The most interesting director you’ve never heard of

If you’re into movies at all, and you’ve been on social media in the last couple of weeks, you’re probably aware of a Kickstarter project for Be Natural, a feature documentary about Alice Guy-Blaché, the first female film director. Hers is a fascinating story. In 1895, at age 23, Alice was a secretary to Leon Gaumont when she saw a demo of the Lumière brothers’ brand-new Cinématographe and got inspired to start making movies. She made one of the first narrative films, La Feé aux Choux, in 1896, and synced sound with picture in 1902, to name just a couple of her innovations. After working at Gaumont for ten years, she started her own studio, Solax, in 1910. During a 20-year career in film, she wrote, produced or directed more than 1,000 films.

FLBlache_070513_ft_tif_
Alice Guy-Blaché, colorized by me

Even if Guy-Blaché had been male, it would be odd that such a pioneer is so little-known. But take into account that she was female, making films 20 years before U.S. women could even vote, and the fact that she and her work are so obscure becomes downright weird. What happened? Pamela Green and Jarik van Sluijs, of video effects house PIC, have decided to find out, and in the process, return Guy-Blaché to her rightful place in history.

Even if you don’t know their names, you know their work. Green and van Sluijs have created some of the most interesting main and end titles in film, including the ingenious opening titles for Cabin in the Woods. Their take on Guy-Blaché’s story is sure to be as innovative as she was. They’ve also gotten some pretty big names involved. Jodie Foster is narrating, Robert Redford is executive producing, and a wide variety of filmmakers appear in the trailer. Many others are donating their time and labor. But the bulk of the work – research, travel, finding photos and footage, securing rights to them, preserving and/or copying them – costs money. As they state in their Kickstarter intro…

Sadly, this is not the type of project that easily gets traditional Hollywood funding, nor is it the type of film that qualifies for most of the typical educational grants. Hollywood funding doesn’t usually go into beautifully made documentaries; educational grants don’t allow for this kind of ambition and entertainment value. This is a passion project for all of us involved, and it is through passion that we’ve been able to pull the favors from those in the industry so far.

The Kickstarter has been gaining some buzz on both social and traditional media, and it’s really taken off in the past few days. That’s the good news. The bad news is, there’s only 1 full day left. If possible, post a link to your networks and please pledge if you can. The world needs to know as much as possible about Alice Guy-Blaché.

Alice Guy Kickstarter fundedUpdate: Woohoo! The Be Natural Kickstarter is funded as of August 27. The project actually exceeded the goal. But further help is needed to ensure that the film will have the funding to continue beyond the rough cut. Contributions can now be made via the web site.

4 thoughts on “The most interesting director you’ve never heard of

    1. You’re welcome Ruth, I didn’t know anything about her really before I saw tweets about the Kickstarter. I need to update this post actually, because I am pleased to say they made their goal. They’ve got at least enough to get the film to a rough cut 🙂

  1. I have the proud distinction of restoring Alice’s 1916 feature The Ocean Waif while I interned at the Library of Congress. When Kino released it on DVD, I had not seen it since 1987 — what a wonderful gift to get reacquainted with a film I spent so much time reconstructing.

    1. I can only imagine! How cool and fascinating…Thanks for your comment. I’d love to hear more about the restoration process and your internship.

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