Lesbian Filmmakers & Directors
Through History

In 93 years of The Academy Awards, only:
7 female directors have been nominated for Best Director.
2 female Filmmakers have won!
Discover some lesbian filmmakers & queer female directors from 1896 to 2020s you should know about.

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Lesbian Filmmakers From 1890s to 2020s

Not only are lesbian filmakers hugely under-represented in the film industry but in general why is Hollywood still so boystown? Lights, Camera, Stats! I wanted to be a cinematographer - a massive stats attack!

According to the Annenberg Institute, of the top 1,200 films from 2007 to 2018:

Female Filmmakers / Directors
. 4% of those films were directed by women.
. 17.4% of those female directors, had gotten to direct another movie beyond their debut feature
. 13% directed a second, 2.2% a third, and 2.2% a fourth.
. women worked across four decades (from their 30s through their 60s, making one to four films).

Male Filmmakers / Directors
. 96% of those films were directed by men.
. 45.7% of men who made a top movie in the last decade, had gotten to direct more movies after their feature film debut ...

. 21% directed a second, 13.1% a third, 6.2% a fourth and 5.5% a fifth or more.
. Men's careers spanned seven decades (from their 20s to their 80s, making one to 17 films)

Poignant, of the top 100 grossing movies from 2019
. 10.6% of the directors were women (up from 4.5%, in 2018)
...of course men can vote for female-directed films. Slick female-directed movies tend to deal with relationships between women, and sometimes the men in these movies are ancillary to the plot. So most of the screen time belongs to... hurrah... the ladies. Check out the past Academy Award movie winners in the last ten years Parasite, Green Book, The Shape of Water, Moonlight, Spotlight, Birdman, 12 Years a Slave, Argo, The Artist, The King's Speech.

Now check out which female filmmakers / directors have been nominated over 93 years as best Academy Award film directors:
. Lina Wertmüller (in 1976, for Seven Beauties),
. Jane Campion (in 1993, for The Piano),
. Sofia Coppola (in 2003, for Lost in Translation),
. Kathryn Bigelow (in 2009, for The Hurt Locker - winner)
. Greta Gerwig (in 2017, for Lady Bird). . Chloé Zhao (in 2021, for Nomadland - winner). . Emerald Fennell (in 2021, for Promising Young Woman).

Wohoo - it's a boy's celluloid world: portrayals of female characters in the top grossing films of 2019
. The percentage of top grossing films featuring female protagonists rose from 31% in 2018 to 40% in 2019, reaching a recent historic high.
. 68% of all female characters were white in the top 100 films of 2019. 20% were Black, 7% were Asian, and 5% were Latina according to womenandhollywood
. 43% of films featured male protagonists, and 17% had ensembles or a combination of male and female protagonists.

Behind-the-Scenes Employment of Women on the 250 Films of 2019, from womenintvfilm:
. Women comprised 13% of directors working on the top 250 films in 2019, up from 8% in 2018, and up 2 percentage points from the previous high of 11% in 2017.
. Women working in these roles on the top 250 grossing films experienced a slight increase from 20% in 2018 to 21% in 2019.
. By role (on the top 250 films), women comprised 19% of writers, 21% of executive producers, 27% of producers, 23% of editors, 5% of cinematographers, 6% of composers, 40% of music supervisors, 9% of supervising sound editors, 4% of sound designers, 23% of production designers, 31% of art directors, 4% of special effects supervisors, and 6% of visual effects supervisors.

We are going into the 2020's, come on boy's embrace talented lesbian and female filmmakers!

Lesbian filmmakers: Alice Guy-Blaché

Alice Guy-Blaché

French Film Director: 1873 –1968

Alice Guy-Blaché was a French pioneer filmmaker who was one of the first women to direct a film, making more than 1,000 films, many of which put women to the fore. In 1910 she started her own company, Solax.

Her 1896 silent movie, La Fée aux Choux (The Cabbage-Patch Fairy) features cross-dressed fairies kissing! FYI - Alice's film was only one year after the Lumière brothers presented the first projected moving pictures to a paying audience, in December 1895 in Paris, France.

