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Essays

Women as Camera Operators or “Cranks”

Gaines, Jane; Koerner, Michelle

During the silent era there does not appear to have been much serious thought given to the question of why there might or might not be women working as motion picture camera operators. The handful who did do this work kept a very low profile, and, as a consequence, many in the commercial industry may have thought that there was just no such thing as a female camera operator at all. Even one of the most well-connected women in the industry couldn’t think of one. Powerful executive producer and screenwriter June Mathis, when asked in 1925 to reflect on women’s contributions said she could think of cases in which a woman worked as a cutter or a title writer but had yet to find a woman “turning a camera crank” (664). There were, however, a handful of women who despite the skepticism and even hostility they must have encountered on the set, did operate the heavy 35mm motion picture camera and mastered the new technology despite cultural expectations.

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More About This Work

Academic Units
Film
Libraries
Series
Women Film Pioneers Project
Published Here
October 15, 2019
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