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
- 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.
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
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
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.
Initially, the filmmakers wanted Farrow to be in the same movie as Russell Simmons' accuser, Drew DixonZiering 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.
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."
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.
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.
In the docuseries, you'll see never-before-seen video of Farrow telling Mia how Allen abused herBoth 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."
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.
"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.
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.
The filmmakers told Insider their numerous requests to interview Allen for the movie were not returned.
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.
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."
"Allen v. Farrow" premieres on HBO and HBO Max on Sunday at 9 p.m. ET.
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