Lesbian Screenwriters: I.A.R. Wylie

I.A.R. Wylie

Australian-British-American Screenwriter & Novelist: 1890 – 1983

Between 1915 and 1957, over 30 movies were made based on Ida Alexa Ross Wylie's (pen name I.A.R. Wylie) novels and short stories, including Phone Call from a Stranger (1952) starring Bette Davis which won a Venice Festival Award, Keeper of the Flame (1942), starring Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn and The Young in Heart (1938) starring Douglas Fairbanks Jr which was nominated for 3 Oscars.

Reading between the lines, it looks like Ida had a wee fling with Welsh Suffragette and editor of "The Suffragette", Rachel Barrett and later a Boston Marriage with American physician Sara Josephine Baker. FYI she joined the suffragette movement and provided a safe house for women who were released from prison where they could recover from hunger strikes under the "Cat and Mouse Act" without being watched by the police.

Lesbian filmmakers: Jane Loring

Jane Loring

American Film Editor: 1890 – 1983

Jane Loring was the first woman ever to cut a motion picture. She edited 23 Hollywood films including Thirty Day Princess (1934) starring Cary Grant and worked with director Dorothy Arzner.

Jane was "good friends" with Katharine Hepburn and edited many of Hepburn's films. Her life long companion was Anna Graf, sister of the movie producer William Graf (Lawrence of Arabia) who inherited the bulk of Jane's estate when she died in 1983 and later had her letters destroyed. More

Lesbian filmmakers: Mercedes de Acosta

Mercedes de Acosta

American Screenwriter: 1892 – 1968

Though Mercedes de Acosta's writings did not receive great acclaim, she was hugely successful as a key member of "The Sewing Circle" - a discreet women's "club" for Hollywood's underground lesbians.

Her tell-all autobiography reveals her love affairs with Alla Nazimova, Greta Garbo, Isadora Duncan, Marlene Dietrich, Eva Le Gallienne...

Lesbian filmmakers: Dorothy Arzner

Dorothy Arzner

American Film Director: 1897 – 1979

During the "Golden Age" of Hollywood, Dorothy Arzner was the only woman director. She made 3 silent movies and 14 "talkies" and became the first woman to direct a talky, Manhattan Cocktail (1928). Moreover, Dorothy Arzner was one of the first directors to create a boom microphone, in 1929.

Her long-time "companion" (of 40 years, bravo) was Marion Morgan, a choreographer.

Lesbian filmmakers: Tazuko Sakane

Tazuko Sakane

Japanese Film Director: 1904 - 1975

Directing New Clothing, Tazuko Sakane became the first and only woman director in Japan, between 1936 - 1953. She directed 15 films including Brides on the Frontier a propaganda film to encourage Japanese young woman to become the wives of Japanese emigrants.

In the closet? She left no personal belongings that substantiate her being gay but her look and style was quite masculine and was interested in worldwide lesbianism.

Film Award Wins: ? & Nominations: ?

Sapphic Film Director: Nancy Hamilton

Nancy Hamilton

American Film Director ...: 1908 - 1985

In 1955, Nancy Hamilton was the first woman to win an Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature for Helen Keller in Her Story (1954). She was also an actress, playwright and lyricist on three successful Broadway revues. slick qoute from Nancy ""The only way to get a show is to write a show."

Nancy was the lifelong partner of American stage actress and theatre owner Katharine Cornell

Oscars: 1, Other Award Wins: ?

Sapphic Film Costume Designer: Irene Sharaff

Irene Sharaff

American Costume Designer: 1910 – 1993

Stage and screen costume designer Irene Sharaff won five Academy Awards and a Tony Award. She created dazzling costumes for 60 shows and more than 40 films including An American in Paris, Cleopatra, Funny Girl, The King and I, West Side Story...

From the mid-1930s until her death Chinese-American painter and writer Mai-Mai Sze was in a devoted relationship with Irene.

