Women in Motion Pictures
Throughout history, we see women influence and inspire in numerous fields, and yet remain largely underrepresented. The global film industry is no exception to that. From being one of the earliest film directors to the first film editor, women have made an incredible impact on filmmaking since the start, and have largely been forgotten.
It was in the 1970s that feminist film scholars like Sharon Smith and Gerald Peary started digging up film history to understand the inexplicable absence of women
established that women working in the early days of films were not just an exception to the rule they played key parts in filmmaking, across six continents.
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This is proven by facts like in the early days of Hollywood, it was quite common for women to own or co-own film production studios. As Lois Weber, a protégé of Alice Guy-Blaché said, “…everybody was so busy learning their particular branch of the new industry, that no one had time to notice whether or not a woman was gaining a foothold.” Weber was the first female Hollywood director to helm a full-length feature film, The Merchant of Venice in 1914. By 1916, she was the highest-paid director in Hollywood. She went on to make 130 more films and became the only female member of the Motion Pictures Directors Association.
Speaking of other trailblazing women in the early Hollywood, Mary Pickford’s contribution as one of the co-founders of the United Artists Corporation in 1919, along with D. W. Griffith, Charlie Chaplin, and Douglas Fairbanks, has surprisingly been forgotten. So have the names of Margaret Booth, the first film editor, Dorothy Arzner, inventor of the Boom Mic, and a huge number of prominent screenwriters like Frances Marion and Anita Loos.
If we go beyond Hollywood, we would observe a lot of other women who played a pivotal part in filmmaking, but whose names are lost in the pages of history. As time changed, women have slowly started to come out in the forefront. Women comprised 20% of the behind-the-scenes roles, which is a considerable uptick. And yet there is a jarring gender gap when it comes to key roles, with men outnumbering women 4 to 1. There have been just 7 women directors who were nominated for Academy Awards till now, and only 1 win which happened last year.
Even if all their efforts are still being thwarted, women continue to carve out a prominent space for themselves in this male-dominated industry. A world, they had helped in building and shaping.
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