The history of motion pictures is full of amazing stories and memories of the pioneers of the medium: the Lumière Brothers scaring the bejeezus out of an unsuspecting audience with Arrival of a Train, the eerily incandescent glare of Bela Lugosi in Dracula, Hans Laube's Smell-O-vision. Recently, Columbia University Libraries launched a website dedicated to researching and sharing information on a group of pioneers from the silent film era that are not often talked about or known, but have greatly influenced filmmaking with their work in all stages of production. Continue on to learn more about the Women Film Pioneers Project.
According to an article from Indiewire, Jane Gaines, Radha Vatsal and Monica Dall’Asta head up the site, which offers essays on a variety of topics, videos, and other resources pertaining to women that worked in silent film. By featuring women who have worked as producers, directors, writers, editors -- virtually every position -- the Women Film Pioneers Project aims to quash the notion that women were just actresses (which is no small task in its own right,) but in fact were quite influential despite widespread knowledge or attribution of their work.
The site contains quite a long list of filmmakers, each with their own bios and filmographies. Also available are several in-depth essays that explore the specific cinematic positions occupied by women, such as editors, exhibitors, colorists, and camera operators, or "cranks." One essay that I'd say is worth a good perusal is titled How Women Worked in the US Silent Film Industry, which gives an overall (and thorough) historical account of not only women in film, but the entire the silent era.
WFPP is currently in "Phase 1", which focuses on filmmakers from the United States and Latin America, including African American women in the industry, but "Phase II" will branch out to include women from countries like Australia, Canada, the UK, Italy, France, Germany, as well as a number of Scandinavian countries in order to demonstrate the global influence of women in film in the silent era.
So, if you're interested in the history of silent film, I'd say this resource is pivotal in seeing and understanding it through a wider, more accurate lens. Certainly in recent years, more stories of female filmmakers have come into focus; for instance, filmmakers Pamela Green and Jarik van Sluijs successfully raised enough money on Kickstarter to fund their documentary on the first female filmmaker Alice Guy-Blaché -- and the WFPP has set down another piece of the film history puzzle.
What do you think? Who is your favorite female filmmaker? Do you know of any other websites like this that shares historical (or current) information about filmmakers not often included in the discourse?