Feature film and documentary DoP Nancy Schreiber is the very first female cinematographer to receive the ASC’s Presidents Award and it might, just might, inspire young women to take up cinematography with an eye on working in feature films. I certainly hope so.
As reported in Variety, over the last thirty years the American Society of Cinematographers has given the Presidents Award to a list of distinguished male Directors of Photography including Gimme Shelter‘s Albert Maysles, Blade Runner‘s Douglas Trumbull, Justified‘s Francis Kenny and Star Wars‘ Richard Edlund.
The only other female movie professional and ASC member to win an ASC award, DoP Tami Reiker, won 2004’s Movie of the Week or Pilot for lensing the first season of Carnivalé released by HBO.
Before the World Wide Web came into being freeing up the sharing of information, gatekeepers controlled access to facts about career possibilities, especially for women.
Growing up in a far-flung regional capital meant submitting to what one was told one was permitted to do artistically and professionally, and those who kicked against the pricks were severely censured, even blacklisted.
There were no female cinematographers or directors to be seen, no role models and certainly no mentors. Potentially brilliant careers were curbed and subjected to the interests of the gatekeepers’ hold on power.
Only those of the right gender and background were permitted to know about further professional moviemaking education then given the chance of applying for it, often with a well-mentored career to follow.
Without positive examples of successful female filmmakers and especially cinematographers, I and other visual storytelling creatives of my acquaintance flushed their hopes and dreams of moviemaking careers for more mundane occupations supporting men in the traditional manner or employment in production support if they were lucky.
Most just stopped being creative, dreams shattered completely.
The Presidents Award, writes Variety‘s Valentina I. Valentini, “honors a member’s contribution to the next generation of DPs. Schreiber has been a longtime mentor to younger camera crew members, and has worked with Film Independent’s Project Involve — a program designed to enhance the careers of women and people of color.”
We all know the dismal statistics about the lack of filmmakers of color in the industry. Women and LGBT artists also nearly impossible to find. Project Involve is working to change all that….
Ms Schreiber, Variety‘s article continues, “has taught advanced cinematography at the American Film Institute, and is a guest lecturer at film schools around the world.”
If only someone like Nancy Schreiber had existed when I was young, and had reached out to potential young filmmakers outside the film school system in the east.
Variety‘s article ends with this inspirational quote:
“If this award does anything,” says Schreiber, “it will open some doors to the younger generation of women, to show that they can succeed, that they can work in all areas of the film and television industry.”
As the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media so wisely states in its motto, “If she can see it, she can be it.”
Header aka featured image created for this website in Photoshop by Carmel D. Morris.