Recently, Losing Sight Of Shore hit the big league: Netflix. The film, passion project of director/producer Sarah Moshman, tells a triumphant tale of female empowerment, a story as universal as it is now accessible. The documentary centers on four women, known as the Coxless Crew, who take on the Pacific Ocean as a rowing team, becoming the first team of four—and the fastest team ever—to make the 8,446 mile journey.
The film follows Doris, the Coxless Crew’s boat, across the Pacific, as it ebbs and flows along the ceaseless tide. With gorgeous overhead shots and a gripping story, Losing Sight Of Shore makes you marvel at the tenacity of the human spirit. Needless to say, I was hooked, and about twenty minutes into the film, I was already tearing up.
Before Losing Sight Of Shore, Moshman worked on The Empowerment Project, a documentary that had great success in the world of indie filmmaking. The film has been screened over 250 times in 30 states and 6 countries to date. Finding her roots in documentary filmmaking came naturally to Moshman, who won an Emmy in 2013 for her short on the organization Girls On The Run.
Since then, Moshman has continued her work as a producer and went on tour with her film, The Empowerment Project, speaking to schools and various feminist organizations about staying strong and believing in one’s self in this male-dominated world.
After watching Losing Sight Of Shore, I reached out to Ms. Moshman, who happily agreed to an email interview. Our conversation is transcribed below.
Sophia Cowley for Film Inquiry: How did you first come across the Coxless Crew’s story?
Sarah Moshman: It was in January 2015 when I got an email from a friend of mine, Fiona Tatton, who runs the blog Womanthology UK. She had interviewed me for my previous feature doc The Empowerment Project and she had just come across the Coxless Crew and wanted to connect us.
I didn’t think much of it at first, but after Skyping with Laura and Natalia from the Coxless Crew the next day, I was simply blown away. Although I have no interest in rowing, it was clear from the start this was never a story or journey about rowing – it was about the power of the human spirit, and that spoke to me on so many levels.
I was hooked– and not more than 2 and a half months later I was standing on the dock as they rowed away at 3am under the Golden Gate Bridge. It’s been an amazing adventure ever since!
The camerawork in Losing Sight Of Shore is seriously impressive. What did your storyboarding process look like? What was the most challenging part of following Doris?
Sarah Moshman: My priority was to make the audience feel like they were on Doris with the Coxless Crew – but not to the point of seasickness or claustrophobia! I wanted this to be a first person narrative so I provided the girls with cameras and taught them how to use them, along with hard drives and microphones so they could be fully self-sufficient at sea.
There was no support boat or camera boat so I had to get creative with how I was going to show the scale and magnitude of this journey across the Pacific. I met them on land each time they stopped – in San Francisco, Santa Barbara, Hawaii, Samoa and Australia – and I would rent a boat and head out to sea with their Shore Support Tony Humphreys and use drone photography to capture this tiny pink boat in the wide open ocean.
I had incredibly talented drone photographers – Sam Kapoi, Ryan Morrison and Terry Curnuck and I was able to use those aerial views throughout the film to show the isolation of Doris at sea. Once on land I would spend 7-10 days with the Coxless Crew as they ate solid foods again, and took steps on solid ground.
It was such a joy to have a front row seat to this extraordinary journey but the most challenging part of their nine month journey for me, was never knowing when they would arrive to land and having to plan a shoot that didn’t have solid dates! Often times I would book flights a few days before, and even then you couldn’t be confident you had the timing right. Doris was so unpredictable, but in hindsight so worth it.
You have worked as a TV series producer for years. How did you get your start in the industry? Did you always know that you wanted to go into documentary filmmaking?
Sarah Moshman: I got my start in television on Dancing with the Stars as a Story Assistant and ended up working on that show for 10 seasons as a Field Producer. It was a great experience working there and on other network shows, but documentary filmmaking has always been my passion – I’ve been making docs since I was a teenager.
I got my first camera in high school and I was immediately drawn to the process of making a film from start to finish. It’s such a wonderful career path for me, I feel like I get to use and develop so many skills, meet interesting people, and travel to places I might never otherwise go.
I got my first camera in high school and I was immediately drawn to the process of making a film from start to finish.
What was it like trying to get Losing Sight Of Shore distributed? (Major congrats on the Netflix premiere!)
Sarah Moshman: Distribution is a constantly changing and evolving landscape and every project is so different in what it requires. For Losing Sight of Shore, Netflix was always at the top of my list for where I wanted this project to go.
I pitched the project from the beginning to the contacts that I had and there was no shortage of interest in the journey but no one would write me a check or sign on. There was too much risk involved – what if they didn’t make it? It became clear that this project would need to find distribution once it was much further along – in post production or done.
I am grateful to have connected with the Film Sales Company and my sales agent Andrew Herwitz through my Consulting Producer Jonathan Dana and Andrew championed this film from the fine cut stage. Once the film was done, he sent it to Netflix and very quickly an offer was made.
It was such a dream come true, one of the best days of my life honestly – it felt like the greatest relief and validation. It is the biggest stage for this film to be seen. After so much struggle to make this film, it is the best possible outcome truly.
How did you get Losing Sight Of Shore funded? Can you talk a bit about your experience working with Cinefemme?
Sarah Moshman: I ended up funding this film all of the ways – I invested my own money, I brought on investors (my amazing Executive Producers Audra and Courtney Smith), I applied for countless grants and was fortunate to receive four different grants (Tribeca All Access, Tribeca Alumni Grant, Rogovy Foundation Miller/Packan Fund, and the Influence Film Foundation.)
I also accepted private donations through Cinefemme, my fiscal sponsor. They were great to work with and support female filmmakers which is a huge priority of mine as well. I learned so much from raising funds for this film, I hope it gets easier as time goes on!
You have made female empowerment a central theme of your career. Who or what encouraged you to merge feminism and filmmaking?
Sarah Moshman: Showcasing strong female role models on screen and making people feel uplifted and empowered is the major focus of my work. There were so many factors that contributed to my merging feminism and filmmaking, but a lot of it stems from a frustration with the mainstream media and the kinds of images and representations we are seeing of women constantly.
Women are objectified, undervalued, oversexualized, and misrepresented and I want my work to help combat those images and messages. I make content that I wish I had seen as a young girl growing up, and content that I wish there was more of even as an adult.
And the more I see the impact of work like this, the more drawn I am to telling these stories. It’s so powerful when women see themselves reflected back to them.
Women are objectified, undervalued, oversexualized, and mis-represented and I want my work to help combat those images and messages.
How do you stay inspired as a producer and filmmaker? What advice can you give to women and non-binary identifying filmmakers who are trying to make themselves, and their art, known to the public?
Sarah Moshman: When I’m working on a project, I stay inspired thinking about the finish line, thinking about how it’s going to feel when I finally get to share the story with an audience.
I’m always excited and open to find new inspiration as well for new projects I might take on – I certainly learned that from Losing Sight of Shore, you never know where inspiration will come from and sometimes you have to listen to the whisper, as Steven Spielberg said.
For up and coming filmmakers I would say don’t wait for someone to discover you or save you, you are fully capable of making your art on your terms and finding your audience on your own.
It’s the most empowering feeling to create a project from complete scratch all the way through distribution and then see it live on for a long time. Film is such a powerful medium, and I encourage women and non-binary identifying filmmakers to get behind the camera and start sharing their stories, we need you!
…sometimes you have to listen to the whisper, as Steven Spielberg said.
What did you think of Losing Sight Of Shore? Let us know in the comments below!