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In 2017, TIME recognized the Silence Breakers—the women and men whose individual acts of courage sparked the global #metoo movement—as Person of the Year. To convey the scope and impact of such a fast-moving and deeply personal story, we interviewed dozens of people who spoke out in 2017, both those whose names are well-known and those whose stories might otherwise never have been told. Their voices became the centerpiece of a powerful video feature, showcasing stories that are inspiring, infuriating and, ultimately, a call to arms.
In October of 2017 when dozens of women came forward with allegations of assault and harassment against producer Harvey Weinstein, TIME’s Editor-in-Chief Edward Felsenthal asked writers Eliana Dockterman and Haley Sweetland Edwards to find women in other industries who had come forward with stories of sexual harassment and assault that year. On Oct. 31 he walked into a windowless conference room where Dockterman and Sweetland Edwards presented their work: 200 small rectangular pieces of paper lay on a 12-by-5-ft. table, each with the story of a different accuser. The Silence Breakers would be TIME’s Person of the Year.
So many women and men have #metoo stories. It would be impossible to interview them all. But we wanted to demonstrate the breadth of the issue by including as many different people as possible. Each subject would have to represent thousands of stories we couldn’t tell in one video. We also had concerns about seamlessly weaving together the individual experiences and thoughts of so many people. After combing through dozens of interviews, TIME video producers Diane Tsai, Spencer Bakalar, Julia Lull, and video editor Kate Emerson found common themes, ranging from frustrations to advice. We ultimately knew that one single video with so many important voices could have far-reaching potential.
One of the most-rewarding aspects was being able to bring together our cover subjects for the photo and video shoots. The women shared stories of sexism they had experienced at the hands of their bosses, their colleagues and even people on the street. But they also bonded over speaking out. Lobbyist Adama Iwu exchanged cards with actor Ashley Judd as they discussed ambitious plans to change the laws around harassment in California. Uber whistleblower Susan Fowler was pregnant during the shoot. One of our anonymous cover subjects told Fowler, “You are having a girl.” “How do you know?” Fowler asked. “I just know,” she said. “And she’s going to be on the cover of TIME magazine.
The Person of the Year package attracted the second biggest day in the history of TIME.com with 7.8 million unique readers, 8 million video streams, and a cover that quickly became our most-viewed on Instagram. A few weeks after the cover’s launch, Tarana Burke—founder of #metoo and one of the subjects of our video—was asked to lead the New Year’s Eve countdown under the Silence Breakers cover on a billboard in Times Square. Teachers have begun using the video to start conversations about #metoo in class. And several women have reached out to our reporters with new stories of harassment and sexism.
The topic was incredibly sensitive, and many of our interviewees were initially hesitant to participate in interviews. Writers Eliana Dockterman and Haley Sweetland Edwards spent hours on the phone with each of the subjects, getting to know them and making sure they were comfortable with the project before they sat down in front of a camera. In addition, we had to replicate the interview setup in 3 different cities, with about 10 days to edit together the 26 interviews.
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