Maria Schrader on her film “She Said”: That has changed in Hollywood since 2017

Maria Schrader on her film “She Said”
That has changed in Hollywood since 2017

Director Maria Schrader at the premiere of her film "she said" in Vienna.

Director Maria Schrader at the premiere of her film “She Said” in Vienna.

© imago images/SKATA

Maria Schrader made a film about the Weinstein revelations. These scenes were particularly close to the director’s point of view while filming.

In 2017, New York Times journalists Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey revealed that Hollywood film producer Harvey Weinstein had spent decades abusing his power to sexually assault women in the industry. The creation of this article has now become a film: “She Said”, Maria Schrader’s (57) first Hollywood project, tells of the beginnings of the #MeToo movement and the power of investigative journalism. In an interview with the news agency spot on news, the director talks about what has changed in Hollywood since 2017 and in which scenes it became emotional during filming.

It’s been five years since the New York Times article your film tells the story of was published. How did you experience that back then, were you surprised?

Maria Schrader: I was shocked by the scale and detail, but not entirely surprised. I initially asked myself: will anyone really care? I can well remember the first few weeks, when the countless voices were raised. That influenced me a lot, those were very intense weeks. One had the feeling that doors and windows opened and a kind of “draft” took place.

The allegations against Harvey Weinstein are probably just the tip of the iceberg. In the meantime, one has the feeling that the #MeToo movement has fallen asleep again. Do you think there is something else?

Schrader: Yes. For every story that comes out, there is a far greater number of sexual crimes that no one knows about and may never know about. I hope that the film encourages, asks exactly these questions and stimulates the conversation anew.

Have you experienced abuse of power yourself in your career?

Schrader: Yes.

Do your experiences influence the way you interact with actors in your position as a director?

Schrader: Abuse of power doesn’t have to be sexual, and women can engage in it just as much as men. At that time I was already reflecting on whether I might have behaved incorrectly in my position as a director. Dealing with the people on the set has certainly become more conscious since then, especially physical touches. But I don’t have the feeling that I have to change my behavior fundamentally, it has always been important to me to treat each other as equals and with respect as a team and to be able to talk to each other about uncertainties.

Do you think things have changed in Hollywood in general since 2017?

Schrader: Definitely. As a director, for example, I had to sign a code of conduct. There is much more attention to diversification, there are independent bodies to turn to, for intimate scenes there are “intimacy coaches” whose presence supports and protects the actors. One notices that there is a great deal of self-reflection and voices can no longer easily be wiped off the table.

In “She Said” the audience never gets to see Harvey Weinstein’s face, only hearing his voice and seeing him from behind once. A stylistic device or was there no actor who wanted to embody it?

Schrader: Of course we had an actor who could also copy the voice and physicality of the real Weinstein very closely. It was of course a conscious decision when we see him and what we see of him. The film tells the story from the perspective of the two reporters, only one of whom has seen him physically. In this scene, I found it much more interesting and consistent to focus on her face rather than his. By the time this article was published, Harvey Weinstein had become almost a symbol of male abuse of power. It seemed right to me to keep him anonymous rather than give him a close-up.

The film offers numerous goosebump moments. Was there a scene that was particularly difficult to shoot on an emotional level?

Schrader: The stories of the witnesses. These are the scenes that were particularly close to my heart. They have great intensity and emotionality. We all had respect for the fact that these are true stories. Zoe Kazan, who in her role as Jodi Kantor meets several witnesses and, as an actress, had to listen to their stories over and over again for a whole day, reacted very emotionally.

The private lives of the two journalists also play a major role in your film. One learns, for example, of Megan Twohey’s postnatal depression. Why was it important to you to include so many private aspects in the story?

Schrader: Of course it’s great to have two such tough female protagonists in a journalistic thriller. On the other hand, I think it’s important to experience them as normal people who are hit by sudden depressions, who take the subway, who have doubts, and sometimes sleepless nights. There were very few women who managed to publish this article together and change the world with it. They had courage, perseverance, faith, but they didn’t have superpowers. They were normal people like us and I find that inspiring. At the same time, I believe that the subject they covered will inevitably spill over into their personal lives as well.