The statistics are disheartening. In the last five years, women accounted for just 3% of the cinematographers among the 250 top-grossing films. No female DP has ever been nominated for an Academy Award. We recently published a first-person story from Elle Schneider, director, cinematographer and co-founder of the Digital Bolex cinema camera, in which she talked about why there aren’t more female cinematographers and why we need to change that.
But the news isn’t entirely depressing. Female cinematographers are beginning to make inroads and these eight in particular have been making an indelible mark in the field. Below we highlight eight female cinematographers you should know about (in alphabetical order):
Maryse Alberti: Not one to shy from difficult or political subject matter, Alberti has established herself in both the documentary and the narrative worlds. Since receiving Sundance Film Festival Best Cinematography honors for documentaries “H-2 Worker” in 1990 and “Crumb” in 1995, Alberti began a long-time collaboration with Alex Gibney, on films including “We Steal Secrets,” “The Armstrong Lie” and “Taxi to the Dark Side,” which won the 2008 Academy Award for Best Documentary. She has also worked with indie auteurs Todd Haynes (“Poison,” “Velvet Goldmine”), Todd Solondz (“Happiness”) and Darren Aronofsky (“The Wrestler”). Alberti is currently shooting “Freehold,” starring Steve Carell, Julianne Moore and Ellen Page, with director Peter Sollett.
Autumn Durald: After shooting a handful of commercials, music videos and shorts, including several for Gia Coppola, Durald was selected to shoot Coppola’s feature directorial debut, “Palo Alto,” starring Emma Roberts and James Franco. Her latest project is “One & Two” for Andrew Droz Palermo. Though she’s just starting out her career, she’s already established herself as a cinematographer to watch. Read our interview with Durald here.
Ellen Kuras: When you mention the dearth of female cinematographers, undoubtedly someone will toss out Kuras’ name – and with good reason. The Emmy-winning, Oscar-nominated Kuras was the unprecedented three-time winner of the Best Dramatic Cinematography award at Sundance for “Swoon,” “Angela” and “Personal Velocity.” She also earned cult status with her work on Michel Gondry’s “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” and “Be Kind Rewind.”
Reed Morano: Since filming the Oscar-nominated “Frozen River” Morano has shot a string of films which have premiered at Sundance, including, most recently, “The Skeleton Twins” and “War Story.” In 2013, Morano was invited to become a member of the American Society of Cinematographers, making her one of only 11 women out of approximately 339 active members in the organization (per her web site). Last year also saw the release of “Kill Your Darlings,” and “The Inevitable Defeat of Mister & Pete,” which Morano shot for directors John Krokidas and George Tillman, Jr., respectively. On the TV side, she shot the first season of HBO’s “Looking.”
Rachel Morrison: With feature credits including “Little Accidents,” which premiered at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival and “Fruitvale Station,” which won both the Audience Award and Grand Jury Prize at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival, Morrison has earned a reputation for crafting haunting images that tap into the emotional core. Though she primarily focuses on narrative films, Morrison received an Emmy nomination for Showtime’s “Riker’s High,” a documentary about a high school within the Riker’s Island prison system. Most recently, she shot “Cake,” starring Jennifer
Aniston, Anna Kendrick and Sam Worthington for director Daniel Barnz.
Tami Reiker: Award-winning cinematographer Tami Reiker, ASC made history by becoming the first woman to win an American Society of Cinematographers award. In 2004, she took home the ASC Outstanding Achievement in Cinematography Award for her work on the HBO pilot, “Carnivalé.” Earlier in her career, she worked with directors such as Miguel Arteta (“Getting On” pilot), Lisa Cholodenko (“High Art”) and Peter Hedges (“Pieces of April). Reiker recently shot “Beyond the Lights,” starring Minnie Driver, Danny Glover and newcomer Gugu Mbatha-Raw, with director Gina Prince-Bythewood (for whom she previously shot HBO’s “Disappearing Acts”). Read our interview with Reiker here.
Nancy Schreiber: Having come up through the ranks as an electrician and a gaffer, Schreiber established herself as a DP working alongside directors such as Michael Lehmann, Neil LaBute and Joe Berlinger. She was voted into the American Society of Cinematographers over a decade ago, becoming the fourth female in the organization’s history. Most recently, Schreiber shot Robert B. Weide’s documentary on Woody Allen, “Fugly!,” and “A Short History of Decay.”
Sandy Sissel: Sandy Sissel broke barriers for women in the field of cinematography. Having started out as a cinematographer at NBC and ABC where she received two Emmy awards on “Her Majesty’s Britannia” and coverage of the war in Vietnam, Sissel shot countless segments for ABC’s “20/20,” “Saturday Night Live” and “60 Minutes” during the 1970s and ’80s. She transitioned seamlessly to film, serving as the DP on the Oscar-nominated “Salaam Bombay.” Over the years, she has worked on numerous Oscar and Emmy-winning documentaries including “Jane Goodall: Chimps So Like Us,” “Chisolm 72,” “Free Angela” and “Before Stonewall,” as well as narrative features including Tyler Perry’s “Meet the Brown’s” and Wes Craven’s “The People Under the Stairs.”
Mandy Walker: After starting out as a camera operator, Walker moved on to cinematography, working on documentary shorts before becoming a DP on films such as “Lantana” and “Shattered Glass.” Her work on John Curran’s “Tracks,” starring Mia Wasikowska and Adam Driver, has been widely praised. She recently completed “Jane Got a Gun,” starring Natalie Portman and Ewan McGregor, for director Gavin O’Connor. She’s currently shooting “Truth,” starring Cate Blanchett, Robert Redford and Elisabeth Moss for director James Vanderbilt.