By Valentina Valenti, Teen Vogue
Last year, the Academy Awards did something unprecedented: They nominated a woman for an Oscar in the cinematography category. In the history of the iconic awards show, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences had never recognized a woman in the prestigious category. It was a major moment for representation and felt like an important step toward gender parity behind the camera.
Come this year and the 2019 Oscars, the Academy did not nominate anywomen in that category. And they took another step backward: the broadcast initially moved the award presentation and acceptance speech for cinematography (along with film editing, live action short, and hair and makeup, for that matter) to a commercial break wanting to streamline the 3-hour-plus-long broadcast. But thanks to public outcry, the decision was reversed.
If you’re scratching your head wondering what “cinematographer” means, also known as the DP (Director of Photography) for short, here’s a quick rundown as to why these roles are essential to the filmmaking process: A cinematographer is someone who works in collaboration with the director first and foremost to decide what shots they want, creating the overall visual aesthetic of the film. Then the DP goes off — with the camera and electrical department — and figures out what lights to use, how and where to place them, and what other tools (such as cranes, dollies, etc.) might be needed in order to achieve the director’s vision for said scenes. They run a team of a few to a few dozen (Rachel Morrison had a crew of 66 on Black Panther) for the length of the production. They can also be part of the color correcting process, the digital colorization that happens after a film is all shot but before it’s picture-locked.
There’s still plenty of work to be done when it comes to the representation of women both on and off screen. But Teen Vogue wants to highlight films from this past year that were shot by cinematographers, who also happen to be women, and what’s in store for these creatives behind the camera.
The Wackness might have come out over a decade ago, but it’s still a must-watch indie. Plus, it was Petra Korner’s first feature film. She had the political thriller An Acceptable Loss out last year along with shooting the final three episodes of the UK fantasy drama A Discovery of Witches, starring Matthew Goode and Teresa Palmer. Currently, she’s scouting a big Netflix original mini-series, The Letter for the King, a medieval adventure being shot across eastern Europe.