Q&A: Donna Zaccaro on ‘Geraldine Ferraro: Paving the Way’

Geraldine Ferraro: Paving the Way is a feature-length documentary about the life of this trailblazer who served as a role model for women and men across the nation and around the world. The film features never-before-seen archival and personal footage and stills, intimate interviews with Ferraro, her family, friends, colleagues, and even opponents, as well as commentary by many of the leading political figures of our day. Filmmaker Donna Zaccaro creates a moving, powerful, and oftentimes surprising portrait of her mother, who changed the face of American politics forever.


Please describe your movie in your own words.

Donna Zaccaro: Geraldine Ferraro: Paving the Way is a film that tells a number of stories: The principal story is the life of political trailblazer Geraldine Ferraro and the impact she had on American culture and politics, but there is also the very American story of a child of immigrants rising out of poverty through education to unimaginable achievements; there is the story of the struggles of women in this country to achieve power, and what it takes for women to be considered equals to men, including the personal costs involved; there is also the love story between my parents and how critical my father’s untraditional and unwavering support of my mother was to her being able to even attempt the professional and personal challenges she faced.

What inspired you to tell this story?

DZ: I wanted to both clarify and preserve my mother’s legacy and at the same time, share the lessons of her life to hopefully inspire others to greater achievement in their own lives.  Younger women and men today probably don’t know who she was or how much her life affected theirs. Those that did know who she was—and remembered her historic Vice Presidential candidacy—did not likely know what she had surmounted to get to that point, and then what she had to endure during that campaign and afterwards, in large measure, as a result of her pioneering role. And though this is the story of my mother’s life, it is also very much the story of my father’s life with her—a life that he has never before been willing to talk about publicly.


Can you give us a tease? What is one thing you think will surprise audiences about your mother—something they probably don’t realize?

DZ: People probably don’t realize how fearless my mother was and had to be her whole life. From childhood to taking a man’s place in law school, from running for a Congressional seat as an unknown with the political establishment against her, to being thrust into the national spotlight overnight, first into a role that no one else had every held. She had no roadmap to follow, she endured scrutiny and personal attacks arguably unlike any politician before, and she rose to the occasion, paving the way for others. She was equally fearless in all the challenges she faced afterwards, including her battle with blood cancer.

I think people will also be surprised at how well my mother was able to find common ground and work with those with whom she disagreed, and how she was able to respect and even become personal friends with fierce opponents—most notably, President George Bush.

Was there one particular aspect of your mother’s personality that led to her becoming such a trailblazer?

DZ: My mother had a real sense of justice and fairness, and a determination to do whatever it took to better the world around her.

What do you want audiences to take away from your film?

DZ: I want people to take away the lessons of my mother’s life, the values she lived by, to learn from both her successes and her failures, to be inspired to achieve more for themselves than perhaps they had thought possible.

What are you most looking forward to at the 2013 Hamptons International Film Festival?

DZ: I’m looking forward seeing the reaction to the film by viewers who didn’t know my mother—or even know of my mother.

Geraldine Ferraro: Paving the Way will have its World Premiere in the World Cinema program. Tickets | Facebook | Website


Donna Zaccaro is Founder and President of Dazzling Media, a New York-based media production company. Donna served as the director and producer of Geraldine Ferraro: Paving the Way, a documentary about her mother. Previously, Donna was a longtime, award-winning producer for the Today show at NBC News. She has also worked in other industries, including politics and public affairs marketing and communications; she began her career in investment banking. Donna earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Brown University and an MBA in General Business Administration from Harvard Business School.


  1. Marie Westphalen says

    I just watched your presentation, “Paving the Way” in tribute to your Mom, Geraldine Ferraro.

    Thank you for bringing it to the public. I recorded the program, but hope that it will be repeated.
    FYI, Miss Zaccaro I am a Republican, but as you’ve shown, Geraldine Ferraro was such a strong advocate for women, she made friends wherever she appeared.

    God Bless you and your wonderful family.