“Women Behind the Camera,” which audiences will get a sneak preview of Friday, is the latest documentary by Cinema, Television and Arts professor Alexis Krasilovsky. The film shows the obstacles and triumphs in the world of cinematic production through recounts of experiences of 50 camerawomen from 16 countries.
The film is a multi-faceted examination of how these women express their art in their respective film industries or social environments. The unfettered testimonial of these camerawomen, who range from young independent filmmakers to movie industry veterans, give the film an overall honest, simple and to-the-point feel that intrigues the viewer.
Stories include that of American women and their battles with sexual discrimination they faced during film school and in Hollywood. This accounts for most discrimination against camerawomen exhibited in the film in comparison to women from the other countries.
But not all personal accounts were restricted to the strife of discrimination these women encountered when breaking into the industry. The discovery of the love for film and filmmaking and the opportunities the camera has provided them are other main aspects of the documentary.
The variety of experiences shown in the documentary are just as important, ranging from a Senegalese woman who was encouraged by her father to become filmmaker to a Chinese woman who was taught to use a camera and follow Mao Zedong through the rural areas of the country.
The film is the second installation of Krasilovsky’s long-term project. The idea for the film did not come in the form of a light bulb that went off in Krasilovsky’s head. The project was more like a burning thought that consumed her time, energy and resources ever since she started researching the experiences of other women working in film production in the late 1980s. Although major production of the film did not get under way until about six years ago, Krasilovsky began developing the idea for the film in the 1980s.
“We actually started production 20 years ago when we interviewed a leading sex discrimination lawyer, after she had successfully sued major studios on behalf of camerawomen who weren’t able to get jobs despite their qualifications,” Krasilovsky said.
Initially, it was not easy for Krasilovsky to start the film’s production because she experienced difficulty in finding sources of funding. This led to the idea of putting he research into a book called “Women behind the Camera: Conversations with Camerawomen,” which was published in 1997. Krasilovsky said published the book to increase her chances of procuring funding for the movie.
The book focused exclusively on women involved in film production within the United States, an aspect that Krasilovsky said she soon realized was too narrow of a focus for a film. A film that was going to tell the stories of camerawomen needed to share a range of experiences that were not confined by the geographical boundaries of only one country, said Krasilovsky.
“Once I started doing the film, I realized that camerawomen in France, for example, had it easier than camerawomen in Hollywood,” Krasilovsky said. “Then I went to India and interviewed a pioneer camerawoman who has been a director of photography on 20 features (and) who had not experienced sexual harassment as frequently as in the United States. The only way we are going to affect change in Hollywood is to make the comparison to what is going on with camerawomen in other countries.”
Although the documentary is still in its last stages of completion, after six years in production, “Women Behind the Camera” has already received two awards, the Insight Award for documentary editing and the Accolade Award for contemporary issues-awareness raising.
But the recognition has not led to the major funding the movie already requires. Krasilovsky wants to submit the movie to the Cannes Film Festival. But getting the 35-millimeter print copy of the movie, which is required for submission, will cost $30,000, on top of the production costs that run more than $200,000. The funding has come from various sources, including CSUN’s China Institute, the Mike Curb College of Arts, Media, and Communication, and Krasilovsky’s own pocket.
“It’s no longer just a matter of whether or not a camerawoman could be moved up from camera operator to director of photography on a $35 million movie,” Krasilovsky said. “We still have a considerable focus on Hollywood, Bollywood and facets of other film industries, but we also put in the context of what it does to have women picking up cameras-in general, what it mean for our world.”
There will be a sneak preview of Krasilovsky’s documentary showing on Friday at 7 p.m. in the Armer Auditorium in Manzanita Hall.