So many female filmmakers, collaborators, and other roles often go ignored in an industry that still has so far to go in terms of representation. Exeposé Screen Writers have contributed some of their favourite women in the industry, celebrating what they think makes them great.
The Wachowski Sisters
You might not instantly recognise the names Lilly and Lana Wachowski – but I guarantee you know their work. Including, but not limited to, Cloud Atlas and The Matrix as well as producing hits such as V for Vendetta (incidentally, some of my favourite films), the sisters are known for their high concept sci-fi flicks. Apart from Jupiter Ascending. We don’t talk about Jupiter Ascending. My particular adoration from their works stems from their ability to make experiences seem simultaneously intimate and universal. Being trapped in a world of binary code (The Matrix spoilers, sorry) acts as an apt metaphor for both social convention, and the gender binary. If women don’t get the recognition they deserve in the industry, then trans women are even less lauded. The Wachowskis are incredibly gifted women, and I can’t wait to see what they do next.
by Amelia Chisholm
Jessica Chastain is well-known for her stellar work on-screen, having garnered two Academy Award nominations for The Help and Zero Dark Thirty, but it’s her work behind the scenes that really makes her stand out. Chastain is a vocal feminist and has spoken out about many issues including the gender pay gap, mental health, and the representation of women in film, but what’s important is that she doesn’t just stop there – she translates her views into action. For an upcoming project with Octavia Spencer, Chastain used her white privilege to ensure that the black actress was paid the same amount as her, resulting in Spencer receiving five times the salary she would get otherwise. Chastain also makes a point to work with a female filmmaker at least once a year, helping to address the gender imbalance behind the camera. It’s these kinds of actions that could create lasting change in the industry, and hopefully many more will follow Chastain’s lead.
by Sophie Norton
The one-two punch of Mary Poppins (1964) and The Sound of Music (1965) seems to define not just the musical break-out, but a break-out in general screen presence. Certainly, Julie Andrews was launched into the popular consciousness with a defining image in each, be it the faint image of a woman on a cloud above the London skyline, or the sweeping panoramas of the Austrian landscape. Small or large, intimate or explosive, her career was founded on a status as the centrepiece leading lady. But, in turn, she provided something different from the svelte mutability of Audrey Hepburn; her voice was a powerful soprano, while her characters were women of conviction and principle. While her later career may have been marred by flops – and the tragic loss of her voice – she remains an icon, owning regal grace in The Princess Diaries, discovering spoken-word poetry, and providing gravitas in voicework. Her start in musicals remains a clear landmark for women on screen.
by Harry Caton
Any conversation centred on the finest contemporary actors absolutely deserves to have Rooney Mara included in the dialogue. Despite a weak debut in the maligned remake of A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010), Mara has flourished within the independent film scene amongst some of modern cinema’s most celebrated auteurs. Her lead role in Haynes’ stunning period drama Carol (2015) showcased a wistfulness and nuance that instantly created an on-screen chemistry for the ages. Similarly, her gut-wrenching performance in Lowery’s A Ghost Story (2017) proved her commitment to an emotionally demanding vision (the pie scene is an all-timer). Yet, Mara equally possesses a knack for playing comparatively more sinister or cutthroat characters – just take a look at her bewitching performance in Soderbergh’s Side Effects (2013) for a case study in how a performer can expertly deceive and beguile their audience. Despite being relegated largely to flashbacks, her impact in Spike Jonze’s unorthodox romance Her (2013) is easily scene-stealing thanks to her steely relationship with Joaquin Phoenix’s character (a cold opposite to her performance in Carol). Mara’s embodiment of compelling, emotionally intelligent characters is second-to-none. To think that her career is just getting started is thrilling indeed.
by Jacob Heayes
The hit BBC America thriller Killing Eve finally premiered in the UK last month, starring Sandra Oh as Eve Polastri. Oh plays a bored MI5 operative who quickly becomes caught in an obsessive chase with a psychotic assassin named Villanelle, played by Jodie Comer. The writer, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, simultaneously tackles typical queerbaiting issues and provides a genuine representation for LGBTQ+ viewers, while also offering a comical psychological espionage piece between two women about the female psyche. In addition to the excellent writing, Sandra Oh excels at bringing the eponymous character Eve to life. Oh is a five-time Emmy nominee already (with five supporting nods from her role in Grey’s Anatomy), however this year she has made history as the first Asian woman nominated for ‘Lead Actress in Drama’ for her role in Killing Eve. The Korean-Canadian actress has made waves with her incredible use of characterization and breaks the barrier of leading roles solely being reserved for white performers; shining the light on the immense calibre of ability that is so often overlooked.
by Lorna Hemingway
While you might not have heard of Mckenna Grace, I’d be surprised if you’re not desperately trying to remember where you’ve seen her before. To say she’s currently killing it is an understatement: not only is Mckenna bursting with talent, but she’s among the most in-demand child actresses in Hollywood, with the 46 acting credits on her IMDb page constantly increasing. Did I forget to mention that she’s 12? And has already had a notable role in I, Tonya, a film with multiple Academy Award and Golden Globe nominations? As a young Tonya Harding in I, Tonya, Mckenna faced many challenges, learning to ice skate being the least of them. Acting opposite Allison Janney’s nightmarishly abusive LaVona Golden (Harding’s mother) was undoubtedly emotionally demanding, yet the then 10-year-old nailed it with devastating finesse.
In 2017, Mckenna co-starred with Chris Evans in Gifted, a film which proved her an impressive leading actress. Somehow, Mckenna captures remarkable depths of raw emotion in a way that appears effortlessly authentic. The full extent of Gifted’s heart-warming effect is only possible through her, and her believable father-daughter chemistry with Evans – the audience can’t help but become enraptured by her powerful performance. Mckenna is ‘gifted’ herself: her co-stars speak incredibly highly of her kindness, professionalism, and skill, with her endearing, well-spoken nature proved in every interview. With these qualities and her upcoming role as a young Carol Danvers (Captain Marvel) in Captain Marvel, Mckenna Grace is definitely a star on the rise.
by Kathryn Burdon