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Interview with Filmmakers of Be Natural: The Life and Work of Alice Guy Blaché

By JULENE ALLEN


"A documentary searching for Alice Guy-Blaché, who at 23 was the first female director, became a powerful figure in film, then vanished."--BeNaturalTheMovie.com

It's a project that anyone and everyone could deem crucial to history. “One must know their past in order to safe-guard their future!”  This statement could be most applied to Hollywood and women. "Be Natural" is a documentary that reveals the life and work of Alice Guy-Blaché, the first woman film director and the first woman to make fiction films. Unbeknown to the film making world until recently, she was an avant-garde, even being the first woman studio owner and contributing over 1000 films to early cinema.


Pamela Green and Jarik van Sluijs, two Hollywood filmmakers whose work can be attributed to films like The Bourne Supremacy, Sex and the City, Twilight,  G.I. Joe and many, many others set out to investigate Blaché's life and work. They first learned of Alice Guy-Blaché on Barbra Streisand's `Reel Models,  which  introduced the life and work of Hollywood's forgotten history.  Upon examining the life of this remarkable woman who lived nearly a century, they learned that there were a jungle of details that had never been disclosed. Such as, the title of the movie was a phrase adopted by Alice. She posted signs throughout her studio that stated "Be Natural". It was advice given to new actors that were being introduced to this nouveau medium, film-making. Green and Sluijs' two year research unveils reels and other wonders that were perceived as lost or negligible.

This project will resurrect a subject that seemed to disappear from history. Besides, it would be a great injustice if Alice’s work continued to be accredited by others and those deserted films that could be retrieved continue to occupy backrooms and storage areas. Similarly, it would be a greater tragedy if her place in history is muted, even though many sought out to correct the books, even Alice herself. A project such as this could refurbish much of what has been abandoned.

She was born in 1873 and died in 1968.  Alice Guy survived two World Wars and departed at the brink of the war in Vietnam. Her life seems paramount to American history. Before women had gained the right to vote, Alice Guy-Blaché was producing and directing films. In an era when women were working at home, Blaché was successful and seemed independent. She started  off as a secretary for  Léon Gaumont, who eventually established Gaumont Film Company. There, Blaché made her first film in 1896. She was only 23 at the time.  Yet she went on to make tons of other films, including La Vie du Christ (Life of Christ) which was considered a large budget film.

In 1906, she was assigned head of production at Gaumont. Making her way from to France to the United States, she ran her own film studio called Solax in Flushing, New York then in Fort Lee, New Jersey. She owned her own building and plant, which is quite an impressive accomplishment for anyone, even today. Blaché wore many hats. She was made director, screenwriter, producer, studio owner, CEO, entrepreneur, as well as wife and mother.  Her film making career lasted until 1922.

She was a pioneer in cinema, though the odds were stacked against her.  Filmmaker, Pamela Green attributes this to her youth and tenaciousness. "Alice kept going and she had everything and everyone against her". Green notes that Guy was a daughter of booksellers. So it was possibly ingrained in her to tell stories. She even took on the technical side of the industry. This included being one of the first to use early film making techniques and taking on synchronized sound,  years before Hollywood adopted its regular use.  

In spite of Blaché many successes, she still remains a secret to much of the world. The "Be Natural" project will reveal mounting pieces of material that consist of unseen footage, her biography, essential documents and other types of memorabilia. The projects assures a trip inside Alice's world, flashing back to her innovations and merging them with modern techniques. The project runs a Kickstarter campaign on the web that has a goal of $200,000 that must be fulfilled by August 27th. The campaign has already received over 30% of this goal. If things go as plan, the release of the film will be expected sometime in 2015. Above all, this project is being anticipated by many women. They continue to applaud "Be Natural" for such a considerable contribution. Blaché's story is close and personal for women-- young, mature, professional and filmmaker.  Her life  serve as both model and platform for a landmark accomplishment of the 20th century. She followed her passion in a time that did not quite advocate women's work outside the home, nevertheless being a proprietor. The life and work of Alice Guy-Blaché is a magnificent plea for a story. The woman that spearheaded the film industry should be divulged and sanctioned.

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Julene Allen Julene Allen Author

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