Oscars: 5, Other Award Wins: 2 & Nominations: 12

Lesbian filmmakers: Esther Eng

Esther Eng

Cantonese–American Film Director: 1914 – 1970

Esther Eng was the first female director to direct Chinese-language films in America. She made five films in Hong Kong and four films in America, including National Heroine (1937) about a Chinese female pilot who fights for her country and It's A Women's World (1939) which featured a cast of 36 females.

Esther bodly wore men's attire and haircuts and was open about her lesbian relationships.

Film Award Wins: ? & Nominations: ?

Lesbian filmmakers: Barbara Hammer

Barbara Hammer

American Film Director: 1939 – 2019

As a pioneering avant-garde, lesbian-feminist filmmaker, Barbara Hammer's career spanned over 50 years and 90 moving image works. She received numerous awards including Teddy and Leo Awards. In 2017, she established the annual Barbara Hammer Lesbian Experimental Filmmaking Grant.

Hammer was married to human rights advocate Florrie Burke.

Film Award Wins: 6 & Nominations: 5

Lesbian filmmakers: Lourdes Portillo

Lourdes Portillo

Mexican Film Director & Producer: 1944

Lourdes Portillo received an Academy Award nomination, in 1987, for Best Documentary for Las Madres: The Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo (1986) and won twenty international awards.

For forty years, Lourdes has made 17 films about Latin American, Mexican, and Chicano/a experiences and social justice issues, including Señorita Extraviada (2001), La Ofrenda: The Days of the Dead (1988)

Oscars: 1 Nomination, Film Award Wins: +40

Lesbian filmmakers: Chantal Akerman

Chantal Akerman

Belgian Film Director: 1950 – 2015

Chantal Akerman made more than 30 features, documentaries and shorts, most of which had strong feminist themes. In 2012, Sight & Sound magazine's Top 100 Greatest Films of All Time poll, Akerman was only one of two women who made the top 100, whith her film Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles (1975).

She was married to Sonia Wieder-Atherton a Franco-American classical cellist.

Film Award Wins: 10 & Nominations: 16

Lesbian filmmakers: Jennie Livingston

Jennie Livingston

American Film Director: 1962

Jennie Livingston directed the awesome 1990 documentary film Paris Is Burning which chronicles the mid-to-late 1980s New York's African-American and Latino LGBTQ voguing / drag ball scene. The documentary won numerous awards and in 2016 it was added to the National Film Registry. Livingston was consulting producer on the 2018-19 TV adaptation Pose.

Jennie was an activist with ACT UP - a stellar AIDS activist group working to end the AIDS pandemic.

Film Award Wins: +12 & Nominations: +1

Lesbian Screenwriter: Phyllis Nagy

Phyllis Nagy

American Screenwriter & Film Director: 1962

Phyllis Nagy received an Academy Award nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay for cult lesbian classic movie Carol (2015).

Phyllis is also an award-wining theatre director and her plays have included Patricia Highsmith's The Talented Mr. Ripley and Anton Chekhov's The Seagull.

Oscar Nominations: 1, Film Award Wins: +13 & Nominations: +27

Lesbian filmmakers: Sound Engineer

Lora Hirschberg

American Sound Engineer: 1963

Lora Hirschberg is the first woman to win an Academy Award for Best Sound Mixing for the film Inception (2010).

Staggeringly, Lora has mixed sound on over 180 films including The Lion King (2020), The Jungle Book (2017), The Dark Knight (2008) and Batman Begins (2006).

Oscars: 1, Film Award Wins: +9 & Nominations: +29

Lesbian filmmakers: Lisa Cholodenko

Lisa Cholodenko

American Film & TV Director: 1964

Lisa Cholodenko's film credits include High Art (1998) which won a Sundance Film Festival, Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award and The Kids Are All Right (2010) was nominated for 83rd Academy Awards: Best Picture, Best Original Screenplay, and Annette Bening and Mark Ruffalo were nominated for Best Actress and Best Supporting Actor respectively.

Oscars: 1 Nom, Film Award Wins: +17 & Nominations: +47

Lesbian filmmakers: Rose Troche

Rose Troche

American Film & TV Director: 1964

Go Fish (1994) was Rose Troche's wowzer directorial debut which was a groundbreaking indie lesbian love story starring Guinevere Turner (co-writer and co-producer). It was shot in black and white and made on a shoestring budget. Troche's television work includes The L Word.

