How the directors of 'Allen v. Farrow' spent 3 years making the explosive docuseries that will change the way you think about Woody Allen forever

How the directors of 'Allen v. Farrow' spent 3 years making the explosive docuseries that will change the way you think about Woody Allen forever
(L-R) Ronan Farrow, Lark Previn, Woody Allen, Dylan Farrow, Fletcher Previn, Daisy Previn, Soon-Yi Previn, Moses Farrow, and Mia Farrow.HBO
  • Insider spoke to "Allen v. Farrow" directors Amy Ziering and Kirby Dick.
  • "Allen v. Farrow" examines Dylan Farrow's accusations of sexual abuse by her adoptive father Woody Allen.
  • "She was in a safe space speaking to us," Ziering told Insider.

Three years ago, Amy Ziering and Kirby Dick were suddenly very busy.

With the #MeToo movement in full swing, the filmmakers - best known for making documentaries about sexual abuse survivors like the Oscar-nominated "The Invisible War" and the Emmy-nominated "The Hunting Ground" - were getting countless phone calls from women willing to tell their personal stories of abuse.

Dylan Farrow was not one of those people.
Advertisement
For most of her life, Farrow has been dismissed despite her claims that she was sexually abused when she was 7 years old by her adoptive father, acclaimed writer-director Woody Allen.

Instead, the collective narrative was that Farrow, now 35, was caught in the middle of an ugly split by Allen and his longtime movie star girlfriend Mia Farrow, and that she was coached by her mother to make up the allegation against Allen.

As Allen has maintained his innocence over decades, Farrow has only recently spoken out. In 2014 she wrote an open letter in The New York Times about Allen's abuse towards her. Now she's going a step further.
Advertisement

After the relentless efforts by Ziering and Dick's investigative producer Amy Herdy, Farrow, as well as her mother, Mia, and several of her siblings, went on camera to talk about the incident that has defined their lives in the new explosive four-part HBO docuseries, "Allen v. Farrow," out Sunday.

If you are up on the ugly breakup in the '90s between Allen and Mia that led to countless tabloid headlines, a custody battle over their kids, and a press conference in which Allen professed his love for another of Mia's adopted daughters, Soon-Yi Previn (who married Allen in 1997), then there's a lot in the docuseries you already know. But there's also a lot that you'll learn about for the first time.
Advertisement

It includes the flaws in the child sexual assault evaluation of Farrow, allegations that Allen began a sexual relationship with Previn when she was a teen, information from the police report of Farrow's alleged abuse that contradicts what Allen said about the incident, and the never-before-seen video footage of Farrow telling her mother how Allen had abused her.

Insider reached out to reps for Allen, but didn't immediately hear back.

How the directors of 'Allen v. Farrow' spent 3 years making the explosive docuseries that will change the way you think about Woody Allen forever
"Allen v Farrow" directors Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering.Charley Gallay/Getty

Initially, the filmmakers wanted Farrow to be in the same movie as Russell Simmons' accuser, Drew Dixon

Ziering and Dick admitted they did not go after telling this saga; it came to them. Back when they were overcome by calls from abuse survivors, the duo pondered a way to tell all the stories. They rented a Brooklyn brownstone and began conducting five interviews a day.
Advertisement

It was at that time when Herdy came to the filmmakers with the idea of having Farrow be part of the interviews.

"She was really reluctant at first but when she realized we were unbiased and didn't have an agenda she agreed to sit down," Ziering told Insider of that first interview with Farrow.

"The way she told her story and not only [told] what happened but her emotional, psychological experience was very powerful," Dick added. "It told us there could be a very rich and complex story focused on her journey."
Advertisement
Herdy informed the directors there was "a whole lot more" to the story and they wanted to dig deeper.

It just so happened that at the same time, Ziering and Dick had also interviewed Drew Dixon, a former A&R executive at Def Jams Records who claimed hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons raped her. (Simmons has continuously denied the accusations.)

