It came from observing the constant conversation about gender inequality and imbalance within the music industry and the arts in general. Photographer Michell Grace Hunder and Filmmaker Claudia Sangiorgi Dalimore, independent art lovers and lifelong friends teamed up on Her Sound Her Story, a film for generations of women not only in Australia but worldwide.
(Claudia Left and Michelle Right)
Featuring too many kick ass women to name (Ella Hooper, Tina Arena, Julia Stone, Missy Higgins, Kate Ceberano and many many more!), the film shines light on women in the Australian music industry, their talents, achievements and ultimately, aiming to inspire generations of women to believe in themselves. We had the privilege to ask Michelle and Claudia some questions about the film, their reactions to the process and ultimately where to next.
Where did the premise of the documentary start from?
M – The idea came after I noticed a huge gender disparity throughout the creation of a previous project of mine on Australian Hip Hop. I started doing a bit of research and noticed the gender disparity across the whole of the landscape of Australian Music and wanted to discover why and what was happening.
C - Michelle called me one day and pretty much said “Hey, I have this idea. I want to do a portrait series celebrating women in the Australian music industry. You should come with me and interview them when I take the photos”. 88 portraits, 55 interviews, a concert, 2 photographic installations and a documentary later here we are.
What did you find most surprising in the filming/interview process?
M – That the women were so open and honest with us and willing to tell us their stories, but I think that actually really comes down to Claudia’s incredible way of interviewing and conversing that allowed the trust to form really quickly.
C - Unknown to me at the time I think the process of getting to sit down with so many incredible women from all walks of life was like 4 years of therapy. Overtime, the stories they were sharing started to reveal my own struggles with being who I am in the world. That parallel played a big role in helping me see the film through to the finish line of creation. I thought if by sharing these stories with me, they can change my life maybe somehow sharing this conversation could offer solace for others.
The film shows an incredibly diverse range of women across the industry which is so inspiring. How did you go about choosing who to feature and interview in the film?
M – It was really important to both Claudia & I to have a full spectrum of women across the music industry, to be as representative as possible. I feel like it was a pretty organic process in terms of how we chose to speak to women, we tried to get as many women as possible who were available to speak to us. We would never be able to reach everyone but I do feel we did a pretty good job of speaking to a large spectrum so that is feels pretty much on the pulse of the current.
C - There where some women who I just knew from intuition we needed to listen too. It’s interviews like the ones with Mama Kin, Shellie Morris and Eleanor Dixon that I just kept persisting and waiting years to make our timing align. I would’t really take stop until we got to speak to them. I was also really sure that we needed to speak to the women that had been in the game for a long while now. Without these pioneers, this story didn't exists for me. In the editing process I was really determined to get as many different faces on screen. That intern would both reflect that current landscape of music in Australia and also celebrate the individuals, the colour and the diversity of what this country produces.
(Claudia and Michelle with artist Mojo Juju)
The film explores gender imbalance in the industry through stereotypes, ageism, sexism, body image and cultural issues. What do you believe are some key steps the industry both globally and in Australia needs to take to tackle this?
M - I think the first key is really just a general understanding of the issues at a play, I think in some instances there is a denial there is any issues at all and that’s simply not the case. The next part is some conscious steps to actively seek out the women of diverse backgrounds in all instances whether it be line ups or radio play or interviews or whatever you are doing that is shining a light on artists. Bit of active awareness of previous unconscious bias would go a long way.
C - Let’s hope at some point we can start to take gender out of the conversation. Art has no gender. If collectively everyone started to shift focus back to the individual, celebrating their creativity, their expression, their form…in whatever that takes on. That’s where my hope lies.
Are there any ways you can see the industry in Australia actually moving towards more positive gender balance? Are there any organisations or events for example that you really believe are doing some great work in that regard?
M - One of the best things I think that will help facilitate change is that APRA has come on board to take the film into record labels and music industry to help some of the biggest bodies in the industry understand the issues at play. I think it’s really difficult for anyone to deny the issues at play after seeing the film. So we really hope these screenings have a positive impact.
C - I feel we are at a point where this conversation can’t really be ignored anymore, that’s speaking globally. It’s really up to the individual to even start to implement change in their own belief systems. On an industry level I think it’s also going be up to the some of the men at the top of that food chain to step down. The music being created in Australian is world class, regardless of gender. It would be amazing if everyone started to champion the talent that we have here instead of waiting for them to be recognised overseas before we started to claim them as our own.
M - SLEEP – no we have a few things planned! We are encouraging people to sing up to our newsletter at www.hersoundherstory.com so they can keep up to date with what we do in the future!
C - Sleep. Eat. Create. Repeat.
HER SOUND HER STORY is currently touring the country.
You can find a session near you at www.hersoundherstory.com
All photos from Michelle and Claudia