Awkward - Guinevere and Rose broke up during the middle of filming Go Fish. I hope they are friends again. I give them a huge hug - it was the film that I came out to myself.

Film Award Wins: +6 & Nominations: +7

Lesbian filmmakers: Cheryl Dunye

Cheryl Dunye

Liberian-American Film & TV Director: 1966

Cheryl Dunye made cinematic history in 1995 with her debut film The Watermelon Woman (1996) being the first feature-length narrative film written and directed by an out black lesbian, about black lesbians and featuring a black lesbian lead.

Cheryl is a professor at San Francisco State University School of Cinema

Film Award Wins: +10 & Nominations: +7

Sapphic Film Director: Shamim Sarif

Shamim Sarif

British-Canadian Film Director & Screenwriter: 1969

Award-winning film & TV director, screenwriter and novelist, Shamim Sarif, has directed lesbian cult classics: The World Unseen (2007) and I Can't Think Straight (2008) and TV series including hit Netflix show You. Can't wait to see Polarized (2023).

Shamim's films often explore themes of sexuality, race and religion.

Film Award Wins: +12 & Nominations: +3

Lesbian filmmakers: Alice Wu

Alice Wu

American Film Director & Writer: 1970

Alice Wu's feature films include one of my all-time favs Saving Face and, The Half of It.

Sadly Alice had to take a break in her career to look after her ill Mother. I hope her Mother is better and she can return to making awesome films.

Film Award Wins: +3 & Nominations: +6

Lesbian filmmakers: Jamie Babbit

Jamie Babbit

American Film & TV Director: 1970

Jamie Babbit's feature films include the satirical and campy comedy But, I'm a Cheerleader and Itty Bitty Titty Committee. TV credits include: The L Word, Gilmore Girls, Ugly Betty.

But, I'm a Cheerleader was partly inspired by an article that Babbit read about a man who had been sent to a reparative therapy camp to cure him of his gayness.

Film Award Wins: +11 & Nominations: +5

Sapphic Film Director: Mania Akbari

Mania Akbari

Iranian Film Director & Writer: 1974

Mania Akbari is a courageous and groundbreaking Iranian filmmaker. Her award-wining films include: A Moon for My Father (2019), From Tehran to London (2012) ...

Mania Akbari work explores women's rights, marriage, sexual identity, disease and body image which brought her into opposition with Iran's censorship laws, thus she was "exiled" from Iran.

Film Award Wins: +10 & Nominations: +14 (From me = ❤ )

Lesbian filmmakers: Céline Sciamma

Céline Sciamma

French Film Director & Screenwriter: 1978

My ❤ sapphic director = Céline Sciamma. Her astounding filmography: Water Lilies, Tomboy, Girlhood, and Portrait of a Lady on Fire. She wrote the script for Water Lilies as part of her final evaluation at La Fémis, the première French film school, and later wrote the screenplay of My Life as a Courgette, a heartful stop-motion animation.

Tres chic, Tres cool Céline - please make a movie about La Maupin's swashbuckling shenanigans.

Film Award Wins: +38 & Nominations: +63

Sapphic Cinematographer: Rachel Morrison

Rachel Morrison

American Cinematographer: 1978

Rachel Morrison is the first woman ever to be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Cinematography and to collect an American Society of Cinematographers Award for her cinematography on Mudbound (2017).

Rachel is also the first woman to have ever shot a Marvel superhero movie, Black Panther (2018).

Oscars: 1 Nom, Film Award Wins: +5 & Nominations: +27

Sapphic Film Editor: Tatiana S. Riegel

Tatiana S. Riegel

American Film Editor: (keeping schtum on her birth year ;)

Tatiana S. Riegel was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Film Editing in 2018 for I,Tonya and has worked as an editor on 7 Quentin Tarantino films. Her filmography includes: Pulp Fiction (1994), Mulholland Falls (1996), Cruella (2021) ...

Oscars: 1 Nomination, Film Awards: 1