I asked my family, “Name women filmmakers in history that you remember, but not an actress,” they couldn’t tell me one. Therefore it got me thinking, does anyone know? I mean anyone outside of a film school or someone who is invested in the film world, could they tell me a name? Most likely not. I wanted to pick three women who I think should have been remembered more.
Aside from Alice Guy, which was previously written about in previous blogs, who was the first female director in the silent film era, other women were successful and you may already know their works.
First is Margaret Booth, she was and is well known for being the first film editor ever. In early Hollywood, editing was considered women’s work because of the hands-on sewing like concept that was editing in that time frame. A movie would produce thousands of tiny pictures on a strip of film that required to be cut and replaced in order to fit the needs of the director. Mrs. Booth began as a patcher, which was in charge of rethreading the pictures back together after being cut. He first project right out of high school was Birth of a Nation (1915) as a patcher, but soon moved up to negative cutting, where she gained the title we know today as a “film editor,” leaving the old term “cutter” behind for good. Mrs. Booth went on to receive one Oscar nomination in 1935 for her work on Mutiny on the Bounty, although she did not win she was awarded an honorary Oscar in 1978 for her exceptional contribution to the art of film. Mrs. Booth set the pacing for women in the editing room, and she made a major impact on the industry today by showing a woman started it all.
Another important woman that impacted the industry came a little more recently, releasing a film in 1982 that will forever go down in history as one of the most beloved sci-fi films of all time. When you hear the title of the film the first thing people remember is the director, like most movies this is the case, but she wrote this piece meaning the heart and soul came from her writing, the director just made it worth caring for. Melissa Mathison was a screenwriter, she was married to Harrison Ford, which gained her a lot of attention, but her attention should lie in her biggest hit of all time, E.T: The Extra-Terrestrial. Mathison wrote and shook America with her beloved alien creature finding love on planet earth. As much as I truly adore Mr. Steven Spielberg I think there are other credits to honor as well as his for being the director. This cultural phenomenon was a massive hit for her career as she went on to be nominated for Best Original Screenplay. From that kickstart to her fame she went on to write with Spielberg on other major motion pictures but unfortunately passed in 2015 at only age 65. Although her success was limited she was an icon for women screenwriters.
Last but certainly not least is Edith Head, who was known as the film fashion pioneer, whose work was in costume design. Before becoming such a high sensation in Hollywood, she worked as a school teacher with her degree in Romance languages. She began an interest in art and began taking classes to further her interests and began drawing up design sketches. From her sketches in the classroom, she moved on up to getting her first feature gig at Paramount Studios. From her work her she built herself up to the title of chief designer and from there went on to create costumes for some of the most prestigious films of all time: Roman Holiday, All About Eve, Sabrina, and The Sting. Not only were these films good for her name, she also earned herself 35 Oscar nominations and took home 8 of them, those numbers are record breaking. She was a major icon of the time and directors wanted her to work on their films just as much as their wanter Bette Davis to be their lead actress. She has been referenced to this day for her exquisite work, for example most recently, you may recognize the character name Edna Mode, from The Incredibles, that is in inspiration of Edith Head.
All three women had an impact on the industry from behind the camera, and not necessarily in the leading positions. They were making history before the industry started to segregate the genders on who can do the work best. These ladies proved that it doesn’t matter who you are, there is a dream out there to be caught, because they did it, even in a time where segregation was vividly known. Aside from these women there are hundreds more who have also shown the same amount of work efficiency and determination, I think it’s time to start learning their names too.
Puchko, K. (2015, August 10). 15 Women of Cinema History You Should Know. Retrieved November 16, 2020, from https://www.mentalfloss.com/article/66924/15-women-cinema-history-you-should-know