Friday, December 31, 2010

Filmmaker Unearthed:

A Style Of Her Own

Since we started off with a filmmaker you’ve probably never heard of, I figured we would continue this week with one you may know. Sound good? Excellent. We begin.

Hint: This filmmaker is an excellent role model if you are a dabbler in many things. She once went to her father to ask if she should focus on one area and he advised her to keep doing all the things she was interested in and that one day they would come together on their own.

Did you guess right? It’s…

Sofia Coppola

(1971- )

Sofia Coppola is a director, screenwriter, designer, photographer and has acted, modeled, and studied painting. (I wasn’t kidding about the dabbling.) Her first appearance in a film was as an infant in her father’s film The Godfather. From there she did a few small acting parts, but wasn’t fond of being in front of the camera. Critics bashed her performance in The Godfather III and she shied away from acting even more. She explored other venues like painting, modeling, photography and designing. Sophia created her own clothing line called Milkfed which is sold in Japan. (But what about filmmaking you ask?)

Coppola soon tried her hand at filmmaking and found a niche for herself. Sofia is known for her films, The Virgin Suicides (1999), Lost in Translation (2003), Marie Antoinette (2006) and Somewhere (2010). She wrote original screenplays (except for The Virgin Suicides, which she adapted from a book) and directed each of these films. Besides that, she is a producer for most of these films, and helped fund them, which gave her more creative control over the films. (Imagine what you would make if you had complete control over your film.)

Ms. Coppola is descended from a line of filmmakers. Her father is Francis Ford Coppola who is the director of films like The Godfather, and her grandfather was a composer who wrote music for films, while a couple of cousins and aunt are well-known actors. Some criticism of her work is aimed at her family connections. They claim her work is only made possible because of her family and not because of her talent. (That’s heated, isn’t it?)

She has won a few awards for her films which include being the first American woman to be nominated for an Academy Award (and the third woman overall) for Best Director for her film Lost in Translation. She won an Oscar for her original screenplay for Lost in Translation. Somewhere won the Golden Lion award at the Venice Film Festival making her the first American woman to receive the award.

There you have it. Meet Sofia Coppola.

Questions: I’m a wee bit shocked that it’s just recently that women are winning some filmmaking awards. What reasons can you think of for women to be winning awards now? (Maybe there aren’t many women in film…?)

What inspires or makes you cringe when watching Coppola’s films?


Photo of Bamboo and handmade paper lamp by Boby Dimitrov

Photo of Sofia Coppola by Valerie Enriquez

Article references to follow due to technical difficulties

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Photo by Boby Dimitrov

Filmmaker Unearthed:

The Fairy in the Cabbage Patch

As I throw another log on the fire (I’m cold) my thoughts turn to filmmaking and fiery stars in the industry. You know, those women filmmakers who blazed (right, my thoughts are on warm things) the way for the rest of us. I’m trying to remember who the first woman filmmaker was. Okay, I’d even settle for being able to name 5 important women directors. But as embarrassing as this is to admit, I don’t know much about earlier, or even modern, female filmmakers.

Which brings me to this post, the embarking post for Filmmaker Unearthed where I delve into history and share my findings with you. I’ll do the digging and then you can sit back, cozy up with your computer and learn all about some neat people.

The first filmmaker I’d like to introduce you to (if you haven’t heard of her already) is French, born in 1873, credited as the first woman director, owned her own studio in the U.S. and has a claim to the title of first narrative film director.

What? I know, right. Turns out filmmaking has been a woman’s thing from its inception.

Alice Guy-Blaché (a-LEES ghee)


Imagine you’re a secretary at a still-photography studio in late 19th century France and your boss, Leon Gaumont, has his hands on a fancy dancy filmmaking apparatus. What do you do? Why, convince him to let you make a film of course! Alice’s film career was longer than a quarter of a century (I’m making you do math now) and she directed, wrote screenplays and produced for hundreds of films.

Her first of hundreds was “The Cabbage Fairy.” The 60-second film was created by Alice Guy in 1896 and launched her film career. Around this time the photography studio she worked for closed and Alice’s boss Gaumont formed his own production company. Gaumont put Alice in charge of film production where she remained from 1896-1906. Alice became a pioneer in using sound recordings with images, special effects, and even playing film backwards.

