Geeks and nerds are hard to identify in history. Since the 1950’s, there has been numerous geeks and nerds that have brought us amazing advances in human living. But before the 1950’s, you did not have computers, smartphones, advanced TV’s, or even good radios. The main geeks and nerds were the people who made film and movies. And a Kickstarter project is wanting to tell the story of Alice Guy-Blaché, who at 23 was the first female director, became a powerful figure in film, then she vanished. You could say that she was one of the early women geeks in existence! Here is the Kickstarter video.
The year is 1895. A new technology called the “mechanical pencil” is patented, the first comic strip is printed in a newspaper, and photography is the talk of the town. This is the dawn of the modern era, and there are no limits to what the future holds. Major innovations in technology change the way people live, work, travel, dress, communicate, and the way they are entertained. In Paris, the Lumière Brothers have one of their first private screenings of their revolutionary Cinématographe, the first reliable system to project moving images. A small group of friends and colleagues, including engineer and industrialist Léon Gaumont, watch in awe the soon-to-be famous footage of workers leaving a factory. Cinema is born.
There is a young woman in the audience. Her name is Alice. She is 23. She is secretary to Léon Gaumont. She experiences the light and shadows of the flowing sequence of images on the screen as more than a technological wonder. She sees life. She sees stories. She sees the future. Alice Guy (after her marriage known as Madame Blaché and after her divorce as Alice Guy-Blaché) went on to make one of the first narrative films ever made. By her own account, she made it in 1896 (some say before Georges Méliès).
And she kept going. She made one of the first films ever with a close-up, created synchronized sound films as early as 1902, was in good part responsible for the birth and growth of the Gaumont film studio in Paris, France, which she ran for almost a decade (1897-1907), and in 1910, she founded, built, and ran her own studio, Solax, first in Flushing, New York, then in Fort Lee, New Jersey (not far from where Edison and D.W. Griffith worked). She was a wife and a mother. She wrote, directed, or produced more than a 1,000 films over her 20-year-long career.
Then it all ended. Her name disappeared from film history, and her legacy vanished into the shadows. A pioneer in the movie industries of both France and the U.S., an innovative filmmaker with a career spanning 1896 to 1920, director, screenwriter, producer, studio owner, CEO, entrepreneur (as well as wife and mother). If she had done only one of these jobs in the earliest years of cinema, it would have been enough to win her a firm place in cinema history. This feature documentary sheds new light on the many accomplishments of Alice Guy-Blaché, a woman you ought to know.
Now, filmmakers Pamela Green and Jarik van Sluijs have gone around the world to research and dig up answers about the career and life of Alice Guy-Blaché. They have print and audio interviews with Alice herself, old family 8mm films, recordings, photos, scrapbooks of clippings collected by Alice’s stars, and letters in her own hand. They have discovered and translated French documents, and found rare correspondence written by Alice in English that brings new insight into the story. It seems that the more they dig up, the more they are led to new clues, and as each clue leads them to another, it recasts their understanding of an earlier discovery. The feature documentary will include this new material, much of it seen or heard for the first time.
The early filmmakers were explorers. Like Columbus, Alice Guy-Blaché had to navigate through many unknowns, but through experimentation, determination, and vision, she reached new shores. What was it that made her who she was? What drove her, inspired her, propelled her imagination? And what or who made her disappear from history? And, especially, why? It was an exciting era, and Alice Guy-Blaché was one of its most creative forces. For Alice, the camera, film, the projector, and the Chronophone sound system were all new technologies, and the rules for how to use them had not been written. For us, witnessing the digital imaging revolution – YouTube, Instagram, Vine, and many other new technologies – the rules continue to be newly written.
The documentary will be both grand and personal. Grand, because to tell the story of Alice Guy-Blaché, the director, is to tell the story of film, and to tell the story of film is to tell the story of the modern world. Personal, because of the amazing materials they have found which will allow them to tell her story through her own words. Imagine, she was born before electric light was invented; lived through two world wars, saw the invention of television, and died in New Jersey in 1968 while the U.S. was at war with Vietnam.
The film is mostly shot with a Canon C300, and some scenes will boast 2D and 3D CGI recreations of the locations, technologies, objects, and settings of Alice’s story. Executive Producer of the film will be Robert Redford and it will be narrated by Jodie Foster. An amazing amount of people will be participating in the film. Take a look below!
In Be Natural, they will continue to enhance the graphic approach they have perfected in previous projects such as The Kingdom, 42, and Bhutto, for which they were nominated for an Emmy as co-producers, and the mini-documentary sequences for VH1ʼs Soul Divas: History of Soul Music. Their aesthetic approach will be guided by the look and feel of the turning point between the Belle Époque and the early 20th century filtered through a modern lens. They need Kickstarter because films like this are not easily funded through Hollywood. They need funding to complete their research, find the right footage, preserve and/or copy it, and then obtain the rights, so they can include them in their documentary.
Ultimately, the greatest risk and challenge is raising the funds to cover not just the completion of the first rough cut, but to complete the final film, and get it into theaters. They have assembled an amazing team of designers, editors, musicians, writers, CG artists, researchers, film licensing experts, sound designers and other talent to make Alice’s story memorable. the filmmakers have worked for more than two years to make this documentary perfect, but they need $200,000 on Kickstarter. Please support them!
As of August 22nd, this Kickstarter project has raised around $120,000 of the $200,000 goal they need to be funded. And as you know in Kickstarter, a project is not funded until the fundraising goal is reached! This project only has 4 days left to reach the $200,000 goal. For a pledge of $19, you will get a digital download of all their Kickstarter videos – the pitch, the trailer, the updates, plus a special Behind The Scenes video! For a pledge of $35, you will get a digital download of the final movie! There are many other pledge levels you can choose from! To learn more about Be Natural: The Untold Story of Alice Guy-Blaché and to pledge money, go to: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/benatural/be-natural-the-untold-story-of-alice-guy-blache
- Alice Guy-Blache: Kickstarter project started on 1st female director (cnn.com)
- The First Woman Behind a Camera, Now Forgotten – ADRIENNE VOGT (emotanafricana.com)
- In the Works: BE NATURAL (whatnottodoc.com)
- The Evening Post: God Made A Geek (geekalabama.com)