If you search online for Her Sound, Her Story, there are a few keywords that immediately grab your attention. Powerful. Vibrant. Empowering. Encouraging. For long-time friends Claudia Sangiorgi Dalimore and Michelle Grace Hunder, never could the duo have foresaw that combining their work in filmmaking and photography would turn into three-year-long labour of love.
The 70-min doco—recently and exclusively screened at Collarts for our students—looks at the personal experiences of women in all aspects of the Australian music industry. From revealing conversations about sexism to ageism and the confidence gap to representation, the film features accounts from artists and experts like Ecca Vandal, Tina Arena, Zan Rowe, Mojo Juju, Nai Palm, Julia Stone and Collarts' own teachers Dallas Frasca, Ella Hooper and more.
Discussing the impact of the film since its theatrical release, we spoke with Claudia and Michelle about the documentary and how it has served as a catalyst for essential conversations in the music scene.
It’s been a few months since Her Sound, Her Story was first screened across Australia. What conversations do you feel the film has inspired or encouraged?
Claudia: I think we are at a beautiful time in history where the world is ready for these conversation to be had. In the way that there’s no more room for silence and shame. After every screening we have done there’s been such a warm ambience in the room. The film is focuses on community, and I think you can feel that sense of connection to one another when you are with other people watching it.
Many people have recalled to us that they either didn't realises just how heart-sore some of these women’s experiences have been, so naturally there is an immediate conversation urging towards: how can we change or move forward in this discussion? A lot of those responses have come from the men in the room. On the opposite side of that you have so many women whom after watching the film, feel so overwhelmed with grief and happiness all at the same time, often coming from a place of true recognition.
Michelle: The impact has been really encouraging for Claudia and I; we are constantly getting messages about how much the film impacted both women and men across the country which is just phenomenal. I think many people are surprised about how uplifting and inspiring the film is, and many of the comments we are getting especially from women is that they don’t feel alone and they feel like they can accomplish anything. That’s really cool.
The film really invested itself in telling the experiences of women and embracing their stories. What challenges did you face in producing a film that deals with such personal—and universal—moments, and what did this teach you about storytelling?
Claudia: Personally, the time spent making the film took me into some very dark spaces of my own. It was a long process in slowly unraveling how I was going to weave together and tell the story of so many women in one narrative. Each time one of there stories really hit home with me I would be realising that their stories where also my story or my Mums or my Aunties. In those moments naturally the universal story of all women’s experiences started to unveil themselves. It was in those moments that I also began to see they weight of telling such an important story like this— I had a sense of responsibility—to the women in the film, to the men that would come watch it and mostly to the youth that it could impact. All of that was a big part of what gave me the courage and will to see it through to the end.
I did no research for the interviews, so each time we went in to meet someone it was all brand new for me. I was genuinely interested in getting to know these women and listen to what they had to say. That innocence I think translated trough the way these women spoke to me and I was very willing for them to go wherever they wanted to go in their emotions.
"... The younger generations can focus on building their own paradigm, a new music landscape that we haven't ever seem before."
Eliminating the idea of women being in competition with each other is big part of the film, touching on the generational changes in the industry around rivalry. What advice would you give to young women wanting to support one another and build their own networks?
Claudia: At some point I do hope we start to take gender out of the conversation. If you go a level deeper in the subjects of the film, we are really talking about beautiful artists here. Creatives. If the focus starts to be shifted there, and we really start to uplift and celebrate the individual in whatever their expression is. I feel it’s with that sentiment that the younger generations can focus on building their own paradigm, a new music landscape that we haven't ever seem before.
Michelle: I strongly believe that young women can be their own support network to get through a lot of the challenges they face. For example, there is a relatively new facebook group for female music photographers and I have seen this been a place younger photographers ask questions they were always too nervous ask and the most established photographers more than willing to provide information really openly and willingly. I really think this is the key! There really is more than enough work to go around, and it’s the same with musicians. The community is so much more powerful together than in competition with each other.
"It was my every intention that any women after having watched the film they walked away feeling in some way that they were heard, seen and celebrated."
The strength, tenacity, and creativity of women in the film is inspiring. What was the best part about bringing so many incredible women together and celebrating their achievements?
Claudia: Michelle and I had so many moments of exhaustion and despair in attempting to create Her Sound, Her Story. I think we both wanted to give up at some point. Every time we would go to meet another women, we would leave feeling inspired and rejuvenated again to keep going. These women have become our community and our friends. Now when everyone is together it feels like it’s the way it was always meant to be and it’s been so lovely to share in the process of women finding their way back to one another. That’s the real currency of a film like this.
Michelle: The residual effect of the film within the community has been really wonderful to watch. There is a real sense of community and love with the women involved, and has been new relationships and bonds formed, as well as some really special collaborations. We hope this continues!
Mutual respect is a theme carried across the film, encouraging all people—including men—to recognise the gender imbalance in the industry. What’s one thing you’re hoping people take away from the film?
Claudia: A sense of hope. It was my every intention that any women after having watched the film they walked away feeling in some way that they were heard, seen and celebrated.
Michelle: That we all need to work together. That is not a battlefield, all artists just want equality and true recognition for their work and that together we can make a really incredible music industry.
Head to the Her Sound, Her Story website for upcoming screenings and events. If learning under incredible women in the industry is important to you, find out more about our courses here. Applications for 2019 are happening now—apply here!