Week 3: Women in Film

 We will have Dr. Karen Mahar, of Siena College, join us in class to discuss her book, Women Filmmakers in Early Hollywood. This book explores when, how, and why women were accepted as filmmakers in the 1910s and why, by the 1920s, those opportunities had disappeared. In looking at the early film industry as an industry—a place of work—Mahar not only unravels the mystery of the disappearing female filmmaker but untangles the complicated relationship among gender, work culture, and business within modern industrial organizations. In the early 1910s, the film industry followed a theatrical model, fostering an egalitarian work culture in which everyone—male and female—helped behind the scenes in a variety of jobs. In this culture women thrived in powerful, creative roles, especially as writers, directors, and producers. By the end of that decade, however, mushrooming star salaries and skyrocketing movie budgets prompted the creation of the studio system. As the movie industry remade itself in the image of a modern American business, the masculinization of filmmaking took root.

We read part IV “Emerging Camerawomen,” in the book Women Behind the Camera. We will also watch the companion documentary, “Women Behind the Camera.” This section of the book interviewed several contemporary camera women and asked them about their experiences of working in a male dominated industry. These women included: Sabrina Simmons, Karen Williams Kane, Sandy Butler, and Alicia Sehring.

We also read the widely touted article “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema,” by Laura Mulvey. She was the one that popularized the idea of the “male gaze.” Be sure to be ready to discuss the assigned readings in class, as well as your latest work on your websites. You can post your project summaries in the comment section below.