Oscar: Women in Cinematography–Rachel Morrison, ASC: First to Break Ceiling Glass

Rachel Morrison, ASC: The first to break to ceiling glass

Rachel Morrison, ASC, made history by being the first woman ever nominated for the 90th Academy Award for Best Cinematography.

In 2018, Morrison also was the first female cinematographer nominated for the feature category of the American Society of Cinematographers Outstanding Achievement Awards.

Rachel Morrison on set for Mudbound. Steve Dietl /Netflix
Rachel Morrison on set for Mudbound. Steve Dietl /Netflix

ASC: 390 members, only 18 are women

The American Society of Cinematographers (ASC), which counts Morrison and Braier as members, was founded in 1919. However, It didn’t invite a woman to join until 1980. Nevertheless, as time passes by, another crack on the glass was being formed. In 2017 Nancy Schreiber ASC was the first woman to be honored with the ASC Presidents Award for her contribution to the art of cinematography and service to the industry.

Morrison said in the Irish Times: “I can’t wait till the day that we’re just DPs, like the way teachers are teachers and doctors are doctors and lawyers are lawyers. I think as soon as we represent more than 2 or 4 percent, and we’re not such a crazy anomaly, then hopefully people will start referring to us as DPs”.

As of 2019, only 4% of the ASC members are women.

Rachel Morrison. credit: Steve Dietl/Netflix
Rachel Morrison. credit: Steve Dietl/NetflixI can’t wait till the day that we’re just DPs, like the way teachers are teachers and doctors are doctors and lawyers are lawyers–Rachel Morrison, ASC

Natasha Braier, ASC, ADF in the front line 

Since earning a Masters of Cinematography at the National Film and Television School in England, Braier has shot features, commercials, and music videos around the globe. 

For her work on Honey Boy, Braier has been nominated for a Film Independent Spirit Award in the Best Cinematography category, and a Spotlight Award from the American Society of Cinematographers. The ASC Outstanding Achievement Awards is cinematography’s biggest event, celebrating the most exceptional work of the year regarding the excellence in motion-picture. The Spotlight Award recognizes cinematography in features that may not receive a wide theatrical release, which means it’s one small step from Oscar. Braier is the most recent breakthrough for female cinematographers, hopefully pushing forward women to be nominated for more prestigious cinematography prizes.

Natasha Braier, ASC, ADF. Credit: American Cinematographer
Natasha Braier, ASC, ADF. Credit: American Cinematographer

Furthermore, a bit out of topic but still interesting, Braier is one of those DPs that switched from film to digital. In the interview below, you can listen to Braier elaborates on that transition and professional adaptations between those two formats. 

The feminine power in cinematography

The DP (Director of Photography) is one of the essential parts on set. As being the director’s right hand, this position demands creativity, artistry, vast technical knowledge, and team management skills, which can translate the director’s vision into imagery. It’s a tough job and one of the toughest in moviemaking. Although the criteria for the DP position indicates masculine characteristics, there is nothing like a woman’s vision, which is extremely important in delivering the right imagery to the story. Fortunately, the industry begins to absorb that concept, and thus to understand the Feminine power in cinematography.

Nancy Schreiber, ASC. Picture credit- American Cinematographer

Nancy Schreiber, ASC. American Cinematographer

The Worldwide Women’s Film Festival (WWFF) aims to educate, support, and empower women in the collaborative endeavor of filmmaking while shining a light on women’s stories and diverse experiences.

Initiatives like the WWFF, combined with a sturdy back of industry leaders, can contribute to the progress needed for integrating women in all filmmaking industry segments and disciplines.

Cinematographer Jennifer Hook

Cinematographer Jennifer Hook

Being a woman in that industry might be a tricky and super challenging task, since most women have to juggle a demanding career in filmmaking, while caring for their family. 

Jennifer Hook
Jennifer Hook- cinematographer of winning film for Best Cinematography Award in WWFF, “Intervention”

This year, Panavision was the main sponsor of the WWFF, by granting platinum camera package valued at $60,000 to cinematographer Jennifer Hook that shot the winning film for the Best Cinematography Award category, “Intervention”.

As filmmakers, we must embrace and recognize the feminine added value in cinematography. Moreover, industry leaders must give a hand to help to elevate recognition of women cinematographers. One way or another, with that state of mind, there is a good chance we’ll see the 2021 Cinematography category’s golden statue in the hands of a woman.