Take an Art Break Podcast

How can creativity be a catalyst for positive change?

Transcript of our conversation:

Lauren:

We’re live. Hi everybody. Good morning,

Lisa:

It’s Lisa and Lauren.

Lauren:

Hi, I’m Lauren

Lisa:

We’re back, on our podcast in this new year and we have a really special guest today, Heidi Basch-Harod, I think I said it right. She’s an amazing Executive Director of the program if Lauren, you want to talk about it a little bit?

Lauren:

Yeah, it’s Women’s Voices Now. And, uh, I was actually for, I’ve been sort of obsessed with their website and their films, uh, obsessing over it ever since I saw an interview that Heidi with our good friend Rae. It’s incredible. I can’t wait to just dive in and talk to her about what happens when you integrate women into basically the fabric of society the way that they should be. And what does that do for the world and what does it do for our future. So I’m excited. All right. All right. Let’s pop Heidi on here. Yeah. And say, hello? Hello.

Lisa:

Hello. Heidi! Welcome. Welcome. Welcome.

Heidi:

Thank you, Lauren and Lisa. Good Morning.

Lisa:

Morning. Good morning. Good morning. Um, so tell our audience a little bit about yourself and then this amazing program that you’re in.

Heidi:

Sure. So, as Lisa mentioned, my name is Heidi Basch-Harod and I’m speaking to you from Redondo Beach, California, this very hot and sunny morning. On my Instagram account, I identify as a mother activist and writer, I think in those, in that order. Um, I’m the mother of three children, seven five and two, and, uh, wife and, uh, daughter, and, you know, all those other friend, all those other wonderful roles that we play as women and I proudly serve as the Executive Director of Women’s Voices Now, where we use film to drive positive social change, that advances girls and women’s rights globally. And we do that primarily through our three programs, which is our film festival, which is coming up in March and our youth development program, which is called Girl’s Voices Now, and our online film collection, Voices For Change, which actually has a really exciting thing happening coming in March as well, which maybe we’ll have a chance to talk about that. Yes. Okay.

Lauren:

That’s awesome. So generally on the podcast, we sort of launch into a question and the question we sort of thought of with our last podcast, we were, we went over what we talked about in 2021. And it ended up with, um, talking to our friend Mary, about journaling and the power of healing with journaling, and then leading into this conversation with you, which felt, you know, Mary was talking about going inside and you’re talking about taking your inside and putting it outside. And so we just thought, we’d talk about the question, how can creativity be a catalyst for positive change? It feels to us that that seems to be one of your main goals with women’s voices now.

Heidi:

Absolutely. So, just to be very specific when we’re speaking, if I’m speaking, you know, in my capacity as Executive Director of Women’s Voices Now, and we’re an organization using film and film as a medium of self-expression of art of creativity, um, it’s really incredible to see, I mean, you know, a filmmaker has this idea of a story that they wanna tell and that lives inside their head, right? And, uh, there might be other outside people who have to help make that story come alive, or whether it’s their film crew or the subjects of their documentary or their cast members. And then all of a sudden, you know, it comes from inside their mind out onto, into real life and then onto a screen. And then it touches us all. And that creative process, I think is, you know, it’s empowering for all the people involved, for the different roles that they play.

Heidi:

And then I think that form of creativity of filmmaking is very powerful in generating empathy among us, right. And that we sort of become interconnected through this empathetic experience of ingesting a story through film. So I get to see all the time like that, how people’s creative processes can actually affect change in the world, right? Like by telling the stories that we don’t hear all the time, maybe the stories we don’t always wanna hear or even know we need to listen to. That creative process given to us by a filmmaker is very much like holding up a mirror to ourselves, right? Like the films that we use in our, in our programming, it’s asking the viewer to not just be a passive consumer of the medium, but to think what kind of change is needed in my life, in my family and my community and in the world. Uh, and it’s very powerful experience.

