In late 2014, Michelle Grace Hunder came to the end of a personal project documenting the hip-hop music community in Australia. Having spent two years travelling around the country to photograph 182 artists, she had found that only around ten of them were women.
The sobering realisation coincided with renewed criticism of a glaring gender imbalance in the annual Triple J Hottest 100 listeners' poll. The ensuing conversation revealed gender disparity not just concerning female artists, but also behind the scenes in the industry. Michelle determined to find a way to shine a light on as many of these incredible women as possible.
The original concept was a small photo series, but Michelle quickly realised that the story could not be adequately told in portraits alone. She approached her filmmaker friend and long time collaborator Claudia Sangiorgi Dalimore to interview each of the women as they were documented.
Only vague plans for a future documentary were initially discussed, but over the next two years, as Michelle and Claudia travelled, photographed and interviewed scores of women from various paths of the industry, an undeniable story emerged.
From household names to the freshest faces, the highest priority was that the filmmakers engaged, included and reflected the true diversity of today's Australian music landscape. Through these interviews, the pair were acquainted with the most charismatic, funny and fiercely creative women whose journeys captured their hearts and fuelled their ambition to keep documenting.
Critical development came from the two events hosted in Australian music month, November 2016. Emporium Melbourne invited Michelle and Claudia to devise an installation to celebrate independent artists and their work, and so Her Sound, Her Story was officially launched. The 40- some photographs and audio sound bites were experienced by more than a million visitors.
The night after the opening, Her Sound, Her story came alive at the opening concert of Melbourne Music Week. For one night only, an all-female concert paid homage to the trailblazing pioneers of Australian music, and shone a light on now. Backed by an all-female house band, artists as diverse as Julia Stone, Vera Blue, Montaigne, Sampa the great, Ecca Vandal, Ella Hooper, Mojo Juju, Mama Kin, Airling, Elizabeth Rose and Nyne generated an ecstatic reception.
It was at this moment, as Claudia continued to document the narrative, that the true crux of the story was revealed: the power of women coming together to support one another. Certain of the potency of her message, she began the editing process. With more than 48 hours of interview footage, the documentary took a year to complete, even as a handful more interviews joined the narrative.
Her Sound, Her Story previewed in November 2017, and the last of its interviews appended in early 2018. A month later, the film premiered at the Human Rights and Arts Film Festival.
As an independent and unfunded unit, Claudia and Michelle's ability to constantly lean on each other was the greatest currency the film would have in its creation: a testament to the capacity women attain in coming together for a greater purpose. The organic and no-fuss approach to filmmaking opened up space for women to share, to be valuable. Claudia's curiosity and familiar nature yielded just the right amount of comfort to make each conversation feel natural.
Ultimately, it was the experience of meeting so many brilliant women that gave the filmmakers the courage to keep going. Each interview; finding that connection, inspired them to share the magic of such authentic expression.
Making the film changed both Claudia's and Michelle’s lives; changed who they are as women. Together they’ve helped foster the collective atmosphere of a remarkable time, cultivating that sense of community amongst women, and bringing them back to the essence of what that really means.