After 1906, Alice moved to New York to manage Gaumont’s studio in the U.S. And then in 1910, Alice and her husband, Herbert Blaché, formed The Solax Studio in New Jersey. They were very successful and within two years were able to build a $100,000 glass studio in Fort Lee. She was the first woman to own her own studio. Sadly, the company only lasted four years. Guy continued to work in film and directed her last film in 1919 before retiring to giving film lectures and writing novels from screenplays. She was honored in 1953 with the Legion of Honor award by the French government. Alice Guy died in 1968.

Currently, the Fort Lee Film Commission is at work trying to gain her posthumous admittance to the Director’s Guild of America.

And so the first woman director set the bar high. Pretty cool, huh?

And look “The Cabbage Fairy” is online!

Question: If Alice made hundreds of films, created her own studio and did innovative and creative films at the very beginning of cinema, why haven’t I heard of her?

Answer: It wasn’t until 1976 with the publishing of her memoir that she was remembered for all the incredible work she accomplished. How do you think Alice’s work was forgotten? Or why might it have been overlooked?


“Alice Guy-Blache.” Wikipedia. Dec. 8 2010. 12-15-10.é.

Brightwell, Eric. “Alice Guy-Blache – First Female of Film Direction.” Amoeblog.

March 3 2009. 12-15-10. blog/alice-guy-blach-first-female-of-film-direction.html.

McKernan, Luke. “Alice Guy.” Who’s Who of Victorian Cinema. 12-15-10.

McMahan, Alison. “Inventing the Movies.” Alice Guy-Blache. 2009. Homunculus

Productions, LLC and Alison McMahan. 12-15-10.

Richards, Andrea. Girl Director A How-To Guide for the First-Time, Flat-Broke Film

and Video Maker. Berkeley: Ten Speed Press, 2005.

White, Penny. “Alice Guy Blache, First Woman Film Director Succeeding in a

Burgeoning Film Industry.” Sept. 24, 2009. 12-15-10. a150877.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

What would you do if someone at your school or workplace made a racial comment?

Recently, one of our core girls, Serena, was attending a school sporting event when the opposing team (an older and more diverse group) began to win. As the game progressed some of her classmates started using racially and socially demeaning chants. Appalled and embarrassed at the behavior of her fellow classmates Serena decided to take action and wrote a letter to the editor of her school newspaper.

Here’s her letter below.

Dear [school] community,
Almost every day at [school], I hear one racist comment, and that’s one too many. Hearing comments within our school is not okay, but making discriminatory comments in public while representing our school crosses an entirely different line. The fact that something like that would even pass through our minds makes me question our community culture. The delay in an administrative response is indicative of a larger issue. We are not upholding our mission in “educating our children to be culturally competent in a global community” (Diversity Action Plan). There are many people that I am proud to say think in a multicultural way, but there is a large group of individuals who continue to disregard our stated values. This either means that the values we say are true at [school] are not actual values, or that the people that continue to make disrespectful comments don’t belong in the [school] community. Making excuses for the actions that take place is something that needs to be stopped. “Just joking” does not make hurtful remarks okay to say. I hope everyone who reads this will take what I’ve said and make a point to check themselves and people around them to live up to the standards that [our school] should proudly portray.
Thank you.

Serena sets a good example for us all by refusing to accept inappropriate comments. She found her own way to raise awareness about an issue we sometimes try to ignore. Her experience is a reminder that sexist and racist “jokes” and comments are belittling no matter how you phrase them. At our latest TVbyGIRLS meeting Serena’s article led to a discussion about the best ways to respond to discriminatory comments. We wondered what our culture would be like if each of us spoke up when racism, sexism or any other “ism” occurred.

And it’s not so simple as Thryn, another teen member of TVbyGIRLS pointed out. Thryn asked how we respond to a group that is trying to reclaim and defuse language…as in lesbian women and girls referring to themselves as ‘dykes’.

Your turn: What do you think is the best way to deal with derogatory remarks?

Photo taken by BotheredByBees