Lisa:

Wow. That’s amazing. When I was thinking about, um, this podcast, I was thinking about the power of story. I also was thinking about, you kind of hinted on it, but I’d like to know more. How does it transform the filmmaker? You know what I mean? Um, you as a producer and then the viewer in a little more details, because I find that fascinating. And then also, the filmmaker has to have so much courage to show themselves that vulnerability, if you could touch on that. It’s multifaceted, but you know.

Heidi:

Yeah. So a specific film comes to mind that I could use as you know, an anecdotal way to, to talk about, to answer your question. So last year in our film festival, a film came through called Lupita and it’s made by an American Mexican filmmaker. She is now living permanently, I think, like deep in Mexico in Chiapas where Lupita is from. And she’s a freedom fighter, but I would say like a, a political figure trying to fight for the rights of the people of Chiapas, as well as being like an incredible, um, advocate for women. She’s a survivor of a massacre that took place there. And so Monica’s the filmmaker. And first of all, she had the bravery to go like deep into the jungle of Chiapas and, and start telling the story of Lupita. But then now she’s making another film about another, another person also in Mexico.

Heidi:

And, and it’s like, you can see how this, this, this act of bravery, but active creativity sort of took over her life. Because what she’s trying to do is to try to bring the Lupita movie to other communities in Chiapa so that other girls see Lupita and see that they can become who Lupita is that whatever sort of framework they, they are existing and in their, in their communities and their societies, that there’s, there’s someone from them, who’s doing things differently or doing different things and it broadens the, you know, the space that a woman or a girl can take up in that context of, of villages in Chiapas. So you I’ve seen how, you know, like social change filmmakers, right? They become one with the work that they’re creating and, and they start making the change that they wanna see using their film and that’s, and then when, if it comes to women’s voices, now our job is to bring it to other audience, to make it a bigger change making film. It’s on our website. You can, anyone can watch that it’s, you can look in our Voices for Change film collection and be inspired by the film and the story and film. Right.

Lauren:

I that’s incredible. It’s the, the idea that, because generally speaking, when you read the mission, you’re sort of thinking to yourself, oh, okay. So it’s, it’s a film. You put a film out there and people like me can learn about people that don’t look like me, but you’re talking about even like the, like actually encouraging people within their own community to identify with someone that looks like them. And then they, that they can do this. And that. I mean, there’s this, like Lisa said, this is multifaceted that’s, that’s so incredible. My question for you is if you have a personal opinion on this or not, I certainly do. I’m a photographer by nature. So my question is, why do you think, um, if you do film is so powerful at doing something like this, what, what is it about film that does that?

Heidi:

Well, yes, I have definitely a personal opinion about this. I’m someone who is like to, since a child, whether it was a book or a film, like I just get transported. Like I’m a really good audience. I’m, I’m ready to just like give myself over to the experience. So I think like a, you know, a good film, um, has that power of like, you know, moving pictures, you know, you see yourself, you see other human beings it’s transportative. We just finished the process of internally reviewing all the films coming through our festival. And it was a very emotional month. You know, I, I was in Pakistan, like in the streets, like fighting with women for being free from violence in the streets. I was in Mexico, like watching midwives, you know, fighting for the right to practice midwifery in Mexico and not be at odds with doctors.

Heidi:

I mean, you know, like it’s, it’s just, it just brings you there. Right. And a good film has good music and good footage and it has good interviews. Um, you know, there’s, there’s just really getting, it’s like having a really good conversation, a deep, good conversation with someone, right. Where you get to really know, like, what is their human experience? A good film will do that. Right. It really helps us share the human experience in, in a very intimate way of people that, you know, wouldn’t open up to us like that because we may never meet them in the first place. And then because you can watch it as an audience with other people you’re not the only one who experienced that. Right. And someone else sitting next to you maybe, uh, you know, connected to something differently because it spoke to something in their life or their past or, or their future, you know? So it’s just, I just think it’s like that there’s that group, there can be that group experience. There’s that individual experience, it’s the audio visual and for all those reasons, I think that’s why it’s so powerful and just is transformative.

Lauren:

Yeah. Our friend our friend Rae Luskin says it’s more than awareness. It’s a medium of advocacy. Yes, absolutely. I completely agree with that because you cannot only make someone aware of something, you can, you can change their mind about something.

