‘At the Heart of Gold’ Director, Erin Lee Carr’s Advice to Filmmakers on How to Cover Abuse

The trial of USA Gymnastics national team doctor Larry Nassar gained national attention because hundreds of survivors came forward with their stories of being sexually abused by him. The scandal led to many heartbreaking testimonies and a big conversation of corruption that allowed the abuse to continue.

Now the nation can learn even more about the 2016 scandal through the documentary At the Heart of Gold: Inside The USA Gymnastics Scandal. The Cheat Sheet talked to the director, Erin Lee Carr and executive producer, Sarah Gibson during the At the Heart of Gold: Inside The USA Gymnastics Scandal world premiere on April 25 at the Tribeca Film Festival.

This is how they started working on the documentary and gave advice to other filmmakers who would like to do the same.

Sarah Gibson approached some of the survivors at court to be in the documentary

The executive producer went to the courtroom for the sentencing of Nassar. There she talked to some of the survivors in order to get them to participate in the documentary.

“I went there and met with some of the women in person in between their speeches in Lansing and told them I was a filmmaker, told them I was an activist social justice producer and I really cared a lot about what they were going through,” Gibson told The Cheat Sheet. “And I really wanted to tell their story and it was baby steps.”

One thing she believed really helped the process was the documentary’s director. “Erin as a director her brilliant gift is this space that she creates for characters to feel safe and comfortable in sharing their truth.” She added, “I mean [she’s] the best interviewer you can imagine.”

Of course, it could be very hard to get survivors to open up about something so personal. Carr gave advice to filmmakers who want to do that and still have survivors feel safe.

Erin Lee Carr advice is to give survivors control

Erin Lee Carr
Erin Lee Carr | Getty Images/ Anadolu Agency

The director first dove into how to start the process. “Really work through it through people’s lawyers,” Carr told The Cheat Sheet. “That’s somebody that they have hired somebody that they feel comfortable with. Don’t ever have camera equipment the first time you interact.”

Carr also talked about how you can help survivors feel comfortable throughout the process. “I think that eye contact, figuring out what the person does not want to talk about and saying ‘you have control here,'” continued the director.

There are walls that you may hit but Carr talked about striking a balance to resolve it. She revealed that many people told them no. However, she advised waiting if someone doesn’t feel ready and come back to politely ask again has worked.

People will be able to see how the interviews and footage come together soon. The new HBO documentary, At the Heart of Gold: Inside The USA Gymnastics Scandal sharing the survivors’ stories and more, will air on May 3.

Read more: HBO’s ‘Case Against Adnan Syed’ Is as Addictive as ‘Serial’

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