In November of 2017, This Is My Brave was awarded a highly-competitive Inspiration Grant from Alkermes to fund a documentary film about the impact of sharing stories of recovery from mental illness and addiction. After a month-long selection process, we're thrilled to introduce our filmmaker, Beth Murphy of Principle Pictures out of Boston, MA!
How did you get started in filmmaking? Has your focus always been documentaries?
It was the late 1990s, and I was coming out of TV news – and before that radio news. Although I enjoyed working in news, I didn’t feel like I was contributing in any positive way to a real understanding of our world or the people in it. I was feeling compassion fatigue. It’s the idea that when all you’re presented with are problems, you begin to feel hopeless and like there is nothing you can do to help solve them. Well, I didn’t want to feel hopeless, and I didn’t want to contribute to other people feeling that way either!
That’s why I founded Principle Pictures with the idea of being an antidote to compassion fatigue. Our focus is on documentary filmmaking and impact/educational campaigns around them. Over the past twenty years, we have also worked with nonprofit and corporate clients globally to help them share their stories and celebrate their accomplishments.
It has always been important to me to tell strong character-driven stories about the unsung heroes among us who shed light on complex health, human rights, social, and political issues. To further that personal mission, in addition to running Principle Pictures, I have now joined forces with The GroundTruth Project where I head GroundTruth Films. At GroundTruth, I’m helping to mentor the next generation of filmmakers while working with a very talented team to produce films, news reports, and podcasts that are distributed across many different platforms.
Your company, Principle Pictures, was founded on the belief that documentary filmmaking is a uniquely powerful way to shed light on the human drama at the heart of the world’s most pressing social and political issues. How did this become a focus for you?
One of the things I love most about documentary filmmaking is that it's a form of storytelling that lends itself to both exposing problems and to highlighting solutions. The first step toward solution is action. It’s wonderful when films make people feel inspired – but, what next? I love making films and creating impact campaigns around them that can help mobilize people to work together toward social change.
The background for this is that I grew up with a slight obsession for CBS news – especially 60 Minutes and any CBS Reports documentaries. Those were the first documentaries I watched, and I loved them. Harvest of Shame held particular significance for me. It was released about a decade before I was born, and when I became aware of it during college, I thought, that’s what I want to do. The film focused on the plight of migrant workers and gave audiences a first-ever look at abject poverty in America. People criticized journalist Edward R. Murrow of advocacy when at the end of the report, he turned squarely to the camera and urged action: “The people you have
seen have the strength to harvest your fruit and vegetables. They do not have the strength to influence legislation. Maybe we do.” And it worked.
I’ve tried to emulate this idea of having a call to action in my own work and have done so over the years with topics ranging from breast cancer in young women to girls’ education in Afghanistan. With our most recent impact campaign around the film WHAT TOMORROW BRINGS, we succeeded in building a women’s college in rural Afghanistan. The college opened in March and today 22 young women are studying to become midwives.
What excites you most about the film project with This Is My Brave?
This is a story whose time has come. Mental illness touches all of our lives in some way and I am in awe of the people who are coming forward to share their stories with the world. A theme I have returned to again and again in my work – and something I think is so important to remind ourselves of – is that change is possible. It is possible to break down barriers. End stigmas. Change ourselves. Inspire those around us to do the same. I believe THIS IS MY BRAVE makes all of those things possible, and I’m excited to capture it on film and to share it with as broad an audience as possible.