‘Not Done’ Director on Connecting #MeToo, Time’s Up, Black Lives Matter for ‘Women Remaking America’ Documentary

PBS 'Not Done: Women Remaking America'
Joshua Lott/ACLU

#MeToo. #TimesUp. Now #NotDone?

A new documentary from first-time director Sara Wolitzky, titled “Not Done: Women Remaking America,” looks back on the last few years of advancements in the women’s movement. Premiering on Oct. 27 on PBS, just days ahead of the 2020 presidential election, the project feels both perfectly timed and also like it may just be the start of another wave of the movement.

“We’re living through another of these major chapters of feminist organizing and people being back in the streets and huge shifts in public consciousness,” Wolitzky tells Variety. “It felt like a good moment, but in some ways we can only scratch the surface. There’s always a lot more, both in terms of what happens next but also even in terms of looking more closely at the stuff that’s just happened. There are definitely pieces [within ‘Not Done’] that we could have done a whole film on.”

“Not Done” is the first film release from Verizon’s Future Fund, a multi-million dollar company commitment to supporting new and emerging female talent in entertainment and tech. It explores the outcry of feminism over the last four years, from the 2016 election through the women’s marches that in many places turns into marches for equality and inclusion among multiple disenfranchised and underrepresented groups, to Alyssa Milano making Tarana Burke’s #MeToo movement go viral, the importance of Black Lives Matter being started by mothers and the start of Time’s Up. It features original interviews with everyone from African American Policy Forum co-founder and author Kimberlé Crenshaw, Black Lives Matter co-founders Patrisse Cullors and Alicia Garza, producers including Shonda Rhimes and Joey Soloway, activist and journalist Gloria Steinem and Time’s Up co-founder and CEO Tina Tchen.

Not Done BTS

But as apropos as it may seem, the time of its release was not entirely intentional. Wolitzky tells Variety that she began shooting her first interviews for the project in October 2019, and the plan was to release it in June. The COVID-19 pandemic, however, caused her to pause when she was “about 90% done with filming,” she recalls. But, as she and her team were spinning their wheels in editing, a racial reckoning was taking place in the real world, which added a layer of fresh relevance to the story arc she was creating.

“Black Lives Matter was always a part of the film and our interviews with Patrisse Cullors and Alicia Garza were some of the earliest ones that we did. We saw the founding of Black Lives Matter as being a part of that first wave and foundational moment to this new era of feminist organizing,” says Wolitzy. To “see, come June and the summer, this racial justice reckoning happen — and happen in a way that was in some ways an evolution in the direction of the principles that those women had started it with, wanting to be intersectional in that respect” we wanted to “be responsive to what was happening in the world and make it as timely as possible.”

“It was a weird blessing in disguise to have an extra couple of months to capture [more] and see our first woman of color on a [major party] presidential ticket,” Wolitzy continues.

Finishing the project over the summer meant being able to capture additional footage, such as a rally for Black trans lives in Brooklyn, N.Y., as well as to obtain the last 10% of interviews, including with activists and writers Brittney Cooper and Raquel Willis, remotely. In total, “Not Done” boasts more than two dozen interviews in its tight 54-minute package, as well as photography and other archival news footage to bring the audience back to the “experience of the media landscape that was covering” the events in real-time.

Wolitzky is no stranger to historical documentaries, producing such titles under the “Makers” brand as 2014’s “Women in Space” and 2013’s “Women Who Make America.” Although her past titles have focused on events taking place decades ago and therefore offering “more time to see more clearly the arc,” Wolitzky admits she felt “uniquely positioned after working on this brand of films for so long” to helm a project that reacted to more recent news and events.

“‘Makers’ is the world of feminist media, and so I’ve been attuned to how the idea of feminism and gender equality has been playing out in the world more than I might have been if I had been doing other stuff. I knew how different the world was and the landscape was from when we started it,” she explains. “One of the ways I approached it, as I would any film, was reading as much as possible, and I will definitely say a few books like Brittney Cooper’s ‘Eloquent Rage’ and Rebecca Traister’s ‘Good and Mad’ were incredibly helpful. I think they’re extremely talented in-the-moment historians.”

Because of this, Wolitzky shares she didn’t want to include narration in the project, but rather “let the subjects speak for themselves.”

“Having all of those voices and that gathering of women in the film is also a reflection of what’s been happening in the real world. A lot of it to me is the power of the collective and the power of sisterhood — or sibling-hood, as Joey Soloway would say,” Wolitzky continues. “It’s not [women] just getting to tell their own stories, but seeing how all of these moments are connected to a bigger narrative that involves all of these other women that they admire or they’re friends with or they work with.”

“Not Done: Women Remaking America” premieres Oct. 27 at 8 p.m. on PBS.