Heidi:

Totally. Yes. And that’s the goal with Women’s Voices Now. If you need to change your mind to think about women as full human beings, we’re, we’re here to bring you films that will encourage you to do so.

Lisa:

Yes. That’s amazing. Pure transformation. Yes. Um, gosh. Yeah. It’s just phenomenal. I mean, I, I think I wanna watch all the movies on your side and I wanna go to the film festival, let’s go to there, like tell us about the film festival and also how do, like how did the people produce the films? Where do the funds come from and just kind of like the more, um, you know, nuts and bolts of your organization.

Heidi:

Yes. So for our film festival, the, the mission of the film festival is to support emerging women, filmmakers who are using their skills to make films about women’s and girl’s rights issues around the world. So it’s kind of twofold. So if you’re, we’re thinking about audiences, we’re trying to, you know, spread awareness and encourage advocacy, as Rae said about women’s rights issues. But for the filmmakers themselves, we know that women filmmakers many more challenges than men in the film industry, in funding, their films, um, you know, and having production companies all across the board, like there’s so many statistics, a big report was just released by, I think women in film in January, like really showing again how much they’ll have to gain in parity to act this to filmmaker resources. Right? So what we’re to, um, develop our film festival more and more into each year.

Heidi:

And we’re able to, as we grow is a festival where women filmmakers one, we, we, uh, give $10,000 in cash prizes. We try to choose our jury members very, um, intentionally, so that it’s women who are from, from the activist world, but also from the film industry so that our filmmakers have an opportunity to network with these, with these women. And as, you know, as mentors or as just giving them good notes on their films. Trying to create that community of support. And then we’re also trying to seek other ways to support the filmmakers themselves. Like what, what would be the most that a filmmaker can get out of submitting their film to the Women’s Voices Now Film Festival. Um, so that’s sort of like our building our commitment to the filmmakers and then to the audiences is, is bringing them films that are not exactly always the most highly produced polished films.

Heidi:

Right. It’s really about what is the story, you know, is this, is this a story that really needs to be heard and told and, and a, a story told, well, doesn’t have to have the fancy anything, you know, a good story is a good story. So it’s, it’s just, um, it’s about giving that range, a platform to a range of filmmakers and emerging filmmakers. That’s an important one too emerging. I mean, you can be 15 and you can be 95 it’s, you know, because women’s lives are very, the trajectory is quite often interrupted, not interrupted, but like there are different if someone chooses to become a mother, if someone is in one career and then switches gears, if someone has to be a caretaker, you know, women’s lives are not always linear in their trajectory. So a woman might have an idea for a film at the age of 15 and it takes her until she’s 95 to finally be able to make that film. She’s an emerging, she’s an emerging filmmaker. So we’re also trying to seek those women.

Lauren:

So tell me about, uh, so we have an annual event called Art Break Day and it’s, uh, you know, we, uh, we have amazing volunteers across the globe that set up free art making spaces for, by their community, kind of sit down and make art. And we do that specifically because it becomes a large event. We also have other programs that encourage people to take art on a daily basis. It makes me think of the, the film festival, what it, what’s the sort of the reasoning and the deeper impact of having a festival, as opposed to just putting a video out there on a regular interval.

Heidi:

I think, you know, a festival, one, it’s the opportunity to offer prizes, right. And it’s, and it’s really just a celebration because filmmakers, they go through so much to make their films. It’s, they’re quite often spending the money out of their own pocket. They don’t always have funds. They don’t have sponsors or grants or, production companies behind them. You know, their equipment, maybe they’re borrowing it. Maybe they have to sell one thing to get another thing, you know, so our filmmakers are just really trying to, to make it happen. So wait, I lost track of my, I was gonna say another thing. Tell me what you asked.

