Q&A: Dayton’s Oscar-winning duo talk about their next film ‘9 To 5’

Local filmmaking powerhouse Julia Reichert and Steven Bognar are back in the spotlight during their award-winning year as they prepare to show the Gem City their latest creation.

Oscar and Emmy winners Reichert and Bognar have been partners behind the camera and partners in life for decades. In 2019, Reichert celebrated 50 years in film, just months before she and Bognar received the Oscar in the documentary feature category for their critically-acclaimed film “American Factory” at the Academy Awards ceremony.

Their newest release, “9 To 5: The Story of a Movement” will premiere in Dayton at a socially-distanced event on Thursday, Oct. 22 at 8 p.m. at Dixie Twin Drive-In, located at 6201 N. Dixie Drive in Dayton. Tickets are on sale now for $25 a car and are expected to sell out, so people are encouraged to buy tickets as soon as possible at https://planned2give.networkforgood.com/. Proceeds will benefit FilmDayton.

Due to COVID-19, all film festival appearances and premieres of the film across the country have happened with Reichert and Bognar attending remotely via video. The hometown debut of the film at Dixie Drive-In will be the pair’s first in-person, post-production viewing of “9 To 5” with a full audience.

The film, a full-length documentary, is about the fight for women’s equality in the U.S. workplace.

The “9 To 5” team spent nearly a decade following up on tips about people they should interview and stories they should explore, as well as digging through archives across the country and ultimately fine-tuning every last detail of the project.

Reichert and Bognar sat down with the Dayton Daily News in the backyard of their Yellow Springs home this week to discuss “9 To 5,” which they began working on back in 2011.

Q: After the “American Factory” win, what is the energy like for you leading up to the Dixie Drive-In premiere?

A: “I think there were people that honked the horn to a laughing part (at other drive-in premieres). We hope people will do it at the Dixie if there’s a good moment. Instead of clapping, they honk their horn,” Reichert said.

“We have a ton of support. You know, we couldn’t do these films without the huge, huge support. ... It means a lot to get to show any film we’ve ever made, and this will be a little different but it means a ton and it means a ton that there’s a lot of people that seem to be coming,” Bognar said.

“Dayton is our hometown ... The women in the film are just ordinary women, daughters. ... This will be our first in-person screening, and it’s our hometown. So you know, I’m going to look for those, hopefully, people rolling their windows down here. ... We love our hometown,” Reichert said.

Q: (To Reichert) Take us back to your very first film, “Growing Up Female (1971)." Do you feel “9 To 5,” also about women’s issues and struggles, go together in any way?

A: "(‘Growing Up Female’) looks at how women are socialized to see ourselves as second class, that we’re not as smart, not as capable, there are certain jobs we go for. Why do we? And we were basically oriented toward getting married and having kids. Why is that? Where does that come from? We want to change that. ... In it, there are two of the women — one’s a factory worker, African American woman, and one was in the same place as secretary. So they’re both working. She’s white, they’re both the same age. So I already started looking at the differences with race.

"Making ‘9 To 5’ is like moving around (in my filmmaking career) in a big way to the beginning, and sort of the middle, and focusing, in this case, on actual women of my own generation. ... In a broad sense, you know, they’re (both) broadly part of the women’s movement, and they’re part of the labor movement. So I feel like it (my career) sort of follows both pretty closely,” Reichert said.

Bognar added: “I would say, all your films have a through-line, which asks the question of ‘What makes a fair and just world?’ Especially for people who don’t have power, but who want to want a fair shake and want to have a decent life,” Bognar said.

Q: Is it more of a gut-feeling or logistical stopping point that you reach when you know you are satisfied enough with a film to call it complete?

A: “There’s a moment when you lock the film called ‘picture lock.’ That’s when basically every edit is right, or you think as right as you can make it. And the movie (is) not going to get one second longer or one second shorter. When did we lock?” Bognar asked Reichert.

“We were in a limo. ... So we were actually in a limo on the way to some party,” Reichert said.

“Yeah, Netflix had a party and we had a laptop. And we were doing the final, final, final, like sign-off on the last couple of minutes. And we actually locked our movie in a moving vehicle. We’ve never done that before. ... That’s when we declared it done. It was the day before the Oscars,” Bognar said.

In early February, we did a test that was the last test ever for ‘9 To 5’ at The Neon and it was like 50 people there. It was the first time we were playing the score, our original score. This is like right after the Oscars. ... We needed to feel what it (‘9 To 5’) felt like with the audience."

Q: What is the secret sauce that has made you a successful team?

A: “I mean, I feel I have a huge trust in Julia’s instincts. Storytelling is so much about instincts, about knowing where to go, what to ask, who to follow, what to chase — and I’m like a child in the forest looking at all the trees, right? But Julia knows, ‘Oh, there’s the path, there’s a path no one sees, let’s go that way.' And I, well, I’ve come to really rely on that, when I just see this wall of like life, you know,” Bognar said.

Reichert said: "Steve is like a brilliant visualist. ... You know what I’m talking about, like some people can look at a situation like this and just go ‘Okay, that’s where the camera should be, that’s where the shot is. It’s like you have instinct.

“I’m a pretty good photographer, actually. I’ve shot on all the films, you know, actually shot stuff in the film. But, we were just out the other day and I’m looking at the camera, like, Steve, how did you see that? I’m like this is beautiful. So he’s got the magic eye and the sense of visual storytelling. Neither of us can probably explain it. Like, what is Steve’s gift? Where does it come from? And where’s mine come from? But I trust him,” Reichert said.

“I think the bedrock of our personal relationship is that we just love each other. Yeah. And just in some dumb way, we fell in love and we stayed in love, despite our differences,” Reichert said.

“And then we learned to work together to make films together, which was not easy. It took some years to figure out. But we were making that one film about kids fighting cancer. And it was so hard but we knew it mattered. We just figured out ways to work together... (we don’t) attack each other personally for differences of opinion. You know, we don’t talk about the film in bed, we don’t talk about the film once we’re drinking, like basic smart ground rules for working partnerships,” Bognar said.

“Nothing is more important than our relationship. Like if we get into a deep argument about the nature of what ‘9 To 5’ is and it’s like very different, we can really get into it over weeks and weeks. But in the end, it can’t cut so deep that it would harm our relationship. Because nothing is more important than our relationship. No film, nothing in life.”



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