"They almost crossed paths, literally," Ziering pointed out, as both Dylan and Dixon came to their brownstone to be interviewed within weeks of each other.
Advertisement

By the time they interviewed both women their idea of a big movie spotlighting #MeToo survivors shifted. Instead, Ziering and Dick decided to focus specifically on the stories of Drew Dixon and Dylan Farrow. "On the Record," which centers on Dixon, came out last year on HBO Max. Production on Dylan's story was close behind.

How the directors of 'Allen v. Farrow' spent 3 years making the explosive docuseries that will change the way you think about Woody Allen forever
Dylan Farrow.HBO

In the docuseries, you'll see never-before-seen video of Farrow telling Mia how Allen abused her

Both Ziering and Dick praise the work of Herdy, who seemed to deliver new elements to Farrow's story on a regular basis. She became close to Farrow, as well as her mother Mia, who was completely against participating in "Allen v Farrow" initially. "The absolute only reason Mia did it was because her daughter asked her to," Ziering said. "Her daughter implored her. Dylan thought her talking would help, but Mia really didn't want to do it."
Advertisement

As Herdy uncovered more materials, like a room full of custody battle documents that hadn't been touched since the 90s, Mia also handed over her own recordings, including home videos of her kids growing up around Allen in Connecticut and recordings of private phone calls between her and Allen during their troubled relationship. (In a remarkable moment in the docuseries, we learn Allen was also recording these calls.)

Then there was the most chilling piece of material: the video recordings of Farrow telling Mia how Allen abused her, which was not easy to obtain.

Farrow previously recalled Allen's alleged abuse in a CBS interview in January 2018.
Advertisement

"I was taken to a small attic crawl space in my mother's country house in Connecticut by my father," she said.

"He instructed me to lay down on my stomach and play with my brother's toy train that was set up. And he sat behind me in the doorway, and as I played with the toy train, I was sexually assaulted," Farrow continued. "He touched my labia and my vulva with his finger."

Ziering and Dick learned that after Farrow grew up, Mia gave her the video of herself recalling her abuse at 7 years old.
Advertisement
"We asked Dylan if she would mind if we looked at it and she initially was not interested," Ziering recalled. "And then one time we were all at her house, we were finishing up an interview and had asked again if we could see the video and she declined, then suddenly as we were leaving she had a change of heart and said, 'If you guys want to watch we can all sit down and watch it now.' That's how we came to see it. It was hard to watch."

Ziering said it was much later during production when they asked Farrow if some of the footage could be used in the series.

"She said, 'If you use it for good, and it helps other children, you can use parts of the tape in the documentary,'" Ziering recalled.
Advertisement

The filmmakers told Insider their numerous requests to interview Allen for the movie were not returned.

How the directors of 'Allen v. Farrow' spent 3 years making the explosive docuseries that will change the way you think about Woody Allen forever
Mia Farrow and Woody Allen are pictured in 1988. Farrow holds baby Ronan (who was then called Satchel) while Allen holds adopted daughter Dylan.David Mcgough/DMI/The LIFE Picture Collection via Getty Images

The directors felt Farrow went through with the movie to finally 'say her truth'

Throughout the four episodes of "Allen v. Farrow," viewers are given an exhaustive retelling of one of Hollywood's messiest scandals. But Ziering admitted she and Dick were not fueled by dissecting sensational stories. They were driven by giving a voice to those who felt they didn't have one. "I remember when we did 'Invisible War' - this is 2010 when no one cared about these issues, honestly - we were leaving this woman's house and she says to me, 'Amy, thank you so much for coming today. It doesn't matter if I'm in the documentary or not. What matters is you're the first person who has ever listened to me,'" Ziering recalled.
Advertisement

The filmmaker felt that same appreciation when speaking to Farrow.

"The unique case with Dylan is, I think, here's this woman who not only has this intense personal trauma, which would be hard for any of us to unpack, but then the added layer of trauma by the whole way that it's played out in the public," she said.

Ziering continued: "I think there was a cathartic effect of feeling she was in a safe space speaking to us. That she's not going to be attacked and finally say her truth and it not to be denied or betrayed."
Advertisement

"Allen v. Farrow" premieres on HBO and HBO Max on Sunday at 9 p.m. ET.

{{}}