I earned my graduate degree in film from Columbia University. There I had learned about the GREAT directors: D.W. Griffith, Sergei Eisenstein, François Truffaut, C.B DeMille, Frank Capra, etc. But it wasn’t until I strayed far from my graduate work, and quite by accident discovered that before 1920 there were more women in influential positions behind the scenes in movies than perhaps even today. Who were these female auteurs, and why hadn’t we learned about them in film school?
Keep in mind that this was 1985. The names Lois Weber, Alice Guy Blaché and other great pioneers were waiting for me to dig them up and unearth them into publishing.
Little did I know that for the next decade my life would be a quest to answer these questions. Why did my film professors teach about the ‘father’ of cinema, D.W. Griffith, without teaching about the ‘mother,’ Alice Guy Blaché, who made the very first narrative film in history?
My archeological dig would produce, Reel Women: Pioneers of the Cinema, 1896 to the Present, the first book on the market to reveal the transformational role that women played in movies since movies began. From the book came ten DVD’s, Filmmakers on Film, which include interviews I conducted with over thirty contemporary filmmakers in Hollywood and Europe, as well as the CD-ROM, Reel Women: The Unknown Story, hosted by the gifted contemporary film pioneer, Jodie Foster.
Below is my first 16mm film that garnered a Student Academy Award in the experimental category. This was in 1979. I shot the thing with bolex, the only 16mm camera that had a back wind handle, making it possible to create double exposures inside the camera. Interest in experimenting with this technique was my sole purpose for making the film.
At the event of its premiere, someone said to me, Oh, you must be a fan of Maya Deren, to which I replied quite truthfully, Who is Maya Deren? When I at last discovered the prescient Deren and her jeweled celuloid tresures, it was like finding a soul mate who came from another era.