Documentary makes way for camerawomen worldwide

Erin Resnick

CSUN Professor Alexis Krasilovsky’s documentary, “Women Behind the Camera,” takes us behind the exciting work of cinematography as seen through the lens of a woman.

Krasilovsky’s film shows camerawomen from across the globe, including places such as Afghanistan, Australia, Canada, China and France that have overcome many obstacles to shoot some of the largest major motion pictures in history. Her documentary recognizes several women that have changed the world through the images they capture in their cameras.

Whether the objective is to open up the public eye to a growing social and economic problem or to simply create an inspiring work of art, these camerawomen are gaining some serious ground in this male-dominated profession, and they’re not slowing down for anyone.

“If you have the drive and the really strong desire to tell a story, you can now,” said camera operator Michelle Crenshaw. “The reason why I wanted to become part of this industry in the first place was to be storyteller.”

A cinematographer’s job is a demanding one both physically and emotionally, with heavy equipment, long hours and big risks that must be taken to snap the perfect shot. Cinematography has always been incorrectly stereotyped as a man’s job, and this film shows how so many women have conquered the odds against them to become successful in a world of discrimination and ongoing sexual harassment within the film industry. It’s Krasilovsky’s hope that this film will inspire more women to pursue their dreams.

“It’s discouraging that the numbers of female directors of photography working on the 250 top-grossing films in Hollywood has only jumped from 3 percent to 4 percent. I hope my film will help to create a more significant change for women,” Krasilovsky said.

The film features many success stories of women that refused to stop at a closed door or take no for an answer. It takes you back to UCLA in the 1970’s when women weren’t even allowed to touch a camera, even though they were attending one of the top three film schools in the nation. It features DP’s like Jessie Maple Patton, who was forced to sue the union in her early years of filmmaking to have her voice heard.

“I was the only black union cameraperson. I was strong. ?I knew what I wanted to be. And I knew I had to know what I was doing in order to go out there, because I knew they were going to test me,” Patton said.

Patton’s story, and many more in this film, show just how much of a struggle it was to gain respect in the film industry.

“Women Behind the Camera” also takes you across the world to countries like Afghanistan, where women are highly oppressed, and shows how they’re moving forward towards changing their culture to become more educated and open-minded as far as women’s capabilities.

The documentary, which won the 2007 Spirit of Moondance Award for Best Documentary Feature this past Sunday after its screening at Universal Citywalk, is based on Krasilovsky’s book of the same title. Krasilovsky’s main drive for the film stemmed from her frustrations in her early years as an aspiring female cinematographer.

Krasilovsky has traveled the world collecting stories from camerawomen in hopes of promoting change for a more fair and promising world of women cinematographers.

For information on the documentary and Krasilovsky’s efforts, visit

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