse range of communities, and we sat down with over 100 women who bravely shared their unique stories of realizing their potential, overcoming their fears, and working to better themselves and the world around them.
Everywhere we went, people welcomed us with open arms. At each goddess bus stop, men and women approached us to recommend an amazing women for us to film. The only negative thing we experienced was the constant echo of the words “Be careful,” as there is this fear that it is unsafe to travel alone as women. We slept in parking lots, along mountaintops, and on city streets—but in the end, we are happy to report back that the most notable experiences to date were love notes from kind strangers and creative offers for showers and meals.
JRG: How did you choose the women you interviewed? How did you interview them—did you have some standard questions you asked each?
TGP: We sat down with artists, teachers, mothers, businesswomen, healers, and dreamers, and each interview was entirely unique. Our number-one priority was to make the women feel comfortable, because many of them had never been interviewed on camera before. We would always start out by sharing our own story, and taking the time to explain our own feelings and fears about the process. Establishing this common ground created a level of sincerity and intimacy between us and the women that is rarely captured through a lens. In each interview, we discussed various social and political issues of modern female life, but really gave each woman the space to voice what they wanted to share.
The Goddess Project presents a candid look at the universal concerns that we face as women through groundbreaking dialogue about society’s expectations, the media’s influence, gender equality, violence, and healing.
JRG: In the trailer to your film, you say: "As storytellers, we recognize our responsibility to provide content that educates, uplifts, and inspires others to transform themselves and the world around them." Wow—that’s quite a responsibility, indeed! How do you expect to see these transformations come about? How are you measuring the impact of your project?
TGP: This goal of this film is to educate and empower its viewers to leave the theater feeling like they have the ability to overcome their personal obstacles and begin to contribute to the world in a bigger way. The theme of this film is “others see their possibilities in your reality,” because we have personally witnessed the incredible transformation that comes when you find a role model who is relevant to you. By showcasing diverse women in the same frame, we aim to bridge the gaps which separate us from one another and broaden the definition of empowerment and success in today’s society.
The Goddess Project will usher in this new way of thinking: a positive affirmation that these stories, our stories, matter. We have already experienced a glimpse of the impact by the number of women contacting us eager to see this film, and we hope to inspire a movement for others to bravely step out and share their stories.
JRG: "Goddess” is a word with a lot of weight to it—some good, some not so good. Why did you choose it? What does the title mean to you?
TGP: We view the Goddess as the collective feminine energy on this planet. We want to reclaim this powerful word by honoring the vast expressions of the feminine spirit. The Goddess Project aims at giving women a platform to be heard and honored for the unique and beautiful individuals they are.
JRG: This past Valentine's Day, you teamed up with Eve Ensler’s One Billion Rising to support V-Day, a global movement to end violence against women and girls. Tell me about the throughline of violence against women that you've noted ran through your interview experience. Did you expect that issue to rise up, or was it unexpected?
TGP: We went into our trip knowing that one in three women experience violence in their lifetime, but hearing each story firsthand was much more intense than we could have anticipated. Whether they were victims of the violence themselves, or witnessed it through a close friend or family member, it was clear to see how devastating the effects were. Speaking to survivors in various stages of their healing process helped us gain insight into the steps one can take to overcome the feelings of isolation and guilt that come with this painful experience. Many of the survivors told us the first step in healing was ending the shame and beginning to share their experiences to help others in need.
JRG: What would you tell our audience of women who blog about telling a story through film?
TGP: More of us need to be doing it! We need to broaden the representation of women in media to include more multifaceted role models for women and girls. Movies play a huge role in shaping culture, and we must recognize the importance of telling stories that empower the viewer, rather than perpetuating the problems. We don’t need any more distorted versions of reality telling us we are not good enough. We are perfect as we are, and more films need to encourage that. As more females get behind the camera, the more content will become relevant to women and girls.
JRG: How do you see the state of women in film changing? How does your project fit in?
TGP:The Goddess Project is part of this new wave of filmmaking, showing the capability of individuals like us to pick up a camera and begin to create the reality they’d like to see. It is clear that audiences want to see “reality.” What we’re doing is illuminating the spectrum of what women’s realities can look like.
JRG: How can others help you to take The Goddess Project to the finish line?
TGP: We are currently fundraising to acquire the budget we need to finish this film. Donations of any size are greatly appreciated and will help us in sharing this insightful wisdom with the world! Donate at www.thegoddessproject.com/donate.
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