By Cynthia Lopez, Chief Executive Officer of New York Women in Film and Television (Special Guest Post)
I am weeping uncontrollably. I just finished watching She Said, executive produced by Brad Pitt, Lila Yacoub, Sue Naegle, and Megan Ellison, directed by Maria Schrader, written by Rebecca Lenkiewicz, and distributed by Annapurna and Universal Pictures. You should know that I resisted and waited to see this film as I felt my 46-inch TV was not big enough to transport me into The New York Times headquarters building that I have visited so many times. Especially to enter the private lives Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey. In addition, I am always skeptical of excellent books turned into movies as they often contain the vital facts but lack the soul of the book. But this film delivers!
After a lovely night out with a dear friend, I woke up at 5 AM, made coffee, and turned on video-on-demand to take in She Said. I had read the New York Times articles and the She Said book, and of course we at New York Women in Film & Television (NYWIFT), in the middle of the pandemic, honored Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey at our 2020 NYWIFT Muse Awards.
We celebrated them for the work, courage, and investigative chutzpah that led them to win a Pulitzer Prize, but even more importantly than that incredible distinction, the fact that their work led to systemic change in how the media and entertainment industry takes allegations of sexual harassment and safety issues in the workplace seriously. Their work encouraged those in power to look critically at the EEOC and its role to ensure safety, transparency, and justice.
You can hear Jodi and Megan discuss their investigation – and its impact – at the virtual 2020 NYWIFT Muse Awards here: https://vimeo.com/798622085/9e9e0100c9
The film She Said is riveting. It reminded me of All the President’s Men directed by Alan J. Pakula starring Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman. And it is reminiscent of all the great documentaries for which I have had the absolute privilege to work on Public Awareness and Engagement Campaigns at PBS’s POV series, like The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers directed by Judith Ehrlich and Rick Goldsmith; Food, Inc. directed by Robert Kenner; The Judge and the General directed by Patricio Lanfranco and Elizabeth Farnsworth; or Señorita Extraviada directed by Lourdes Portillo. And of course, My Country, My Country, directed by Laura Poitras. All these films had one thing in common: a critical look that leads to an indictment of a corrupt abuse of power by government, industry, and/or individuals that protected a system of maltreatment and lies. These films were instrumental in garnering a variety of changes and the advocates, journalists, and filmmakers dedicated to these causes are our leaders and heroines for sure.
I should also mention that during my 14 years at POV, first as a Communications Director, later as Executive Vice President of the organization and Co-Executive Producer, I worked collaboratively with The New York Times on major events, participated in the NYT Community Affairs department, and helped NYT Op-Docs connect to high level filmmakers. I had excellent relationships with correspondents, journalists, and executives who understood the value of visual media that focused on vital social issues and the use of these films to impact public policy, influence behaviors, and fight corporate greed.
She Said transports you into the headquarters of The New York Times as it really is and it gives you a glimpse of real-life journalism and how it is so often a balance of news, information, and fair and accurate investigative reporting.
The performances by Zoe Kazan, Carey Mulligan, Patricia Clarkson (a 2015 NYWIFT Muse Honoree), and Andre Braugher were electrifying. They reflected the often-subdued nature of journalists and the environment of The Times so well. In addition, they demonstrated the courage of the entire team at The New York Times to support this important investigation, as well as the chops to stand up to corporate negligence and wrongdoing.
For the last several years, I have been asked for comments by the press on the Harvey Weinstein case and I declined to speak, not because I was afraid of the consequences of this public debate, but because those whose lives had been shattered by his violent acts had already spoken and we should listen to them and not forget what they endured. My mother always taught me, have the courage to say something when it is meaningful to do so and listen quietly when you are learning. And only say something additive if it is necessary.
Harvey Weinstein was not the only man to go down for his malicious and deviant sexual behavior against women. As a consequence of Jodi and Megan’s investigation, many Hollywood executives and actors fell like pins in a bowling alley – ongoing, systematically, and repeatedly. Thank you, Jodi and Megan, for your courage, fast-paced, and nerve-wracking investigation, and your determination to get the evidence needed to ensure that the voices of these women were heard.
I have developed a book shelf at home of required reading for my goddaughters – books that include: Women Who Run with the Wolves, Women of Words, Sisterhood is Powerful, Life Magic, Interpreter of Maladies, She’s Come Undone, and issues of Ms and Vogue.
She Said is now part of that collection. I hope you’ll consider joining our own incredible, supportive community of NYWIFT women! If you’re not a member yet, please join us now.
I’ve learned that in order to find love we have to love ourselves first, recognize our past hurts and abuses, and find ways to heal what is broken. Spending time with people we love, as I did this weekend, helps heal. I recognize now after the experience of the pandemic, we need to show love more, experience it, cradle and care for it when we have it.
Watching this film is uplifting and shows us a way forward. A heartfelt thank you to Ashley Judd and Rose McGowan for having the courage to be among the first women to speak out.
Cythia Lopez is the CEO for New York Women in Film & Television and the
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The next in-person NYWIFT Muse Awards are on Tuesday, March 28th! Tickets are available at https://www.nywift.org/muse/