Lauren:

I’m trying to talk about the, um, it’s, it’s along the same lines of the question we’re talking about in terms of a catalyst, you know, what’s the difference between having a film festival as

Heidi:

Right. So right. Plain stated, like we all need to be celebrated. We all need to be recognized for the work that we do. And I think this is just that opportunity to really celebrate these filmmakers for the hard work that they put into this. And also, I understand as I get to know more and more filmmakers over the years, they want their films to be seen. They want audiences, they want the feedback, they need that interaction with their, with the people of the world like artists, while not artists are performance artists, right. There is a performance aspect to all art and that it needs to be viewed, you know, like experience consumed and then the artists kind of needs to know, like how did this land with the people who are consuming it? So the festival, I think is very much that opportunity for that dialogue between the creator and the consumer of the art form.

Lisa:

Beautiful. I’m thinking about, I wanna know about you as an artist, as a writer, what do you feel like the power of art is in your medium and in, you know, in the world?

Heidi:

Yes. So, the thing that comes to mind is I have a best college friend who is at MOCA in Los Angeles. The Museum of Contemporary Art. And when we were in college, she was studying art history. And I had the, the great privilege of being sort of like the, the first point of her lectures, right? Like her papers she was writing. And, and while I’ve always been someone who loves art, who, you know, draws, writes, paints when I’m inspired. I never understood really the transformative power of art, right. That artists aren’t just making art for art sake. Many artists are really trying to push the needle on something important in our culture, in our, in the social fabric of our society. Their trying to say something, you know, they’re trying to reflect something back to us.

Heidi:

So I love art, you know, like, I mean, that sounds so trite. Right. But like, it really, I think it makes life so much more interesting. And I’m, I also have an academic background. So most of my writing, I would say for the past several years of very academic I’m like seeking the truth. You know, why, why are women suffering? Why are women unequal? And I focus on women in the Middle East quite often in North Africa. It’s very sad and very upsetting sometimes. Um, so I’m, I’m very like in the academic space, but what I love about art is that it a, it, it allows me to think about all of that research through a wider lens, right? It’s not all about like numbers and statistics and they said this and this happened, then it’s really like, let’s just take a moment and see how an artist is interpreting this moment in time. And what do I get from that? You know, and how can I share that experience and that feeling with someone who I also want to hear my message of whatever I’m researching, whatever I’m writing, whatever I’m feeling. So I think art is, you know, quintessential to our human existence and it definitely makes it much more enjoyable, right? Like even when art is painful to look at, or it’s not so pleasant, you know, it just, it, you know, it just stimulates other parts of the mind, like our sleeping sometimes, you know.

Lisa:

For sure it’s a catalyst and a catharsis. Right.

Heidi:

Totally. Yes. That is a perfect way to say it. Catalyst and catharsis. Yes, definitely. Yeah.

Lauren:

I like the idea of combining, you know, this, this idea that you said you’re seeking the truth. I just have this notion of, of diving deep into the research aspect of something, and then getting moved by an artwork done specifically by a person who has actually experienced the thing that you have written about. And that’s, I think that’s the thing is that, you know, like you were mentioning that art sort of opens that door inside of you in, in order to receive information. Right? It’s a really fast way of introducing you to a topic and hitting you at that, that spot where you, you can’t turn away. That’s what I think, when you’re talking about that kind of art, the art that is seeking to, to sort to either hold up that mirror or hold up a megaphone and say, hello, I need you to see this. And I I’ve encountered that in my own experience, looking at art where you’re, you’re, you’re stopped by something. And honestly, you don’t know why. And then I am the, I’m the, I’m the nerd that would stay in the library all day if I could too. And so I just have to dive deep into figure out my own personal reasons for doing that, but also why we as a collective community probably need to do the same thing.

Heidi:

As both of you are speaking and asking this question, talking about this, you know, we’re not just like blood and bones and tissues, you know, we really do have, consciousness, a soul, you know, and, and that needs to be nourished. And I think like, life can be very challenging and there’s a lot of things that are thrown at us at, and, and that, like that outlet of art keeps us revived, you know, it, revives, revives keeps us going, I think. Yeah.

