MERYL GOLDSMITH: I was born and raised in the Detroit suburbs, in Bloomfield Hills. I went to University of Michigan, and I majored in film there. I think that was the first time I realized I could officially do film as a job. I didn’t know that was an option, I never had seen a female director, I just had no idea. And so when I went to college, my parents said study what you love, find your passion. So I majored in film, and started making docs when I was in college.
REBECCA MARTIN: When you were studying at University of Michigan, what was it that inspired you and moved you toward your career?
GOLDSMITH: I had always been really into movies, so not surprisingly I loved my first film class, which was on Martin Scorsese’s work. I was thrilled U of M had these amazing film classes and that I could actually major in it. It was mostly history and theory with a little production and that really gave me a good base for understanding where the art form came from.
MUSIC AND FILM INTERSECT
GOLDSMITH: When I originally started, I thought I wanted to do music for films because I wanted to find something at the intersection of film and music, which was music supervising. Being a music supervisor means that you are in charge of the music. You are responsible for getting the right music, handling the licensing and legal aspects.
I realized I wanted to make the entire films and not just be on the music side. So I started producing and directing, documenting this record label in Ann Arbor.
MARTIN: What’s the name of the label?
GOLDSMITH: It’s called Ghostly. Sam Valenti IV started it in his dorm room at Michigan. And I was like, “Oh my god, you’re doing all this awesome music, so why don’t we film this?” So I worked with them for a couple years.
COUSINS AND “THE SYNDROME” (2014)
GOLDSMITH: Then I decided to partner up with my cousin, Susan Goldsmith. We’re first cousins, but she’s twenty-two years older than me; she’s an investigative reporter. She was at New Times LA and The Oregonian. She’s a story master.
MARTIN: That’s awesome!
GOLDSMITH: Yeah! The first one we decided to do exposed a horrible issue, parents and caretakers going to prison over the junk science of “Baby Shaken Syndrome.”
MARTIN: Yeah I was actually watching that last night, very interesting. It was great.
GOLDSMITH: Thank you! She had done real child abuse reporting for years, and then found this story.
ROAD TO “LOVE, GILDA”
GOLDSMITH: Sometime during that process, Michael Radner, he’s my godfather, he told me that Lisa D’Apolito was making “Love, Gilda” (2018). Once I finally had a chance to meet Lisa, I was really relieved, because Gilda’s story was a lot more personal. It was my role to make sure that number one, Gilda’s portrayed in a positive light, and thinking of things as a friend. So I met her and saw the assembly cut and thought, she knows what she’s doing, and she cared about how Gilda was portrayed. She would ask herself with every decision how Gilda would have felt about it. And Lisa has a background in advertising and production, so she did know film, and made everything look and sound great.
MARTIN: That’s important.
GOLDSMITH: So that’s when I came on, and I was just giving a little guidance during the process, because I had just produced, directed, and released my feature documentary “The Syndrome” (2014), as well as a little funding help. When Lisa finally sat across from CNN for a pitch session, they loved it so she got the funding she needed for an excellent composer, and editor, as well as graphics—all of those roles female crew as well.
WOMEN COMING TOGETHER
MARTIN: How did you connect with these women that were inspired by the project? How did that all come together?
GOLDSMITH: I can’t remember who it was that recommended them. We have a bunch of great producers and executive producers.
MARTIN: I was just going to say it’s pretty exciting when women can come together and collaborate on something; that’s how I feel about Cinema Femme.
MARTIN: I liked the addition of having cast from SNL and bringing on female comedians to read her letters. I thought that was really moving.
GOLDSMITH: I agree. I’m so impressed with everything that Lisa did with the film. I was happy to support her.
MARTIN: For women in film today, what are you seeing in terms of change? Are you seeing change?
GOLDSMITH: I’m definitely seeing change. It’s still #OscarsSoMale #OscarsSoWhite, but I think even within the last few weeks, with the 4% Challenge with the #TimesUp campaign, has been huge. There are 76 women now going to get directing jobs in a year and a half because of this. And the 50/50 challenge. I think people are more aware. It’s amazing, think about someone, like Colin Trevorrow who goes from doing this small indie sci-fi film, going on to directing “Jurassic World” (2015). And I thought that would never happen to a woman. And it just did with Chloé Zhao, who made “The Rider” (2017). She has been tapped for “The Eternals.”
MARTIN: That’s great! I’m sad her film didn’t get nominated for the Oscars or that she as a director wasn’t nominated.
GOLDSMITH: Or Debra Granik for “Leave No Trace” (2018). And there are films that I still need to see, or ones that I’ve seen made by female filmmakers that were not celebrated enough. But I think we’re going to keep seeing change. I was never one who thought about this stuff. I focused on making the best work I could, but I’ve changed, and I want to be in more of an active role or voice in helping other female filmmakers. I am trying even harder to be 50/50 with my sets as well as diverse. So I’m using these directories like Glass Elevator, and I hope they all continue to grow so we can keep finding each other.