“EMBRACE is a social impact documentary, which explores the issue of body image. The project has been supported by nearly 9000 Kickstarter pledgers who responded to a fundraising trailer I released in 2014, which has now had over 25 million internet views. We have also had support and from Screen Australia, the South Australian Film Corporation, philanthropists, businesses, celebrities and thought leaders.
The inspiration for EMBRACE came about after I posted an unconventional before-and-after image on the internet in 2013 that sparked a media frenzy. The image, which embraces body diversity, was seen by over 100 million people worldwide and led to hundreds of interviews and articles. But I soon realized how restrictive 4-minute TV interviews, 800 word articles and 140 characters on Twitter can be. This issue needed a louder voice on a bigger platform, so the idea of creating the documentary EMBRACE was born.” Taryn Brumfitt
At home in Adelaide, Australia, Taryn Brumfitt is a wife and mother of three. But internationally, she is a highly recognised body image activist whose powerful message has reached over 100 million people worldwide via traditional and social media. After receiving more than 7000 emails and messages from people all over the world, Taryn realised that there was a global body-hating epidemic and felt compelled to find answers.
EMBRACE is told from the point of view of Taryn as she traverses the globe talking to experts, women in the street and well-known personalities about the alarming rates of body image issues that are seen in people of all body types. In her affable and effervescent style, Taryn bares all (literally) to explore the factors contributing to this problem and seeks to find solutions.
After 24 months of travelling, interviewing, production and post production Taryn and the Embrace team have created a film that is relevant, relatable, highly engaging – but above all, life changing.
Embrace Filmmaker Q and A
Taryn Brumfitt – Writer / Director / Producer
The ‘before and after’ photo hurled you into the spotlight, why did you choose to channel that momentum into a documentary?
TARYN: “I felt really compelled to make the film because so many people had reached out to me after my before-and-after photo went viral on the internet. I received about 7000 personal emails and it wasn’t just females aged 35 to 45 – it was people from all walks of life sharing their stories of body image issues.
Before I knew it I was doing interviews with Good Morning America, The Today Show (US), Sunrise, Today Tonight and TV stations in Russia and Poland. I had my own story to tell but with TV interviews being so short, therewas never enough time to convey all the stories I was hearing. This is not some fluffy, body image piece to be tacked on to the end of a news segment, this is an issue that’s affecting millions of people every single day.
I realised that a documentary is an ideal format to explore the issues of body image. I get 90 minutes of someone’s attention and can take them around the world, into different cultures, meeting different people who share their stories. It’s really important for me as a filmmaker, and as founder of the Body Image Movement, that as many people see EMBRACE as possible, because I know it has the ability to start a conversation and therefore create change.”
A large portion of Embrace’s budget was funded through a Kickstarter campaign, how did that impact the making of the film?
TARYN: “I decided that I would make a documentary, but I had no money so I did some research and came across the crowd-funding platform Kickstarter. I created a four-minute promotional trailer and I put it up and went ‘here you go world, can you help?’
Initially it was a 60-day campaign where I’d set out to raise $200,000, and at the end of the campaign had raised $331,000. At the time it was Australia’s most successful crowd funded documentary in history, but more importantly, what it said to me was that people are interested in this subject, and people are tired of being fed the same messages. People want positive change. The promo trailer has now had more than 25 million views.”
Where do we travel and who do we meet in the film?
TARYN: “Twenty-two months later it feels like there is nowhere we didn’t travel to. We went to the United States, Canada, Germany, France, the United Kingdom, the Dominican Republic and of course Australia. We filmed all across the world and what I found by listening to the stories from all of the people we met, was that body image had affected everybody.
The first interview I did was with Ricki Lake in LA, and it was fascinating to hear her story because she was someone that I thought had it all together. But she was so vulnerable and open, it took a lot of courage for her to say ‘no I’ve been affected greatly by this and I still am today’. Even though Ricki is much trimmer than in her younger days, she still has issues of wanting to change something about her body.
