Autumn outdoor portrait of a African American young woman

We’re getting ready for the Fall Workshop! We’re finishing the curriculum, upgrading software, making sample videos, and all of the dozens of tasks that still need to be finished. In the meantime, here’s the story of film pioneer Alice Guy-Blaché, whose contributions to film were almost forgotten.


According to a report from the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University, “Women comprised just 7 percent of all directors working
Screen Shot 2018-09-10 at 1.42.15 PMon the 250 highest-grossing domestic releases in 2016, a decline of two percentage points from the level achieved in 2015 and in 1998.” (Variety, 1/12/17.)

This lack of women film directors wasn’t always the case.

Alice Guy-Blaché (1873-1968) was a French-American filmmaker, director, screenwriter, producer and actress. She was one of the first female film directors, and, at age 23, made her first feature film. She was a pioneer in synching sound to moving film, made the earliest known film starring an all-African American cast, and was the first woman to build and run a film studio.

Alice’s first film was titled La Fée aux Choux (The Fairy of the Cabbages) and was the first, if not one of the first, narrative films. Before Alice, most films weren’t stories; Alice changed that with La Fée. She also insisted that her actors “be natural,” a departure from the style of over-acting common at the time.

Between 1896 and 1920, Alice directed over 1,000 films. In spite of this achievement, she was almost completely forgotten until recently, when director Pamela Green released Be Natural,  a documentary about Alice’s life.

For more information about women pioneers in film, visit the Women Film Pioneers Project.

Sign up here for Digital Storytelling’s Fall Workshop.

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