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SxSW 2015 Interview: A BRAVE HEART: THE LIZZIE VELASQUEZ STORY director Sara Hirsh Bordo

by Jason Whyte

"Born with a rare syndrome that prevents her from gaining weight, Elizabeth "Lizzie" Velasquez was first bullied as a child in school for looking different and, later online, as a teenager when she discovered a YouTube video labelling her "The World's Ugliest Woman." This documentary chronicles unheard stories and details of Lizzie's physical and emotional journey up to her multi-million viewed TEDx talk, and follows her pursuit from a motivational speaker to Capitol Hill as she lobbies for the first federal anti-bullying Bill. It's Lizzie's film, but it's everyone's story." Director Sarah Hirsh Bordo on A BRAVE HEART: THE LIZZIE VELASQUEZ STORY which screens at the 2015 South By Southwest Film Festival.

Is this your first SxSW/Austin experience and are you going to attend your screenings?

This is my first SXSW as a filmmaker and I am so honored and excited. I will be attending all of the screenings with subjects and crew.

Your favorite barbecue/food in the city?

Fonda San Miguel!

Your favorite beer in Austin?

Can I still keep my Texas ID if I don't like beer? While I don't drink beer, I do love a Mexican Martini.

What do you love the most about showing movies in Austin and Austin in general?

I have lived in a lot of big cities in the US and after 9 years in LA, I am so happy to be back.

How did your movie come together as a director?

I met Lizzie when she gave a TEDx talk at the TEDxAustinWomen segment I produced in December 2013. We became friends and I became close with her family. After her incredible talk became so popular, and we were seeing the kinds of things people were saying from all over the world in response to her courage, it was clear that people needed a hero who had survived bullying. Her family had been asked many times for the rights to do her documentary, but they had passed at the time. I knew I wanted to help shine a light on Lizzie and, when I asked, her family said yes.

What was your process in getting the film together?

I produced the film with my incredible team; all of us first time filmmakers. Jessica Chou worked for me in LA and when I told her I was taking on the project, she quit her job the next day and we've been working together on the film ever since. Chris Roldan, my editor, was a dream to work with and a genius. Javier Dunn, who we met through Sara Bareilles, who did two original songs for the film, did all of our original music. I am so excited for the film to put a spotlight on his talent.

What was your biggest challenge with this movie, and how did you over-come it?

My biggest priority and hope was to make Lizzie and her family glad they said yes for me to do the film. I suppose I overcame it when they saw the rough cut and when I saw them afterwards, they just cried and nodded.

If you had to pick a single favourite moment out of the entire production, what would it be? The moment where you thought "I had something"?

I'm not sure there was one! The production was just one incredible memory and moment after the next.

What keeps you going while making a movie? What drives you? How much coffee/sugar/tea/soda products etc?

Messages from fans to Lizzie kept me going. Tea, coffee, and B12 shots got me through the fast and furious shoot.

For the aspiring filmmakers who read our site, I would love to know about the technical side of the film, your relationship to the director of photography and how you filmed the movie.

My fantastic DP was Ben Powell. Ben was very patient with me as a first time director and was a perfect partner. We shot on the Canon C300 and Canon C100.

What are you looking forward to the most about showing your movie at SxSW and in Austin?

We are so honored; we are premiering at The Paramount and then have screenings at Alamo Drafthouse and Topfer Theater at Zach Scott. We are so lucky!

There are a lot of up and coming filmmakers both at SxSW and reading our site. What would you want to tell them if they are aspiring to become a filmmaker?

I would say best wishes and I hope you find a subject and a story you had as much passion for as I had for ours.

We hope you enjoyed this SxSW filmmaker interview in our 35+ filmmaker interview series. We will have interviews posted all throughout the festival so be sure to visit us often for more coverage!

This is one of the many films screening at the 2015 SXSW in Austin, Texas between March 13-21. For more information on this film screening times, point your browser to or use the SxSW GO App for Android and iOS.

Jason Whyte,
Twitter: @jasonwhyte / Facebook: jasonwhyte / Instagram: jason.whyte

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originally posted: 03/10/15 10:15:45
last updated: 03/11/15 12:22:01
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