Film Her-story: Alice Guy Blaché
Have you ever seen a narrative film? The answer is yes. Narrative is without a doubt the dominant form of filmmaking and guess who came up with it?
Alice Guy Blaché was born in Paris on July 1st, 1873 and let’s be real that day should be a holiday because Alice was that badass. At 21 she began to work for a still-photography company but then saw a demonstration of a 60mm motion picture camera and the rest is history (literally). At this time film cameras were only being used to take footage of regular life events such as a train arriving at the station or workers leaving a factory (both done by the Lumiere Brothers). Alice thought that was pretty cool, but also knew she could do cooler stuff.
So in 1896, Alice wrote, directed, and shot the first ever narrative film The Cabbage Fairy (La Fée aux choux) using special effects techniques she learned from still photography. So she didn’t just make the first narrative film…she made the first narrative film with special effects! Imagine you’re in 1896 – seeing a film with sfx is going to knock your socks off. I mean, c’mon, it’s magic. Movie magic.
Alice ended up making between 400 and 1,000 films (the estimates vary) between 1896 and 1920, which is a ridiculous amount either way. Unfortunately, due to film being a medium that ages, many have been lost, but her work can still be found online. She developed so many techniques that are crucial to film today, such as shooting on location, and quite literally invented the job of a film director.
However, she still doesn’t have a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame which is nuts considering she pioneered narrative filmmaking and even people with nothing to offer (*cough, cough* Trump) have one. Her work is still largely unheard of, unless you actually study film history, and I find that absurd since she gave the world of film so much.
So if you’ve ever seen a movie, thank Alice.
Now as for the fact that a woman invented the idea of a film director and yet are currently absurdly underrepresented in that field…well that’s a story for another day.