The more I travelled and the more I spoke to people I realised that as a filmmaker I needed to be really flexible and just go along for the ride. That was easy because while I wanted to share my story, I also had this platform to share all of these other stories that I was gathering along the way. Whether it was burn-survivor Turia Pitt, Harnaam Kaur the ‘bearded dame’, magazine editor Mia Freedman, German actress Nora Tschirner or celebrity photographer Jeffrey Madoff, it was incredible to find all of these diverse and empowering perspectives on body image.”
Tell us about your trip to the surgeon in the film.
TARYN: “In the documentary I strip down to my underwear at a surgeon’s office in Beverly Hills. I wouldn’t ask anyone to do something that I wouldn’t do myself and I felt that it was really important for the audience to experience what happens behind those closed doors of the cosmetic surgeons office: What is that conversation? So I put my hand up and went ‘okay I’ll do this’ and it was quite fascinating to hear what that particular surgeon had to say about how broken he thought my body was.”
What do you hope that audiences will take away from the film?
TARYN: The media and advertisers so often present one singular body type as being the standard. In truth, hardly any person on the planet looks like that and the images are often digitally manipulated anyway. But so many perfectly healthy normal people are left feeling inadequate. We should all be empowered to just not buy into it.
I want people to walk away after watching EMBRACE believing that they can embrace and love their bodies unconditionally. I know from travelling around the world that this is a real problem that’s affecting people’s lives every single day. I hope the film will start a more positive conversation about body image and that audiences will be inspired by the stories they’ll hear, and the people they’ll meet through the film.
Anna Vincent – Producer
Anna Vincent is a film producer whose recent credits include Scott Hicks documentary HIGHLY STRUNG (Adelaide Film Festival 2015) as executive producer, and as producer on UK co-production CHASING SATELLITES with director Jim Loach starring Paz Vega, Carmen Maura and Edward James Olmos. Anna has spent 20 years in film production, including as a specialist publicist on films Australia-wide and in the UK, China and USA. In 2013 Anna launched film production company Southern Light Alliance in partnership with producer Timothy White, and works across a network of international producers and filmmakers.
What attracted you to the project?
ANNA: “I met Taryn by chance and she told me about the film. Her energy and passion is completely captivating – Taryn is someone who wants to change the world and make it a better place.
I work with producer Tim White, and together we met with Taryn and her husband Mat, who is executive producing. They were so passionate about making the film, that we immediately wanted to support Taryn to bring her vision to the screen. We’re thrilled to be involved with a film that is not only entertaining and inspirational, but also has the potential to positively impact the lives of many people.”
ANNA: It’s a joy working on a film that we knew from the out-set had a built-in audience. Taryn has a loyal community of followers, and they’ve been very supportive of her making EMBRACE. She’s made the film to specifically address the many thousands of emails and messages she has received over the past three years and we are now very excited to see how audiences respond to the finished film.
EMBRACE deals with some serious and personal subject matter, such as bullying and depression, and yet Taryn has taken that material and created a film that is incredibly entertaining and life-affirming. So I hope that audiences come out of the theatre punching the air, feeling good about themselves, and understanding that they don’t suffer their problems alone.
Taryn Brumfitt – Director, Writer, Producer
Filmmaker Taryn Brumfitt is an internationally recognised body image activist and the creator behind documentary EMBRACE. Taryn’s powerful message has reached over 100 million people worldwide via mainstream and social media. She has been interviewed by Good Morning America, USA’s Today Show and 60 Minutes. Such is the strength of her international following, the EMBRACE Kickstarter trailer has had over 25 million views and earned the support of personalities such as Rosie O’Donnell, Ashton Kutcher and Ricki Lake. Taryn’s Embrace Kickstarter campaign was the most successfully crowdfunded documentary in Australian history.
Prior to the Body Image Movement, Taryn worked as The Australian and New Zealand Operations Manager for a Fortune 500 company and for the past decade has worked as a freelance photographer.
These days Taryn is sought after internationally as a keynote speaker, she was rated as General Electrics “most highly rated speaker in 2013” and more recently was invited to present at Google headquarters in Silicon Valley. Her best-selling book EMBRACE “My story from body loather to body lover” hit the shelves in 2015 and soared to number 1 across multiple categories on Amazon. She was also recently recognized alongside Beyonce and Kate Moss in Brigette magazines acclaimed ‘Women of The Year’ awards in Germany.