In her senior year of high school, a time when most of us were only beginning to dream up what possibilities the future would hold, Claire Sliney (C ‘21), a former beat reporter for The Daily Pennsylvanian, was in the midst of a project that would eventually land her a win at the 91st Academy Awards.
For Claire–an executive producer of the documentary short, Period. End of Sentence.– the project was birthed from a commitment to social justice through a high school activism organization she was a part of. The documentary focuses on women in India trying to make menstrual pads more easily accessible. What started as a fundraising effort for a machine that would help women in the rural village of Kathikera manufacture and sell sanitary pads blossomed into something that would reach far beyond the village.
Period. End of Sentence. came from a commitment to create a positive difference in a community where cultural stigmatization and a lack of resources poses life–altering challenges to young women beginning menstruation. These issues spurred the movement to raise money for and install a machine that cheaply produced menstrual pads, which would not only provide women with a much–needed product, but would also create a source of income from pad sales. This idea is what moved Claire to co–found The Pad Project—the non–profit organization that would eventually bring Period. End of Sentence. to fruition—as a means of raising awareness for their cause and the issues that it addresses.
So how exactly do high school students, armed only with a desire to solve a problem facing women on the other side of the globe, turn their spirit of activism into a 26–minute documentary? “It was really a step by step process,” Claire recalls. “It was a learn–as–you–go, figure–out–as–you–go kind of situation.” Period. End of Sentence. was not initially conceived to be a short that would hit the film festival circuit and eventually acquire an Oscar nomination and win. Thanks to the efforts of all those involved, starting with Claire and The Pad Project, what began as a side interest became a fully realized documentary short, now available to stream on Netflix.
Claire stresses the tremendous importance of all the people who were adopted into the project, which include a USC graduate, Rayka Zehtabchi, who was brought on as director of the film, and Sam Davis, who served as the cinematographer and editor.
Additionally, Claire's mother, Hollywood awards strategist Lisa Taback, produced the film alongside her. The key to the film's success was the connection that the team behind Period. End of Sentence. forged with the community in India, where their efforts were concentrated. This meant teaming up with an NGO called Action India to identify a community that was dealing with issues regarding menstruation, and where installing a pad producing machine would have a real impact.
The Pad Project put together funding for both the machine and the film, which happened mostly through Kickstarter. Thus, building a relationship with the women of Kathikera ensured that the small production team's presence in the village would be as welcome and as fruitful as possible.
After compiling footage captured from two trips to India, it was clear that The Pad Project had a compelling story on their hands. Hoping to make it to just one film festival, Claire and her team began submitting the documentary to festivals across the country. “One film festival turned into a number of film festivals,” she says, explaining this snowball effect would eventually land it on an Oscar shortlist. “We kept on winning and doing these Q&As, and people were so compelled by all that was taking place.” On the day that Academy Award nominations were revealed, Claire and her co–producers got up early to catch the real–time announcement where their film made the cut for Best Documentary Short Subject.
Since the announcement, a project that started as a back–burner idea conceived by a dedicated high school organization has exploded into a tool for mobilizing activism. “We can use Period. End of Sentence. to start the conversation,” Claire notes when reflecting on the project. Evidently, one powerful idea reaching the right people can turn a conversation into something much greater.
This piece was updated Feb. 24 at 10:20 p.m. to reflect Period. End of Sentence.'s win at the Oscars.