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SXSW Women Directors: Meet Sandrine Orabona

Women and Hollywood By Melissa Silverstein | Women and Hollywood March 5, 2014 at 11:00AM

"I like to say that we went through our own special version of SEAL training. Kristin did 13 tours in multiple countries and belonged to what is widely considered the world's most elite warrior class. Matching her energy level was the most challenging thing for me."
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Lady Valor: The Kristin Beck Story

Sandrine Orabona has worked professionally for over two decades as a director, producer, editor and shooter to enhance her storytelling skills in the non-fiction genre. She is the co-director of the documentary Lady Valor, which follows former U.S. Navy Seal Chris Beck' new mission to live life as Kristin Beck. Kristin's journey in search of the American ideals that she protected -- life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness -- have a whole new meaning as she lives her life truthfully as a transgender woman. (SWSX site)

Lady Valor will play at SXSW on March 7.

Please give us your description of the film.

Lady Valor is a spotlight on Kristin Beck, a twenty-year veteran of the elite special forces Navy SEALs and Navy SEAL TEAM 6. Kristin retired and came out as a transgender woman in 2011, only to find that her fight for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness did not end on the battlefield.

What drew you to this story?

Mark Herzog originally developed the film. I've worked for and with Mark now for well over a decade, and he asked me to come on board to help tell this story in an intimate way. When Mark told me about Kristin I was immediately intrigued -- the SEAL aspect would have been enough but there was so much more to Kristin. I knew this was a person and a story with many different layers.

What was the biggest challenge in making the film?

I like to say that we went through our own special version of SEAL training. Kristin did 13 tours in multiple countries and belonged to what is widely considered the world's most elite warrior class. Matching her energy level was the most challenging thing for me.

What advice do you have for other female directors?

It's the same advice I would give any director, male or female: follow your heart and believe in what you do.

What's the biggest misconception about you and your work?

The biggest misconception is that documentary filmmakers only make documentary films. There are plenty of opportunities for people who specialize in documentary content in areas such as advertising, short-form branded content, journalism pieces, etc. Brands are increasingly looking to real stories for advertising and awareness, and people with my skill set are in a perfect position to make that type of content. 

Name your favorite women directed film and why.

Waste Land by Lucy Walker -- this documentary is beautifully directed, filmed and edited and the story is phenomenal. And "Happiness" by Sophie Barthes -- a beautifully directed, filmed and edited short film that perfectly mixes tragedy and tongue-in-cheek humor.

This article is related to: Festivals, Documentary, Interviews, Women Directors, Sandrine Orabona , Lady Valor: The Kristin Beck Story, Military, Transgender, South By Southwest Film Conference and Festival (SXSW)