When I can find the information, I always try to say something about how a filmmaker started. Sometimes, they just appear on IMDB, MyDramaList, or other resources without much information about prior work. Perhaps a number of short films are listed, in which case they probably went the festival route and worked their way up raising finances for a longer film.
Other routes include starting as an actress before shifting over to directing, or starting in a writers room, which provides a well-used but no less difficult path into production, series creation, and showrunning.
These aren’t the only routes, however. Last week, I highlighted “Lou” director Anna Foerster, who started as a visual effects specialist in films like “Independence Day”, and worked as a second unit director and aerial director of photography. This led into series directing and, eventually, film directing.
I’ve written about my favorite cinematographer, Natasha Braier, before. Starting out as an assistant cameraperson and working as a cinematographer on short films eventually led to feature film cinematography and her first directing gig – helming an episode on “American Gigolo”. I’m excited to see if she continues exploring directing.
Anne Fletcher is the director of this week’s “Hocus Pocus 2”. She got her start as a dancer and choreographer. She served as the animation reference in “Casper”, the 90s equivalent of a motion capture actor. Then she danced in films ranging from “Tank Girl” to “Boogie Nights” and “Titanic”, moving into assistant choreography with “Boogie Nights” and lead choreographer on “Bring It On”. You’ve almost certainly seen her work – choreography on “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “Firefly”, “Step Up”, “The 40-Year-Old Virgin”, Academy Award ceremonies – and eventually directing on films like “27 Dresses” and “Hot Pursuit”. We’ve probably seen her work in front of or behind the camera a dozen or more times, but hers isn’t a name we know.
Knowing these routes that people take is important, though. As hard as it is to get to the point of showrunning or directing, it’s even more difficult for women to break through a system that’s built to resist their promotion. We could each name dozens of men who direct, and probably even recount to each other the paths they’ve taken, their humble rags-to-riches personal stories. What do we know about women who direct? What about the two most successful films by women in theaters right now? Can most of us name the director of “The Woman King” offhand? Do we know anything about Gina Prince-Bythewood’s story? What do we know about Olivia Wilde’s work on “Don’t Worry Darling”? All that’s in the news about the film is who she slept with and who might be upset about it.
Men get mythologies and cults of worship. We can trace and analyze how every film they ever glanced at sideways may have influenced their vision. Women get obscurity or publicly shamed. Their vision is treated as spontaneously generated, sparked once as an exception to the rule that there’s nothing to see here, as if whatever we might mistake for vision is a chance occurrence evolved from nothing. We treat men in filmmaking as working and earning their place, worth studying, and women as having tripped and fallen into a position it’s assumed they haven’t earned and can’t repeat, so why bother learning how they got there? We need to bother learning, and this goes for men especially. Know someone’s story. When you watch a film by a woman, learn how they got there and what influenced and shaped their vision the same way we would for almost any man. As viewers, as creators, as critics, there’s so much to learn and appreciate that we’re trained to overlook. What does that do to our visions? How much does that limit what we can draw from? The only way to cure that is to seek it out.
This week, new series by women come from Germany, Japan, and the U.S., and new movies by women come from Australia and the U.S.
The Empress (Netflix)
showrunner Katharina Eyssen
co-directed by Katrin Gebbe
This German historical drama recounts the love affair between Emperor Franz Joseph of Austria-Hungary and Elisabeth von Wittelsbach, the Bavarian princess and sister of the woman Franz must marry.
Showrunner Katharina Eyssen came over to directing from acting. Katrin Gebbe directs with Florian Cossen. Gebbe has directed tense German films like “Pelican Blood” and “Nothing Bad Can Happen”.
You can watch “The Empress” on Netflix. All 6 episodes are out now.
Reasonable Doubt (Hulu)
showrunner Raamla Mohamed
Jax is a defense attorney in Los Angeles who goes up against a justice system she perceives as broken and biased. Emayatzy Corinealdi and Michael Ealy star.
Showrunner Raamla Mohamed has written and produced on “Scandal” and “Little Fires Everywhere”.
You can watch “Reasonable Doubt” on Hulu.
I’m the Villainess, So I’m Taming the Final Boss (Crunchyroll)
directed by Habara Kumiko
A chronically ill girl finds herself taking on the role of the villainess in one of her favorite games. Knowing how the game ends, she does everything she can to succeed as the villainess and undermine the game’s ending.
Habara Kumiko previously directed “I’m Standing on a Million Lives”.
You can watch “I’m the Villainess, So I’m Taming the Final Boss” on Crunchyroll. The premiere is out now, with a new episode arriving every Saturday morning.
directed by Krystin Ver Linden
Keke Palmer plays Alice, who escapes from the plantation where she’s been enslaved to discovery a shockingly different reality outside of it. Common and Jonny Lee Miller co-star.
This is the first film from writer-director Krystin Ver Linden.
You can watch “Alice” on Starz, or see where to rent it.
Hocus Pocus 2 (Disney+)
directed by Anne Fletcher
Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Kathy Najimy reprise their roles as three witches brought to life from the past. As in the 1993 original, they wreak havoc on the modern day Salem.
Director Anne Fletcher has helmed episodes of “This is Us” and “Love, Victor”. She got her start in the industry as a dancer and choreographer.
You can watch “Hocus Pocus 2” on Disney+.
co-directed by Hannah Barlow
A decade removed from their best friendship as teenagers, Cecilia and Emma bump into each other. Emma invites Cecilia on her bachelorette weekend, but past wrongs left simmering lead to horror shenanigans.
Hannah Barlow directs the Australian horror with Kane Senes, as well as taking on the role of Emma.
You can watch “Sissy” on Shudder.
Take a look at new shows + movies by women from past weeks.
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