BRA Birth Experts TALK! #14 Toni Harman, Producer / Director, DOULA!, FREEDOM FOR BIRTH & MICROBIRTH

Can you tell us what got you interested birth and becoming a doula?
Toni: Before making films about birth, I was a professional filmmaker making broadcast documentaries and internationally distributed shorts and feature films. Then I had a baby and suddenly I started becoming interested in the multi-layered world of birth. It seemed a natural progression to start making films looking at various aspects of birth. Together with my filmmaking partner Alex Wakeford, we’ve made a few birth-related documentaries now including a documentary about doulas called “DOULA!”, another about human rights in childbirth called “FREEDOM FOR BIRTH” and most recently a documentary that puts childbirth under the microscope called “MICROBIRTH”. I’m not a midwife, a doula, a birth educator – I’m just a parent with experience as a filmmaker and a passion for birth!
What influenced you into documenting via the medium of film?
Toni: Since graduating film school twenty years ago, I’ve made hundreds of films on all sorts of subjects but I have to say that making films about birth is different, it connects with me on a much deeper level. Just like a doula or a midwife might say that what they do is a “calling” in some way, I think the same about making films about birth. After seeing my first birth a few years ago (the first birth shown in my DOULA documentary), something clicked in my mind. I saw with my own eyes that birth can be beautiful, powerful, emotional and quite simply amazing. And I suppose, a little bit addictive, that’s why I keep on making films about it!
Tell us about your work and influences
Toni: One of my personal mantras is not to make a film unless it makes a difference. I want all my films to make a real difference to how people think, feel and view childbirth. Most importantly, I want my films to help remove the fear that is all too often associated with childbirth so that all expectant parents can go into their births feeling well-informed, positive and empowered.
What are your ultimate intended goals the documentaries?
Toni: Films are a powerful tool that can spread a message across many thousands of people very quickly and thus can make change happen. With our film FREEDOM FOR BIRTH, over 100,000 people saw the film on its launch day at over 1,000 screenings in 50 countries in 17 languages. The film inspired lots of action groups to form all around the world, all committed to making sure all women are fully informed and fully supported in their birth choices. Same thing with our MICROBIRTH film – it’s helped catapult a really important message into the public consciousness, that seeding and feeding a baby’s microbiome during the period surrounding birth is vitally important for lifelong health.  I want to continue making films that matter.
What have you learned along the way?
Toni: I have learned that however a baby is born, whether by C-Section or vaginally, all births can be empowering and beautiful as long as the parents are fully informed and supported in their birth choices. With my “birth warrior” head on, I would love every single person on the planet to have full informed choice as to how and where they give birth and for those choices to be respected by all care providers.
Has there been any single influencing person/s on your work?
Toni: I’ve been very fortunate in that I have interviewed over 150 people for our One World Birth project, which is the umbrella name for all our films about birth. I have met academics, scientists, anthropologists, lawyers, doctors, midwives, doulas, birth educators, parents and birth activists. So many amazing people, so many wonderful stories, so many astute views about birth. Probably the single most inspirational is Ina May Gaskin – I’ve filmed her a few times now and have even been lucky enough to visit her on The Farm in Tennessee. She’s a very special woman who is changing the world.
Toni: For more information about One World Birth and our films, please visit:

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