Last Sunday (March 8th) was International Women’s day, the theme is “I am Generation Equality: Realising Women’s Rights ”.
As a new (ish) mother and an ambitious, driven female, there are so many angles in which I look at International women’s day and Women’s rights on a day to day basis. I feel lucky to live in an age where we are pushing ourselves and each other forward, there may be work to do and many bias’ so deep people don’t realise they have them, but there is also progress.
With 2020’s theme being “Generation Equality”, I started to think of previous generations, more so previous generations of women in the Film industry.
When thinking of people who have influenced the history of the film industry, it is often men’s names that spring to mind first, but who were the pioneering women?
Who would you name? Here three women who I think the world needs to hear more about.
Alice Guy-Blaché (July 1, 1873 – March 24, 1968)
The first female director.
The first female director and the first ever director of narrative film (Although she is rarely credited with this).
Born in France and the daughter of a bookshop owner, Alice worked for camera manufacturing company Gaumont et Cie from 19 as the owners secretary. She quickly developed a love of cameras, whilst at the same time, meeting film engineers and clients, progressing her development towards becoming a filmmaker.
Guy-Blaché’s first film, and arguably the world’s first narrative film, was called La Fée aux Choux (The Cabbage Fairy), in 1896 “chaste fiction of children born under the cabbages in a wonderfully framed chromo landscape”.
She went on to become the artistic director and a co-founder of Solax Studios in Flushing, New York. In 1912, Solax invested $100,000 for a new studio in Fort Lee, New Jersey, the centre of American filmmaking prior to the establishment of Hollywood.
Margaret Booth (January 16, 1898 – October 28, 2002)
First ever Film editor.
If you were female and working class in the early Hollywood days, and wanted to work in filmmaking, the most likely role you would land was that of “cutter”. This was one of the lowest paid jobs, but it gave women the opportunity to get into filmmaking and to have some say over the final cut of a film.
Booth was a pioneer of film cutting. She first worked for D.W. Griffith, the director of ‘Birth of a Nation’, from 1915 when she left school. Her role was as a patcher before she became a negative cutter, She then moved to MGM, which was newly formed at that time.
Booth was nominated for an Oscar for her work on the 1935 movie ‘Mutiny on the Bounty’. In 1978, she was awarded an honorary Oscar from The Academy of Motion Pictures, Arts, and Sciences. This award was given in recognition of the contributions she had made to the motion picture industry.
Kathryn Bigelow (27 November 1951)
Director, producer, and screenwriter.
First female to get an Oscar for Directing.
Someone once said to me, something along the lines that Women directors film aren’t well known or popular because people don’t want to watch women centric films (or something like that); To which I probably rolled my eyes and replied that women don’t necessarily want to make chick flicks.
Kathryn for me is the middle finger to comments like that.
She’s a Director, artist, writer and producer, best known for directing Point Break, Blue Steel and Hurt Locker (For which she was the first female director to win an Oscar academy award).
She’s explored the topic of violence from the start of her career , which has become a recurring theme in her work, a far cry from the Rom Com and fluffy kitten content some may think women are focused on creating.
There are thousands of Kathryn Bigelow’s out there, pushing for success and to be heard.
I would actively encourage men and women alike to take 10 minutes to research women in film today, you might just learn something that changes your perspective or inspires you.
With the recent sentencing of Harvey Weinstein, let’s hope times are changing and the barriers to funding and recognition are lifting for women in the film and television industry.
Rebecca Oldfield – Producer and Account Manager