DOC NYC 2022 Women Directors: Meet Sharon “Rocky” Roggio – “1946: The Mistranslation That Shifted Culture”


Sharon “Rocky” Roggio has been honing her expertise in film and television producing for two decades and has worked on award-winning films and series, including “House of Cards,” “Parks and Recreation,” “W/ Bob and David,” “Whip It,” “Red Dawn” and “Flipped,” with A-List stars such as Robin Wright, Drew Barrymore, Chris Hemsworth, Rob Reiner, Amy Poehler, Tyler Perry, Bob Odenkirk, Sigourney Weaver, and Jimmy Fallon. She also had the privilege to work and meet crews across the country, having done several national commercial campaigns. “1946: The mistranslation That Shifted Culture” marks Roggio’s directorial debut. 

1946: The mistranslation That Shifted Culture” is screening at the 2022 DOC NYC film festival, which is running from November 9-27.

W&H: Describe the film for us in your own words.

SR: “1946: The mistranslation that Shifted a Culture” is a feature documentary film that explores how the word “homosexual” first appeared in the Bible. It documents the history behind a poor translation of an ancient text, and the subsequent devastating aftermath. 

The film tells the story of the researchers who explore the 1946 decision to put the word “homosexual” in the Bible, and why the decision was made. What they discovered was shocking and hopeful.

W&H: What drew you to this story?

SR: As a lesbian daughter of an evangelical minister, I know firsthand how the Bible has been used against LGBTQ people. Questioning if it had always been this way, I began a journey to discover new avenues for acceptance from my non-affirming parents — parents, for whom scripture was their ultimate authority. While on this exploration, I came across the research of Kathy Baldock and Ed Oxford. At the time they discovered evidence that the word “homosexual” was a mistranslation in the 1946 RSV Bible – the first time the word “homosexual” appeared in any translation in any language.

Combing through the RSV archives at Yale University, meticulously analyzing the translation notes and letters of the translation committee, it was discovered that the committee made an error, one they ultimately corrected. But it was too late. 

Based on my own personal experience, and the opportunity to reverse homophobia in our society, as well as my own family, I knew this was a story I needed to tell.

W&H: What do you want people to think about after they watch the film?

SR: I hope that after watching our film, people will look at their biases, and where those biases come from, with a renewed humility. I want them to open their minds to rethink the lessons of oppression that are prevalent in our society. 

It is my intention to impart on the audience the devastating implications our biblical beliefs can have on our children, our communities, and our loved ones, and to show that those beliefs could have incredibly flawed foundations.

I want to empower others to tell their stories so that we all may stand together to obtain equal protection to live and love without judgment or fear. I hope this movie challenges people within faith communities to engage in brave and meaningful conversations about how the LGBTQ community is treated and why.

W&H: What was the biggest challenge in making the film?

SR: The biggest personal challenge is to lead with empathy. I constantly remind myself that one catches more bees with honey. And in this case, those “bees” are primarily our loved ones who have the ability to hurt us the most. I know they are not bad people, just victims of bad theology. 

Reminding myself to remain patient and steadfast in allowing the research and the humanity of my subjects to spread the message of inclusion. Obviously it’s easier said than done when I’m attacked and criticized on a daily basis. Over the last four years, we have had hundreds of radio shows, YouTube videos, sermons, and even a book published against our film, all before its release. 

But throughout the long hours of work and the constant ridicule from the opposition, I have found a beautiful community of supporters.

W&H: How did you get your film funded? Share some insights into how you got the film made.

SR: The first money came out of my pocket. Once I learned about this vital research, I immediately started buying camera gear and flying to conferences to document as much as possible while the story unfolded. In the first year alone, I spent $32,000 while building a proof-of-concept and a proposal to attract support. Nine months later, we found two parents of a gay son, Todd and Teresa Silver, who granted us the first $90,000 to hire our executive producer Daniel Karslake. This helped us qualify for our fiscal sponsor, Women Make Movies. That was in 2019.

Since then, I have been able to utilize social media to generate money as needed through personal donations, GoFundMe, churches, private organizations, peer-to-peer fundraising, and merchandise sales. 

This movie was created entirely through the support of volunteers and thousands of donors worldwide.

W&H: What inspired you to become a filmmaker?

SR: Storytelling drives our reality and has always played a significant role in my world. I’ve always wanted to be a storyteller, and I chose feature filmmaking as my medium because it allows me to explore many different realities. I have worked in all forms of television and film, from “House of Cards” on Netflix to “Flipped” with Rob Reiner.

Creating worlds through a story in a moving picture excites me. I never imagined I would direct my own movie, let alone a documentary about the Bible! I’m also attracted to filmmaking because I understand the power it has in helping us to relate to one another. Stories unite us all, and filmmaking is a beautiful way to connect people.

W&H: What’s the best and worst advice you’ve received?

SR: The best advice came from my mentor and executive producer, Daniel Karslake, and that was to join Woman Make Movies. This was the first time I learned about fiscal sponsorship. Documentary filmmaking is a high-risk investment, and raising money is very difficult, so I was overwhelmed to know I could get sponsored under a 501-c3 company. Once I learned I could raise money through a nonprofit, I immediately focused on social media impact and creating demand for this film. I had the opportunity to go to Only New York at DOC NYC 2021 and learn more through organizations like the Documentary Producers Alliance. These tools have been instrumental in this process.

I didn’t get bad advice per se, but I did make a major mistake thinking that all members on our production team fully supported my vision and I learned this lesson the hard way. I am incredibly grateful for a good lawyer who protected the IP and afforded me the opportunity to maintain creative control. 

W&H: What advice do you have for other women directors? 

SR: Stick together. Support each other. Always remember your power. 

W&H: Name your favorite woman-directed film and why.

SR: I have always been a huge fan of Floria Sigismondi. Starting out in the industry as a production designer and art department coordinator, I appreciate a director who showcases design in their work. I’ve had the tremendous privilege of production managing two of Floria‘s music videos over the years and had the opportunity to work with her personally. I would say “The Runaways” is my favorite film by a female director which was her film directorial debut. Not only did it offer great design but a female centered film and a rebel heart. I love anything and everything Floria does. It would be a dream to work with her again in the future.  

W&H: What, if any, responsibilities do you think storytellers have to confront the tumult in the world, from the pandemic to the loss of abortion rights and systemic violence?

SR: Nina Simone said that it’s an artist’s responsibility to reflect the world around them. This is the intention behind “1946.” We see how the dangers of biblical literalism and Christian Nationalism have consumed our land and are stripping us of our rights. We must expose truth with empathy and help create a safer, more just future for all of us. 

W&H: The film industry has a long history of underrepresenting people of color onscreen and behind the scenes and reinforcing — and creating — negative stereotypes. What actions do you think need to be taken to make Hollywood and/or the doc world more inclusive?

SR: We need to keep talking about and amplifying underrepresented groups and continue to create space and outlets for underrepresented groups to have an equal opportunity to share their story. As a queer filmmaker, seeing myself on the screen as a small child helped me recognize my own queerness and deepened my sense of identity and self knowledge. 

Visibility is everything. And in a cultural environment that has people ready to riot over a Black mermaid, it’s more important than ever! 

But the conversation doesn’t stop with equality. We need to talk about equity. We need to talk about parity. We need to talk about salaries and reimbursements for work done, especially for women in film, whether they’re in front or behind the camera. 

Read the full article here

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