In the 1940s, two female intellectuals, coming from very different positions, began to theorize gender and economy in studio Hollywood. In this fourth series installment, Kerry McElroy delves into the changing and ironic state of affairs for actresses in the 1940s— unexpected autonomy and worsening exploitation. Food restriction, forced cosmetic surgery, suspensions, and poverty were largely the order of the tyrannical day. McElroy also looks at the last living Golden-Age star, Olivia de Havilland, and her landmark 1943 court case on contracts and suspensions.
The 1930’s saw the studio system in peak Fordist condition, especially in terms of its financial and bodily control over women. “Glamour” was the disciplinary strategy of the day, and the most famous women stars of the twentieth century learned to negotiate it in new ways. In this third series installment, Kerry McElroy looks at race, queerness, and economic disadvantage in Depression-era Hollywood. Women like Mae West created new channels of power, attaining international stardom and unfathomable wealth in the process. Bette Davis, on the other hand, brought forth a watershed court case for actors’ rights, and demonstrated just how much the industry feared political agitation and class consciousness.
After a halcyon decade of growth and promise for women in Hollywood, patriarchal, hyper-capitalism closed like a vise around the industry. With this second series installment, Kerry McElroy explores Los Angeles in the 1920s. Women migrating west in large numbers represented an exciting cultural phenomenon but also a social problem that needed to be regulated. Just as the “casting couch” was becoming an entrenched industrial practice, a notorious rape trial shocked the industry and re-victimized women. In the midst of these grim developments, a few actresses did manage to become global, superstars, amassing real wealth.
In this installment of Women in Film Portraits, Lauren Sowa profiles Autumn Moran, a New York based cinematographer who has worked in multiple mediums. Autumn talks with Lauren about her mentors and heroes, current film projects, and about lessons worth imparting to the next generation of DP’s.
To understand the current #MeToo/Time’s Up moment, we must reckon with a century of Hollywood’s mistreatment of women. With this first series installment, Kerry McElroy takes us back to the industry’s earliest decade in Los Angeles. This was a time of surprising feminine power. Cinema emerged alongside the New Woman, utopian promises of California, the stunt queen, and global female celebrity. It took time for capitalist forces to reassert a gendered order.
Kerry McElroy announces a timely and compelling series that will run bi-monthly this fall at The Independent. The series titled, “Bette, Marilyn, and #MeToo: What Studio-Era Actresses Can Teach Us About Economics and Resistance Post-Weinstein,” highlights Hollywood legends (including Olivia de Havilland, Louise Brooks, Marilyn Monroe, and Elizabeth Taylor) who all carved out spaces of autonomy in a decidedly male-controlled film industry at the height of its exploitative powers. McElroy will reveal, through analysis that spans seven decades, what these actresses have to teach us in this contemporary moment of feminist reckoning.
In this installment of Women in Film Portraits, Lauren Sowa profiles Joanna Pickering, a New York based filmmaker and activist who has worked in television, film, stage, and radio. Joanna has made over 20 independent films and is currently co-starring in Pelleas. Joanna talks with Sowa about this project and about her many collaborations with inspiring creative women.
In this third installment of The Global Screen, Joe Cruz discusses diasporic and nationalistic contestations emerging in Puerto Rico’s guerrilla cinema. In a way, films belonging to this movement articulate a somewhat transgressive view of Puerto Rico’s national identity. Although the century-old colonial rule continues to draw criticism, no longer is the island territory’s rural past romanticized. Instead, new cinematic discourses concerned with exploring Puerto Ricans’ national identity through the lens of current en masse migration to North American metropolis seem to be taking shape.
In this installment of Women in Film Portraits, Lauren Sowa profiles Lauren Atkins, creator of the award-winning web series My Friends Think I am Funny. Atkins founded NYC Web Fest after recognizing there were several festivals showcasing digital series on the west coast but nothing in New York. After a successful launch in 2014, NYC Web Fest continues to gain in size and momentum, with guests flying in from around the world. Here Atkins talks with Sowa about her creative influences and her approach to challenges.
In this installment of Women in Film Portraits, Lauren Sowa profiles Alex Cirillo and Dani Faith Leonard, the producers and founders of Big Vision Empty Wallet. Cirillo and Leonard share their enthusiasm for producing and about interesting projects currently in the works. They also reflect on what it means to be female creative artists and entrepreneurs in the film industry at this time.