Women behind the camera

From an advertisement for the Kinora home movie camera

I have been adding texts of my talks, essays, filmographies and other work on to my personal website, www.lukemckernan.com, where I am free to do so. Do take a look at the Publications, Talks, Shows and Research sections for assorted interests of mine in the worlds of early and silent cinema, which I hope may be of use to others.

The latest text to go up is Women Silent Filmmakers in Britain. This is a filmography of films directed, shot, produced, scripted or edited by women in Britain in the silent era – a full filmography in each case, not just the handful of films that survive. It’s something that I first put together some time in the late 1990s, and it’s still very much a work in progress, so any comments, corrections or additions (especially new names) will be most welcome. Among the names listed are scriptwriters Muriel Alleyne, Lydia Hayward, Alma Reville and Blanche McIntosh; directors Ethyle Batley, Frances E. Grant, Dinah Shurey, and Jakidawdra Melford; camera operators Jessica Borthwick and Mrs Aubrey Le Blond; scientific filmmaker Mrs D.H. Scott, editor Adeline Culley, executive Ada Aline Urban, and many more.

It’s an area ripe for more research. British silent cinema itself is still an undervalued and neglected field, and the significant role of women in film production at that time is scarcely known. A pioneering piece of writing is Katherine Newey’s essay ‘Women and Early British Film’ in Linda Fitzsimmons and Sarah Street (eds.), Moving Performance (Trowbridge: Flicks Books, 2000). However, there is much new activity in the field, including an ongoing ‘Women in Silent Britain’ project which was discussed at the recent British Silent Cinema Festival. More news on this work as and when we get it. I’ll also be posting pieces on individual women filmmakers (and not just British) in the future.

(By the way, the image at the top of this post comes from a 1911 booklet, The Golden Book of Motion Photography, advertising the use of home movie cameras. It comes from Barry Anthony’s The Kinora: Motion Pictures for the Home 1896-1914).

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