Betsy West and Julie Cohen (‘RBG’): ‘Bringing forth Ginsburg as a human being was one of our biggest challenges’ [EXCLUSIVE VIDEO INTERVIEW]

Filmmakers Betsy West and Julie Cohen both knew that showing a personal side to Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg would be a very difficult task, especially with how reserved she is. But they quickly found that she welcomed the opportunity. “At this point in her life, she understands that her life story is inspiring for many people. So when we sat down to interview her, she was very forthcoming. I think she knows she’s a bit of a role model for young women and older women as well,” West says in our exclusive chat (watch the video above). Cohen adds that the legal and political aspects of Ginsburg’s life were really obvious, “but bringing forth Ginsburg, the human being, was probably one of our biggest challenges in turning her life into a real story that people would want to see in theaters.”

West and Cohen’s documentary, “RBG,” ends up doing exactly that in how it chronicles the life and career of Justice Ginsburg. The film does show the work that Ginsburg has been doing, and continues to do, on the nation’s highest court but also showcases aspects of her career that may not be as well known including the six sex discrimination cases she argued at the Supreme Court. The film did very well in its theatrical run, grossing $14 million and is now seeking to be in contention for this year’s Oscar as Best Documentary Feature.

Another aspect of the movie that makes it feel very special is that all of the main tech and executives that worked on the film were women. Cohen emphasizes that this kind of talent working on a film about a pioneer in the fight for women’s equality was no coincidence. “What better choice was there than to try and fill all our key creative and executive roles with women?” West adds that bringing that kind of talent together for this kind of movie really added to the experience: “Some people have asked, ‘Where did you find all those women?’ It wasn’t that hard.”

In making a documentary about a figure that is so high profile in our current events also presented several challenges to the way that West and Cohen structured the film. Cohen explains that they were especially concerned after the 2016 election. “We had a little concern at the time of Trump’s election about whether she would stop participating with our documentary because she’s worried about how it would be perceived to be so out there in public.” Both were relieved that Ginsburg continued to work with them. One aspect that didn’t work out was discussing Ginsburg’s relationship with Sandra Day O’Connor, the first woman to serve on the Supreme Court. “We would have interviewed Justice O’Connor if she hadn’t had this health issue,” Cohen says. “But at a certain point, without the interview it didn’t fit in with the narrative.” O’Connor revealed earlier this year that she had been diagnosed with dementia.

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