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ISSA Show Spotlight Speaker Sarah Moshman Shares Her Unique Approach to Storytelling

The award-winning filmmaker describes a life of taking risks, pursuing passions, and believing in the impossible.

October 13, 2022

ISSA Show North America 2022 kicked off Wednesday morning with an inspiring talk from Emmy Award-winning documentary filmmaker, TV producer, and TEDX speaker—Sarah Moshman. Moshman’s work has been featured on a number of media outlets, including Netflix, Upworthy, Marie Claire, CNN, and Good Morning America.

Moshman openly shared her own personal story, as well as her unique approach at storytelling. As she put it, “I tell stories for a living.”

Moshman, who grew up in Evanston, Illinois, explained that “the apple did not fall far from the tree,” as her father was also a TV producer and filmmaker. While Mosman was growing up, cameras were always in her home. Her family even had a dark room in their basement. This background was a major inspiration for Moshman’s chosen profession and her love for film and photos as a whole. “Learning how to craft a good image was always something I was taught from a young age,” she said.

At the age of 16, Moshman received her first camcorder—a Sony Hi8 Camcorder—from her parents. She recorded videos regularly with friends before filming her first ever documentary for a high school English project that same year. It was then that she recognized the power of storytelling through videography and directing. “Having this camera gave me a sense of courage I didn’t have without it,” she said.

Moshman then went to the University of Miami film school and eventually moved out to Los Angeles, where she spent 10 seasons working and moving up in the ranks on the set of Dancing With the Stars. However, as she reached the age of 25, a certain quote spoke to her: “Sometimes you climb the ladder to success, only to find it’s on the wrong wall.” It was then that she left her position and chose to pursue her true passion of documentary film making.

Using Kickstarter to help fund her vision, Moshman set out with a few co-creators on a road trip across America to interview 17 ordinary women doing extraordinary things. This series was compiled over seven months for the documentary, The Empowerment Project: Ordinary Women Doing Extraordinary Things. The project encouraged young women to dream bigger and ask themselves, “What would you do if you weren’t afraid to fail?” The documentary was a success and has now been screened over 1,000 times all over the world in schools, stadiums, and for companies like American Girl and Microsoft.

During this time, Moshman received an email informing her of another incredible opportunity in the form of four women’s dreams. The documentary that was developed from that endeavor was titled Losing Sight of Shore and shared the story of the Coxless Crew, a group of four women that set out together to travel across the entire Pacific Ocean in a long pink ocean rowing boat. Over nine months, the women experienced every hardship imaginable but managed to succeed and make history in the process. Moshman shared how impactful this very last minute and difficult project was for herself and for all that heard the story. “There was so much risk involved but we all believed in the impossible,” she said. “We all believed that this was going to happen.”

After two years of making this film with little financial or crew support, Moshman was able to license it to Netflix. The documentary appeared in 190 countries and was subtitled in 25 different languages. Now, Moshman continues to pursue her passion and tell stories that inspire and empower through film. Her latest endeavor—a fiction movie titled Unbound—is being featured in the Portland Film Festival. She plans to have many more projects soon to come and new ways to tell incredible stories of women and perseverance.

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