DOC NYC 2021 Female Directors: Meet Abby Epstein – “The Business of Birth Control”


Abby Epstein began her career as a theater director with her Chicago-based production company, Roadworks Productions, which was founded in 1992. After directing some productions in Chicago, Epstein moved to New York to be assistant director in production. of “Rent.” He then worked on “The Vagina Monologues” with Eve Ensler and directed his first film, 2003’s “Until the Violence Stops,” a documentary on the impact of “The Vagina Monologues” on a global scale. His other film credits include “The Business of Being Born” and “Weed the People”.

“The Business of Birth Control” kicks off screening at the 2021 DOC NYC Film Festival on November 14th. The festival runs from 10 to 28 November.

W&H: Describe the film in your own words.

AE: The film carefully examines the lack of options and informed consent on hormonal birth control.

It traces the racist roots of contraception, the role of the feminist health movement in raising awareness of side effects, the personal stories of those who have suffered and how people with uterus are innovating and regaining control of their bodies.

W&H: What attracted you to this story?

AE: Author Holly Grigg-Spall gave me her unpublished manuscript called “Sweetening the Pill” in hopes of turning it into a documentary. Having my bad experiences with the pill, I was blown away by everything I didn’t know about a drug I have been taking every day for nearly a decade.

I quickly realized that most women, trans and non-binary people shared a frustration over this lack of informed consent and that there was a truth and a showdown that needed to happen on this issue.

W&H: What do you want people to think about after watching the movie?

AE: Generations of people have grown up without basic body literacy and it’s still common for people not to understand how their body works until they’re trying to get pregnant.

The idea that women need to be treated daily with an endocrine-disrupting chemical to manage their fertility is out of line with the younger generation. It is clear that we need massive education and innovation regarding fertility management and reproductive health.

W&H: What was the biggest challenge in making the film?

AE: The biggest challenge was the inability to film the “side effects”. There aren’t many ways to visually or narratively capture how these products affect the mind and body.

W&H: How did you finance your film? Share some information about how you made the film.

AE: Our film was 80% funded by crowdfunding on Kickstarter and private donations. The remaining 20% ​​was financed by investors.

W&H: What inspired you to become a director?

AE: I was a fresh out of college theater director and worked constantly on and Off-Broadway. I directed “The Vagina Monologues” and worked on the V-Day Movement to End Violence Against Women and Girls, which became the subject of my first film. I was inspired by wanting to tell the story in a viral way rather than the idea of ​​becoming a director.

W&H: What is the best and worst advice you have received?

AE: I’m not sure. I guess I don’t listen to many people.

W&H: What advice do you give to other directors?

AE: I would advise them to lean on each other and keep reciprocating. I spend a lot of time serving aspiring filmmakers, mentoring them and guiding their projects.

W&H: Name your favorite female movie and why.

AE: All Ava DuVernay films.

W&H: How are you adjusting to life during the COVID-19 pandemic? Are you maintaining creativity, and if so, how?

AE: As a single mom of two school-aged children, I wasn’t very creative during the arrest and the COVID-19 pandemic. It was daily survival. I’ve seen more movies than usual, so I guess it was inspiring to be able to see more people’s work.

W&H: The film industry has a long history of under-representing people of color on screen and behind the scenes and reinforcing and creating negative stereotypes. What actions do you think should be taken to make the doc world more inclusive?

AE: I think we all need to work from scratch, creating more opportunities for inclusion in our behind-the-scenes projects and storytelling. It is important that the documentation industry also allocates funds to these under-represented voices.


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