NYWIFT Blog

Below the Line: A Cut Above – Costume Designer Ruth E. Carter

Ruth E. Carter is an American costume designer (and NYWFT Designing Women honoree!) with an unparalleled ability to develop an authentic story through costume and character. And this year she became the first African American woman to win an Academy Award for costume design for her work in Black Panther.

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Below the Line: A Cut Above – Production Designer Hannah Beachler

Production Designer Hannah Beachler created the iconic looks of "Creed," "Moonlight," and Beyonce's "Lemonade" before taking on the fictional world of Wakanda in "Black Panther," which won her a 2019 Academy Award. She is the first-ever African American - male or female - to take home that honor.

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Below the Line: A Cut Above – Film Editor Joi McMillon

Joi McMillon made Oscar history in 2018 when she became the first African American woman nominated for Best Achievement in Film Editing for Moonlight. But the road to the Oscars wasn’t straight or smooth.

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Below the Line: A Cut Above – Audio Engineer Ai-Ling Lee

This Women's History Month we celebrate women working below the line! Originally from Singapore, Ai-Ling Lee is the first Asian woman to be nominated for an Academy Award for sound editing. In 2016 she was nominated for sound editing and sound mixing for the modern musical La La Land.

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Below the Line: A Cut Above – Costume Designer Edith Head

This Women’s History Month, we’re highlighting the oft unsung yet always vital contributions of those working below the line. Join NYWIFT blog contributors Kathryn O’Kane and Mellini Kantayya as they celebrate a few of the many women in history and making history—“Below the Line: A Cut Above.” We start with costume legend Edith Head.

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Trailblazing Through the Decades: Maleni Chaitoo (2010s)

NYWIFT member Maleni Chaitoo is an actress and a producer. She is known for her appearance in the “New York, I Love You” episode of Master of None and her role as Kayla on the web series Don’t Shoot the Messenger, on which she is also an executive producer.

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Trailblazing through the Decades: Gina Prince-Bythewood (2000s)

In 2000, writer, director, and past NYWIFT Writers Lab mentor Gina Prince-Bythewood blazed a trail with her film Love and Basketball. Not only was the film a critical and commercial success, it won the Humanitas Prize and an Independent Spirit Award for Best First Feature.

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Trailblazing through the Decades: Cheryl Dunye (1990s)

Twenty years ago a young artist set out to make a documentary about women like herself: black queer filmmakers. She found nothing but homophobia and omission, and then… inspiration. The resulting film The Watermelon Woman marked Cheryl Dunye’s 1996 debut – a hybrid of autobiography, documentary, and comedy. It defies categorization and was the first feature film directed by an African American lesbian.

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Trailblazing Through the Decades: Jessie Maple (1980s)

Jessie Maple is the first black woman to join the union of International Photographers of Motion Picture & Television (IATSE) in New York. Her book, How to Become a Union Camerawoman , is an instructional guide illustrating the obstacles that she endured to get into the union. It details the court case she initiated to fight discrimination after she became a member.

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Trailblazing through the Decades: Sandra Osawa (1970s)

Sandra Osawa is a director, producer, and writer. She is a member of the Makah Nation of Washington State. One could argue that news coverage of Native American issues is still vastly lacking today. Thus, Sandra Osawa was a true ground-breaker in 1974 by directing, producing, and writing NBC’s first news program on Native American issues

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Trailblazing Through the Decades: Ida Lupino (1950s)

British-American actress and producer Ida Lupino, got her start directing when the director of the 1949 film Not Wanted suffered a heart attack during pre-production. Lupino stepped in and shot the film guerilla style to keep the movie on budget and on schedule. Budgeted at just over $150,000, the film grossed $1 million, and Lupino’s reputation spread through Hollywood studios even though the original director retained credit.

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Trailblazing through the Decades: Hedy Lamarr (1940s)

During WWII, a hobbyist inventor worked to help the military come up with a secure communication system to combat the Nazis. By manipulating radio frequencies at irregular intervals between transmission and reception, the invention formed an unbreakable code that prevented classified messages from being intercepted by enemy personnel. This patented form of frequency hopping revolutionized modern communications and formed the foundation for Wi-Fi, cell phone, and Bluetooth technology. The inventor’s name was Hedy Lamarr, and she was also a Hollywood star during MGM’s “Golden Age.”

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Trailblazing through the Decades: Esther Eng (1930s)

In honor of Women's History Month, NYWIFT looks back at some of the remarkable women who have shaped the film, television and digital media industries through the decades. We kick off the series in the 1930s. Esther Eng was a film director who also worked as a writer, producer, and distributor. She had an international career, making films both in the United States and Hong Kong. She was the first woman to direct Chinese language films in the U.S.

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Women in Film & Television History: Meet Tressie Souders, Director, Producer, Screenwriter

The story of Tressie Souders, or perhaps more accurately, the lack of details about Tressies Souders’ life and work exemplifies the need to research and rescue early film-works of women and women of color.

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Women in Film & Television History: Meet Marion E. Wong, Film Company President, Director, Screenwriter, Producer, Actor, Costume Designer

During the silent film era, Marion E. Wong started the Mandarin Film Company, the first Chinese-American film company. The company’s feature film The Curse of the Quon Gwon: When the Far East Mingles with West (1916) is credited as being the first American film made with an all-Chinese cast and company as well as one of the first films directed by a woman.

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Women in Film & Television History: Meet Ethel Payne, Journalist & First Female African-American National Network News Commentator

Ethel Payne was known in as “the first lady of the black press” and was described by journalist Gwen Ifil as “the most influential journalist and activist most people have never heard of.”

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Women in Film & Television History: Meet Dorothy Arzner, Director, Editor, Screenwriter, Boom Inventor

Dorothy Arzner is one of the most prolific directors of early American cinema, having worked with some of the biggest stars of the era. She is also the first woman to direct a film with sound. It was during such a project that Arzner is credited with inventing the boom microphone!

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Ina Archer, Custodian and Creator of Distinct Cinema, Picks Five Essential Films Restored by the WFPF

Experimental filmmaker and media preservationist Ina Archer picks her top five films preserved by the NYWIFT Women's Film Preservation Fund (WFPF) - each an important installment in the history of women filmmakers.

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