When director Richard Robbins got the idea for Girl Rising — a film about girls struggling to get an education — he was determined that it should be part of a social action campaign to improve the lot of girls around the world.
Critically-acclaimed producer Martha Adams helped make the film and subsequently became the creative director for the campaign. She spoke to World Vision about both roles.
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What was your role as producer?
Initially, I was asked to go out into the world to find these girls. I was interviewing hundreds of girls and trying to identify candidates who would be a good match for our writers, and whom we thought would make a good story.
How did you break the ice with the girls and the writers?
We listened to the girls first and foremost. What would they like to do? We also had to work in the writers’ own desires: “Can we travel to her birthplace? Can I go to school with her? Where does she go when she likes to unwind?”
Of course, sharing those experiences with the girls, their family members, and with the writer made for a very memorable and moving day. As you can imagine, a lot of our writers and the girls became very close.
Were the girls’ stories what you expected?
When I first got the call to do this project, it was a chance of a lifetime, because I have always cared deeply about these issues. But like most people, I was under the impression that the situation was bleak; that the notion of girls being empowered across the developing world was unattainable.
Now, I’ve gone 180 degrees in the opposite direction; I know that not only is it obtainable, but we are already on our way.
What makes you so optimistic?
Because the girls I met in the field were game-changers. They’re revolutionaries. We’re so conditioned to define “revolutionary” in a certain way, and to think of it as the face of the intifada or Gandhi.
But these girls are just as powerful in their ability to change and stop the cycle of poverty.
Can you give an example?
When you interview someone such as Nazma — who is in a World Vision program in India — and you say: “How old was your mom when she was married?” “She was 8.” “Does she know how to read?” “No.” “How many children does she have?” “10.”
And then you say, “Nazma, can you read?” “Oh yes, I love this book, I love that book.” “Can you write?” “Oh yes, I just wrote an essay about this.” “What do you want to be when you grow up?” “Oh, I want to open a school — be a principal.” “Do you want to have any kids?” “Yep, maybe two, maybe three.”
All because an organization came — in this case, World Vision — and gave her a uniform, paid for her book supplies, and provided her a safe place for her to do her homework. It’s not that complicated.
After finishing the film, you became the creative director for the social action campaign. What does it involve?
It’s as varied as making a 60-second video that loops inside a taxi cab during a world convention, all the way over to, here is a talented graffiti artist. Let’s figure out how to work with him to create an interactive street campaign. In this world, we have to find the most innovative ways to engage.
Many producers would be looking for another film project by now. Why not you?
This project is all-consuming. You feel passionate about wanting to see the greatest amount of change come from this experience. This is not a typical film by any stretch. It’s more like a life-changing experience.
Girl Rising will be in theaters in March. Directed by Academy Award-nominee Richard Robbins and narrated by world-class actresses including Meryl Streep, Anne Hathaway, Kerry Washington, and Selena Gomez, Girl Rising tells the stories of extraordinary girls faced with unforgiving circumstances.
Request a screening of Girl Rising today.
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