Who knew when Michelle and I met 6 years ago this monumental project is what we were going to create together. The original concept for Her Sound, Her Story was Michelle’s, she wanted to create a small photographic series focused on shining a light on women in the Australian music industry. She began taking portraits and soon realised the subjects needed much more documentation than just imagery. That’s when she ask me to come on board, to go with her to all the photoshoots and interview the women.
We didn’t have any thoughts of what we might find. Instead just really determined to ask and listen to each woman’s individual experience. Off we went travelling around the country with our cameras in hand, some simple sound gear, sometimes a set of lights. In the first round we documented close to 50 women. Since then I have done another dozen interviews and Michelle is now up to her 80th portrait in the series. It’s a beautiful body of work.
The last 4 years have been a journey for both of us. We often talk about the many 'pinch-ourselves' moments when we realised how fortunate we were to have these women share such intimate personal stories with us. It’s changed who we are as women. Knowing that if hearing their stories could change our lives, perhaps making the documentary would offer refuge to others, for me as the filmmaker that’s where it all stemmed from.
So it’s the women themselves that inspired me, offering me strength to see the film through. I reflect on the day it dawned on me that all these stories were a reflection of my own. I found solace in all the women standing together in their collective, unspoken pain. As an editor I realised the responsibility bestowed upon me to share their stories in the most authentic way possible. I feel it’s a bold time to be alive as a women, the stakes are high, more than ever it’s crucial that women's voices be heard.
There were many moments of tears, wanting to give up, it felt so hard to taking on such a big feat like making this film. Dealing with over 48 hours of rushes and countless files of b-roll, music, emails to artist mangers…the list went on and on. Many times wanting to give up. Michelle very patiently stood by my side, telling me to keep going. Reminding me that what we were doing was bigger that just her and I. As a fully independent venture I often say this film was funded on our friendship, and it really was.
She’s taught me how to really love a women, how to push and pull and always turn back to each other. Maintaining a friendship and working relationship is a testiment as to just how much we were both willing to grow in the process. Always leaning on each other, if one wasn’t able to carry the load the other would step in.
The process was often confronting and heartbreaking, constantly revealing my own inability to celebrate the parts of myself that were innately feminine. Realising I had never invested the time to form strong bonds with women, I became obsessed to listen to the wisdom being shared. I wanted to break my own preconceived ideas of what is to be a woman. I’d spent years seeking validation and approval from men because I had thought their opinions of me carried more weight than that of anyone else. How wrong I was. My strongest allies have become the women around me. My biggest lesson was in loving and valuing myself above anyone else.
The challenge to do something bigger than ourselves was never something for Michelle and I to shy away from. Instead we took a giant keep of faith held on to each other's hands tightly and kept heading in the same direction. Together. These women that we met over the past 4 yeas have become our community, and each others musical family. For us the greatest reward is seeing the ripple effect of connectivity, the love and adoration amongst all the artists involved. Just the other day Jen Cloher said to me her and Mojo Juju were at a gig together talking about how Her Sound, Her Story connected them to each other, reminding them are not alone. With that sentiment comes a time of healing, a great amount of feeling connected to one another, that’s all we could've asked for.
To all the women we have met along the way thanks for trusting us with your untold stories. We hope you feel reflected, we hope you feel heard and more than anything we hope you feel celebrated.
To any one willing let Her Sound, Her Story be a chance to listen, please take it as a grand gesture in the direction of change.
To every gorgeous women reading this we say;
We see you. We hear you. Keep going.
Claudia is the co-creator of Her Sound, Her Story which screens in Sydney on July 11 and Melbourne July 12 - get tickets here. Read Michelle's and Claudia's EL profiles. Follow Her Sound, Her Story on Instagram.