‘Introducing, Selma Blair’ director Rachel Fleit on how ‘nothing was off limits’

“[Selma Blair] knew on some level that what she was going through was extraordinary and she wanted to tell her story,” director Rachel Fleit tells Gold Derby in our Meet the Experts: Documentary panel (watch the exclusive video interview above). Fleit met the actress soon after she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2018, and their “immediate bond” became the impetus for the emotional documentary “Introducing, Selma Blair” on Discovery.

The director explains, “We were introduced to each other by a photographer who she had just worked with. We started talking and there was an immediate bond between Selma and I.” Fleit continues, “She was in an extremely vulnerable position, she was in a state of surrender, and she was like, ‘I think that this might help people.’ There was an outpouring on social media when she came out with her diagnosis and she saw very quickly that people were being helped by her honesty, so I think that was her inspiration. And then from there she really became the subject. She gave her life to me. Nothing was off limits.”

Fleit speaks in detail about why she decided to open the film with a moment in which Blair loses focus and starts stuttering due to her MS. “It was so clear,” she notes. “A documentary is very much a collaboration between a director and an editor and that day was the greatest day of filmmaking in my life. We really went for it that day.” After Blair jumped into the pool in her nightgown and revealed her story in which she stopped drinking, Fleit recalls thinking that she wanted to do a “master interview” with the actress.

“It was gonna be our first seated interview of the film,” Fleit says. “I was very committed to a verite-style documentary from the start with her, but I knew that I would need these touch points in order to tell the story I wanted to tell. She decided to get dressed up for her interview, and obviously we kept the camera rolling.” After the MS “took over” the interview, Fleit saw it as a moment that “set the tone” for the film, admitting, “We’re gonna try to present ourselves to the world, but then these things are going to happen that we’re completely powerless over, and I think that everyone identifies with that in some way.”

Also in our exclusive video interview, Fleit talks about the importance of the word “Introducing” in the title, the Darth Vader-like villainess of Blair’s multiple sclerosis, and how she ultimately set out to make a movie “you could really feel in your body.”

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