CAPTURING HISTORY: Red Phosphorus on Directing the Video for “Women Make The World Go Round”

Director Red Phosphorus talks about the music video for “Women Make The World Go ‘Round,” filming at the Women’s March in LA, and her call for continuing activism!

On capturing a piece of history…

The Women’s March was such a landmark moment. I want to honor the people who marched – but beyond that, I also want  those watching to  reflect on the real-life issues affecting the women in the video (or women like them).

What’s nice about the video is that it captures the spirit of the day in perpetuity — so if anyone needs some extra motivation to make that call to their congressman/woman or get up early for the science march or BLM march… they can watch it and remember what it felt like when we all stood united.   

What it was like being at the Women’s March…

I found being in the crowd joyful, energizing and uplifting.  There was a huge diversity of people there — male and female, all ages, ethnicities, sexual orientations.  Some of the first people I spoke to were a group who’d come en masse from Palm Springs to attend the march.  For others, the journey they made was an interior journey — one trans woman said she was very self-conscious around people and had been discriminated against for her gender identity.  When we asked to film her for the video, she seemed surprised that anyone would want to photograph her.  But to me, she was incredibly beautiful. I wanted to photograph her the second I saw her.

How people reacted to being filmed… 

Generally, we experienced tremendous good-will from people. Usually, when you ask to film people, they can be a bit reticent. But almost everyone we approached was happy to be filmed because they wanted to contribute to a video that celebrated women. So there was tremendous camaraderie. I even had one man help me climb a fence so I could get my shot. Everyone had each others’ backs. I remember thinking how much better the world would be if people everywhere could be like they were at the march that day.

Shooting in slow motion… 

We did these portraits of women looking straight down the barrel of the lens. Confronting the audience with their feminism, their activism on behalf of the oppressed. We shot in slow-mo because the beauty of the human face becomes very apparent when you slow down time. Every wisp of hair that flies about in the wind, every bat of someone’s eyelids… all those details become much more pronounced in slow motion. Some of the women started out looking tough, then broke into beautiful smiles. It’s a beautiful, empowering thing to march united for all of humanity. These women are all making the world a better place, one placard, one smile at a time.

On the editing process…

Editing this was so much fun because we were able to spend the whole day looking at all these beautiful, diverse faces.  Almost every woman we shot a portrait of is in the final video. Usually, a lot ends up on the cutting room floor, but we really wanted to include everyone since they’d been generous enough to pose for us. And we got a lovely email from one little girl’s mom saying the experience of being in the music video was the highlight of the march for her daughter.

Together, we’re greater than the sum of our parts…

“Women Make The World Go ‘Round” has a really lovely build to it that we tried to replicate in the rhythm of our editing. I find that meaningful because as the music intensifies and you see more and more women on screen, you realize we’re building something with these protest movements — together, we’re greater than the sum of our parts. The fact that the song bounces between David and Bess Harrison is further indicative of that. We need others to harmonize with us and also, sometimes, to take up the baton.  I think the song — in its lyrics, of course, but also in its structure — puts those beliefs into practice.

Inspiration for the song and music video…

Working with David, we drew mutual inspiration from each other.  David had been writing a song celebrating women as romantic and life partners. I suggested in the Fall that he broaden the song out to include the myriad ways women contribute to the world. David took me up on that, then later came back to me with a suggestion made by Bess that we film the women’s march and make a music video for the song.  The video honors the women who marched, and there’s even a line specifically referencing the march in the song. But of course the biggest inspiration — and the stars of the video — are the women who attended the march.

Activism’s now in fashion…

Witness Pepsi’s unsuccessful attempt to capitalize on the BLM movement. So we have to remind ourselves constantly of what it is we’re fighting for.

We fight for the right to…

Love who you please
Walk down the street without fear of violence
Control decisions over your own body
Use the bathroom that matches your gender identity
Welcome a visiting relative who happens to be Muslim at the airport
Have the physical built environment accommodate your disability
Know  when you’re grown up you’ll still have access to clean air and water.

The process of change requires hard, incremental work. Let’s all keep working together!

All photos by Stephen Paar


  • May 28, 2017, 7:40 pm  Reply

    Wow that was unusual. I just wrote an incredibly long comment but after I clicked submit my comment didn’t appear. Grrrr… well I’m not writing all that over again. Anyways, just wanted to say superb blog!

Leave a Comment