Paris, 1895. The Lumière brothers host a private screening of the Cinématographe, the world’s first projector of moving images. Amongst the small select group of friends, watching in awe at the birth of cinema, sits a young Alice Guy, secretary to studio owner, Leon Gaumont. She envisions the future of filmmaking and little she knows, she is about to craft it.
By 1896 Alice Guy, better known as Alice Guy-Blaché, had directed one of cinema’s earliest narrative films, La Fee aux Choux (The Cabbage Fairy). Pioneering in the use of close-ups, interracial casting, color timing and synchronized sound as early as 1905, Alice wrote, produced or directed more than 1,000 films over a 20-year career. She ran the Gaumont Film Company (now the world’s oldest film studio) with great success for over a decade and later became the first woman to own a motion picture studio called The Solax Company.
Mother, wife, entrepreneur and one of the highest paid women in the US, memory has been unkind to the brilliance and pioneering of Madame Blaché, and her place in the storytelling of cinema’s history almost vanished. It took 117 years after that revolutionary evening with the Lumière brothers, until Guy-Blaché was awarded the Director’s Guild Lifetime Achievement ‘posthumous’ Award.
We owe to Madame Blaché technological innovation, fearless storytelling and ultimately, her audacity to imagine narrative filmmaking before it even existed.
By Ana Carrizales
WIFTV and Cineworks member Ana Carrizales is a Vancouver-based actress, filmmaker & media creator. She is passionate about female-driven storytelling and is currently developing a global platform for women to share their stories.