Women helped found the movie industry,” Barbara Bridges, founder of Denver Film’s Women+Film Festival, says. “They were the early filmmakers. They owned their studios. They developed many of the filmmaking techniques.”
But when the historians sat down to pen the history of movies, women were left out, and their names were left off. In recent years, the name Alice Guy-Blaché has bubbled back into the conversation, but 20, 30, 40 years ago, forget it.
“She was the first to use film to tell stories,” Bridges says, “[and] she was doing all kinds of experimenting with filmmaking.”
Same for 1,200-plus talents featured in Bridges and Jill S. Tietjen’s book, Hollywood: Her Story, An Illustrated History of Women and the Movies—a “horizontal approach” to film history through archival photographs and direct quotations.
There’s a lot Bridges and Tietjen convey with their book, chief among them: There is no one way to or through Hollywood.
“So many of these women didn’t have the conventional path that they could follow,” Tietjen says.
So, as Tietjen points out, they do it all: Write, produce, and direct. Sometimes, like Lupino, they act. Sometimes, like Streisand, they sing.
“Because that’s what it takes,” Tietjen continues.
And while that’s true today, Tietjen notes that technological advancements have granted access to filmmakers. As DuVernay says in the book, “I’m grateful that I live at a time when access to cameras and distribution platforms and ways to reach audiences outside of the normal Hollywood infrastructure are possible for me, a black person, a woman, than ever before.”
DuVernay was nominated for an Oscar in 2017 for 13th. If you go to the book’s companion website, hollywoodherstory.com, you’ll find two categories relating to the Oscars: nominees and winners sorted by chronology and by category.
“When you look at it by date, you can see how more and more women over the years have been nominated,” Bridges says. “And when you look at it by category, you can see the categories where women really have been able to thrive … and you can see the categories where they have struggled.”
A version of the above interview first appeared in the pages of Boulder Weekly Vol. 28, No. 12, “Home Viewing: Barbara Bridges and Jill S. Tietjen on Hollywood: Her Story.”