Meganda Films LLC, a women-led grassroots production company founded by filmmaker Megan Segarra, will screen it’s first feature length documentary “The F-Word” on October 18 at Joe’s Pub. The documentary pushes people to be more aware of their relationship to the word ‘fat’, and it encourages folks to re-shape their self-image, and the ways they treat our bodies and each other.
Megan Segarra, director of “The F-Word” talked to PRT about the process of making the documentary and the importance of confidence and diverse media content.
PRT: What has been the most rewarding aspect of working on The F Word?
MS: I think finishing the film has been very rewarding on it’s own. This is my first documentary and the process has taken me over 8 years so that in and of itself has been very rewarding. On a larger scale, an aspect that has been “rewarding” has been watching the growth of some of the students we followed.
PRT: You got to talk to over 200 students at Vinehald High School, but then the documentary shifted in response to the struggles and voices of a small group of students. What is it about their stories that made you focus on them?
MS: Well over the course of one day, I met 200 students and they were all very insightful and I was really grateful that they let me sit and talk to them. Actually, my greatest regret from this whole process was not bringing a big crew my first day. They were so open and unfiltered I wished I had a full crew to capture everything they were saying, and to help me capture every emotion they were having in the large group discussion…
From the original group, 4 students stood out not just when the camera was on. Their individual questionnaires left me wanting to get to know them a little more. They were also really great about letting me into their lives and allowing me to follow up with them over the course of the last few years.
I then received an email from another student that wanted to share her story, and after showing the feedback footage in San Francisco, I was encouraged to reach out to another from the footage. So this last year we added 2 more students to the follow ups which I felt really added to the progress of their stories.
All of their stories were different but I felt as a focus group they had a lot to say that I believe would speak to the larger overarching issues around the word Fat.
Also being able to talk to the boys in the group was incredibly insightful, because my original focus was on girls and women, so that alone changed the focus of the film.
PRT: I am always piqued by how my family will tell me that I lost weight when they want to compliment me. It’s even more strange when I don’t see it ever happening to my brother or male cousins. It is much more common for us women to be praised for our negative space; the less space we take up, the better. Did you see any of the students struggling to take up space, be seen, or heard? How do we get more comfortable with taking up space?
MS: YES! The idea of being praised or shamed based off of your appearance was a common storyline I found throughout the whole filming process. In our focus group we had two students with eating disorders and one student that wanted to commit suicide as a result of their struggles with being “seen or heard”. I also don’t believe this idea is of shaming and praising is gender specific.
Being “comfortable with taking up space” I think starts with being conscious of the way we put stock in our words, how we put stock in the shaming and praising of our appearance. And shifting that thought process. It’s a choice to be Kind. It’s a choice to not just be Kind to others but to first be Kind to yourself. It’s like when you’re on a plane and they explain the emergency evacuation system, they always say you have to put on your air mask first before you can help anyone else. I believe that same idea holds true with everyday life. We must first take care of ourselves, then and only then will we start to see a difference in the people around us.
PRT: It’s wonderful that you’re getting to tell this story. I am a big supporter of women filmmakers, and content creators that come from backgrounds that aren’t represented enough on mainstream media. How do you think we can push for more stories and content created by women of color?
MS: As the creator of Meganda Films LLC, that is something I struggle with and strive for everyday. To produce and find content that represents “the other”, giving a voice not to just women of color but to represent people, and stories that are not exclusive to race.
How can we “push for more stories and content created by women of color”? Hmm, I think “that push” should come from the content we produce; so that we are not just being seen as women of color filmmakers but rather being seen as Filmmakers.
“The Fat Word” screening will be held at Joe’s Pub, on October 18, at 2pm. For more information, visit: http://joespub.publictheater.org/en/Tickets/Calendar/PlayDetailsCollection/Joes-Pub/2014/F/The-F-Word-Documentary-Screening/