This week we highlight independent documentary producer, creative activist and the founder of Big Voice Pictures Kathy Barbini. Her love for film started with reading books and now Kathy is creating films that help people discover their own powers, inspire hope, and bring positive change.
Q: Who is Kathy Barbini, what do you do, and why?
A: I'm an independent documentary producer, creative activist, and founder of Big Voice Pictures with my husband Simon. In addition to producing and directing documentaries, we generate impact, audience engagement, and create awareness campaigns for social issue films. My earlier career included working for national television programs, producing broadcast specials, and working as a producer for a daily show for the Discovery Channel.
Q: Tell us more about your background, where did you grow up?
A: I grew up on Long Island in East Northport. I loved growing up surrounded by water, near the Long Island Sound and Atlantic Ocean. Our town was near Northport, a beautiful harbor town. We lived just a little over an hour from New York City which was like my backyard. I helped my dad sell his paintings in Greenwich Village art shows, and he had an advertising business in the city. My Grandma took us to broadway shows and Radio City Music Hall regularly. I loved, and still love NYC.
Q: When did you develop the love of film and were there any directors that inspired you growing up?
A: My love of film really started with reading books. I loved the book Little Women. I became captivated by bringing such compelling characters and stories alive. I was also inspired as a young girl watching The Wonderful World of Disney on Sunday nights with my family. Watching live performances by the Rockettes, movies at Radio City Music Hall in New York City, and seeing such magnificent stories like Sound of Music unfold on a large movie screen with stellar sound in a beautiful historic venue on 5th Avenue..that was it. I was hooked. I was most influenced as a child by the director Victor Fleming and his film The Wizard of Oz. He brought to life in technicolor Dorothy's grand adventure of being swept away from her cozy home in Kansas by a tornado and landing in a faraway magical land called Oz where she embarks on a quest to get back home. The film is about a heroine's journey. Most of the films that I love are about a hero's or heroine's journey. Today I use this classic storytelling structure in my films to inspire hope and adventure, even with challenging subjects I tend to focus on.
Q: Early on in your career you worked as a producer for The Discovery Channel, MTV Networks, ABC, and NBC. How did those early experiences influence the creation of Big Voice Pictures?
A: I loved working in New York City and Washington DC on mainstream television programs in the cities that are the heartbeat of our country and world. It was a truly exhilarating 7 years of my early career. I was able to work with and meet dynamic people and influencers. I enjoyed the ever-changing challenges and working on diverse stories and segments. From the early AIDS crisis, the crack and cocaine epidemic, following George Burns around for a week, working on a presidential broadcast special, and even a special on socially conscious entertainers of the year. My experience in mainstream television helped me develop visual storytelling skills and a love of researching and developing compelling stories. This, and realizing the power of mainstream media to influence and reach people really inspired me to create Big Voice Pictures. I wanted to create my own stories without editorial constrictions. To develop an idea from beginning to end, to tell truths through longer format films, and reach and impact people. I also liked the idea of going beyond the television screen to bring films to audiences in communities, creating panel discussions, and using films to create change. Although our documentaries have been broadcasted, what I love the most is the activism and using our films as tools for positive change.
Q: There are so many amazing films out in the world. If you had the opportunity to produce and direct your favorite childhood film what film would you choose and why?
A: I still go back to the Wizard of Oz. It has the elements of life, good and evil, friends and foes, finding our way home after getting lost, missing loved ones, returning to love, and discovering adventure even when we get lost in our own versions of OZ. It’s about discovering our own inner knowing that we already have which really brings us home. Finally, I love to make films that help people discover their own power as Dorothy did with the help of friends and allies. This is the stuff of life and these are the stories I love.
Q: What’s the best snack to eat while editing film?
A: I love your questions by the way! Well, I'm a health nut so you'd likely see me eating popcorn with nutritional yeast. For a sweet tooth, I might eat pieces of dates, but, if you give me a piece of good rich chocolate I won't refuse. In fact I love quality chocolate.
Q: With Wonder Woman being the highest grossing live action female director film in the world, do you believe more doors will be opened for woman to direct big budgeted films?
A: Yes, yes, yes. Women are unstoppable right now!! I'm so inspired by women directors and amazing actresses, scriptwriters, and new opportunities with Amazon and Netflix. I have a young woman friend who just sold a pilot to Amazon that she wrote and directed and another who just finished her 2nd independent feature. We are amazing women documentary filmmakers and there is no stopping us. And with women standing strong on podiums, like Patricia Arquette at the Oscars speaking out for the need for equal pay for women, and now women blasting the horrifying sexual harassment and assaults of big executives like Harvey Weinstein. We are saying no more oppression. The women's movement is bold and strong today, and supports women in leading roles for women in general. It's a very exciting time for women!
Q: Can you tell us more about your latest project Baptizing Feminism?
A: Baptizing Feminism is a feature documentary and awareness project that turns the spotlight on a heated Bible gender debate and the rise of Christian feminism today as five bold women challenge an influential contemporary Christian patriarchy movement and network of anti-feminist religious right leaders in the United States who demand traditional gender roles.
The documentary follows an unlikely mix of conservative evangelicals and progressive feminists as they investigate the adverse impact of patriarchal interpretations and translations of Bible scriptures widely disseminated by Christian leaders through publishing, seminaries, Christian media, church planting, and politics including in Bible Studies in the White house and State Capitols throughout the United States – theologies they reveal impact and diminish the rights, employment, voice, and dignity of women and girls.
The film also tells about the little known history about women of faith who paved the way for the secular women's movement we know today.
Q: How can people get involved and support your latest project?
A: For those interested, you can visit www.baptizingfeminism.com and email us through the contact form. If you’re also interested in supporting our ongoing filming with a donation, we are producing the film in association with The International Documentary Association. Donations are tax-deductible and can be made on our website which will link to our page at IDA.
Q: With all of our interviews we like to sign off by saying thank you! We know you’re trending which is why we chose you to be one of our featured guest. In honor of the tradition we would like you to finish the sentence..…I’m trending because…
A: I'm trending because I am a conduit for the stories and voices of millions of truth tellers and truth seekers through my work as a filmmaker, visionary, and creative activist.