5 Women Who Helped Shape the Film Industry
By: Tiara Starks
March marks the first sign of spring and a time to celebrate women. This Women’s History Month, we’re reflecting and educating ourselves on the efforts of women who fought for equal rights and created more opportunities for others in their industries.
While women have seemingly dominated the world of film acting, filmmaking roles such as directing, writing, and producing have been historically held by men. In more recent years, women have increasingly achieved more recognition for their work in those fields. To commemorate the month for creatives, here’s a look at women who have made substantial contributions to the film industry, shaping it into what it is today.
Margaret Booth was the first female “cutter” in Hollywood and the first woman with the title of film editor. She was a pioneer of “invisible cutting,” an editing style that made transitions between images seamless. Booth worked on a wide range of films including The Enemy, Mutiny On The Bounty, and Camille.
In 1978, The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences gave her an Academy Honorary Award for film editing. In 1983, she was awarded the Women in Film Crystal Award for her outstanding work in film that “helped expand the role of women within the entertainment industry.” Booth died at the age of 104 in Inglewood, California.
19th-century filmmaker and theater actress Emilia Saleny was the first Argentine woman filmmaker, the first woman to found an academy for film actors in South America, and the filmmaker behind Argentina’s first children’s movie, La Niña Del Bosque (1917). Produced by Colón Film, Saleny’s film was considered a “pioneer film” of this genre in Argentina.
The daughter of Italian actress Victoria Pieri, Emilia Saleny was born in Buenos Aires, where she lived until she passed at the age of 84.
Mira Nair is an Indian filmmaker best known for her 2001 film Monsoon Wedding, which received a Golden Globe Award nomination and inspired a Broadway musical. In 2017, IndieWire named Monsoon Wedding the best romance movie of the 21st century.
Nair also directed Mississippi Masala, an interracial romantic drama starring Denzel Washington and Disney’s Queen of Katwe, starring Lupita Nyong’o. Her films tend to focus on themes of cultural identities.
Ava Duvernay, the director behind When They See Us, got her first start in Hollywood through her work in public relations. She founded The Duvernay Agency, which provided PR services for films such as Spy Kids and Dreamgirls.
Since then, Duvernay has been recognized for her own success in filmmaking. The UCLA-grad directed the 2014 historical drama film Selma, which earned the Best Original Song award and was nominated for four Golden Globes. Her talents also extend to television—underneath her distribution company, ARRAY NOW, Duvernay is executive producing the upcoming HBO Max miniseries, DMZ.
Chloe Zhao is primarily known for her work in the independent film scene. Her feature films, Songs My Brothers Taught Me (2015) and The Rider (2017) were critically praised and received nominations for the Independent Spirit Awards.
This year, Zhao made history when she took home a Golden Globe award for Best Director, making her the second woman in Globes history and the first female Asian nominee in the category.