Lisa:

And I think it, I’m just thinking, I’m just thinking about the, the voices that are being heard, the women, and it’s so needed right now. And sometimes you kind of don’t think about that, you know, because we’re here and I’m here in Los Angeles. I don’t, you know what I mean? I, I, you know, and then it’s, it does open the doors and it’s, so it’s such a beautiful medium to show the world and to show the world and maybe to hit them in the face a lot of times, like, you know, guess what this girl in Afghanistan is experiencing this or this girl in Mexico, it’s like we are, and you’re right. It’s not like it speaks to consciousness and it speaks to the soul. So it’s, it’s the work you’re doing is really profound. It touches the, the heart.

Heidi:

Yes. Yeah. And, I mean, what’s also great about Women’s Voices Now is we’re not just in the world. So I mentioned our youth program, it’s called Girl’s Voices Now. And we work with girls who our ages 14 to 18 from the greater Los Angeles area. And their parents and caretakers entrust them to us for about five weeks in the summer to teach them how to make a short social change documentary film. And so they, and most, most often these girls are from Los Angeles. So they are interested in, in local issues affecting them, whether it’s body image, self care, immigration issues, you know, we have some incredible shorts made by teenagers on our website as well. And it’s just, it’s amazing. And, and so in creating, let’s see in helping them to tell their stories.

Heidi:

It’s not just about giving them technical filmmaking skills. It’s really about like the building up who they are as an entire person and having them believe and have the confidence in their own voice. So, you know, we do a lot of dance. Well, when we’re in person’s dance and movement in yoga and meditation and really like trying to get them to deeply share, and then they develop their film. You know, there’s something about like really them getting into a safer space where they can be vulnerable with each other as teenage girls with media instructors and chaperones and everything. And then seeing what stories come out of there too. And, and again, like seeing, seeing Los Angeles through the eyes of youth is mind blowing, you know, and really kind of gives us even more creative ways to, to find solutions to local issues too.

Heidi:

Yeah. We had a film in 2018. I didn’t know. There was like an underground drag queen community. And even within that drag community, there’s colorism, you know, so like different drag Queens of color have, you know, challenges in between. So I mean like just, wow. I mean, I didn’t even know things like this go on in my own community. So, um, yeah. And then, like I mentioned immigration issues, um, DACA recipients, you know, just a lot of the things that we hear, like very hard in the news. And then you hear it through the personal experiences of teenaged girls it’s, um, it moves you in a different way. Yeah.

Lauren:

Yeah. I love the notion of this idea that you’re creating space for people to, to not only have their voices heard, but to find their voice. You know, that’s Girl’s Voices Now is, right? It’s this, this notion that honestly, everybody wants to be heard. Everybody wants to be acknowledged, but we grow up in a society that is constantly telling us to settle down and be quiet. And so we sort of train ourselves to be that way. And you’re basically, giving permission. We talk about this all the time having to have permission to do something and then encouraging it and empowering them. And so I, I think it’s a really important thing. And I, I, I’m so glad we found you and I so glad we got to have this conversation with you today. I could definitely talk to you, you forever about, um, the amazing power of art and the fact that you’re creating space girls and women globally and locally. And, and that you’re open to learning from the own art, you know, the art that you are encouraging people to make. That’s so incredible in making change that way. So thank you for joining us today. Really appreciate it.

Lisa:

Thank you. How can people get to know the film festival? Where did they go?

Heidi:

First of all, thank you both for having me today. You’re welcome. I’m delighted to have this time with you and to meet you and to know all of the amazing shows that you’re doing and the message you’re trying to spread. So thank you both for doing this and, to find out more about women’s voices now, it’s, womensvoicesnow.org. And we also have, um, an Instagram account, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube. You can just follow us on any of those places and sign up for an newsletter on the website. There’s just a nice little signup button right at the top. And, um, you’ll get a monthly newsletter, which will give you access to events that we’re having, announcements, interesting other events that are happening with our partners, and that that’s the best way to keep in touch. And our film festival opens on March 1st. So check that out.

Lauren:

Everybody check that out. It’s one of the most important film festivals, I think, of our time. So thank you so much. Thank you everybody for joining us today and, uh, you know, contact us or Heidi, if you have any other questions or if you wanna join our conversation next time. Thanks so much. Thank you.

Heidi:

Thank you.

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