‘BE NATURAL‘ is a documentary searching for Alice Guy-Blaché, who at 23 was the first female director, became a powerful figure in film, then vanished.
The year is 1895. A new technology called the “mechanical pencil” is patented, the first comic strip is printed in a newspaper, and photography is the talk of the town. This is the dawn of the modern era, and there are no limits to what the future holds. Major innovations in technology change the way people live, work, travel, dress, communicate, and the way they are entertained. In Paris, the Lumière Brothers have one of their first private screenings of their revolutionary Cinématographe, the first reliable system to project moving images. A small group of friends and colleagues, including engineer and industrialist Léon Gaumont, watch in awe the soon-to-be famous footage of workers leaving a factory. Cinema is born.
Alice Guy (after her marriage known as Madame Blaché and after her divorce as Alice Guy-Blaché) went on to make one of the first narrative films ever made. By her own account, she made it in 1896 (some say before Georges Méliès). And she kept going. She made one of the first films ever with a close-up, created synchronized sound films as early as 1902, was in good part responsible for the birth and growth of the Gaumont film studio in Paris, France, which she ran for almost a decade (1897-1907), and in 1910, she founded, built, and ran her own studio, Solax, first in Flushing, New York, then in Fort Lee, New Jersey (not far from where Edison and D.W. Griffith worked). She was a wife and a mother. She wrote, directed, or produced more than a 1,000 films over her 20-year-long career.
Then it all ended. Her name disappeared from film history, and her legacy vanished into the shadows. A pioneer in the movie industries of both France and the U.S., an innovative filmmaker with a career spanning 1896 to 1920, director, screenwriter, producer, studio owner, CEO, entrepreneur (as well as wife and mother). If she had done only one of these jobs in the earliest years of cinema, it would have been enough to win her a firm place in cinema history. This feature documentary sheds new light on the many accomplishments of Alice Guy-Blaché, a woman you ought to know.
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The early filmmakers were explorers. Like Columbus, Alice Guy-Blaché had to navigate through many unknowns, but through experimentation, determination, and vision, she reached new shores. What was it that made her who she was? What drove her, inspired her, propelled her imagination? And what or who made her disappear from history? And, especially, why?
It was an exciting era, and Alice Guy-Blaché was one of its most creative forces. For Alice, the camera, film, the projector, and the Chronophone sound system were all new technologies, and the rules for how to use them had not been written. For us, witnessing the digital imaging revolution – YouTube, Instagram, Vine, and many other new technologies – the rules continue to be newly written.
About the Filmmakers
We are Pamela Green (director) and Jarik van Sluijs (co-director), the founding partners at PIC Agency, an audio-visual communications studio focused on entertainment and motion design based in Los Angeles, California. We have designed and produced a variety of cutting-edge content for motion pictures, television, and commercials, and we are known for our innovative and memorable main title sequences for feature films like The Bourne Supremacy, Fantastic Four, The Illusionist, Cloverfield, The Kingdom, Sex and the City, Twilight, Push, Surrogates, The Cabin in the Woods, The Muppets, Red Dawn, G.I. Joe: Retaliation, Now You See Me, Fast & Furious 6, 42, and many others. We often combine archival images, audio, CGI animation, and editing into gripping and entertaining stories. We attribute our success to our never wavering focus on story.