Girls on Film Directing Girls rule, boys drool. OK, that's not exactly the message Andrea Richards ' 96 is trying to get across in her book GIRL DIRECTOR: A How-To Guide for the First- Time Flat-Broke Film Maker (And Video Maker). But if anyone has the slightest doubt about girls making movies, Richards offers 128 pages of Girl Power prose to prove them wrong. Her message targets sleepover parties everywhere: "You can be a director, and you should be, even if you only make one movie." Most girls say they'd want to be an actress: Richards said from her home in Los Angeles. "They don't even have the notion that they could be the director and have the control. It doesn't seem like a pos- sibility." This discouraging reality pushed the freelance writer and amateur moviemaker to devote two years to crafting a sort of primer for low-budget independent film pro- ducing. It's the kind of movie a girl can make right in her basement. Released in 2001, the book was published by California- based Girl Press, whose motto is "slightly dangerous books for girl mavericks." Richards found her way to the pro-girl publisher soon after her graduation in 1999 from the critical writing master's program at the California Institute of the Arts. With Girl Press' enthusiastic backing, she delved into the world of ladies in filmmaking. The current picture is pretty grim: Women make up only 6 percent of the directors in Hollywood. "It's not because there aren't talented, smart women out there making films: she said. "It's that most people see a director as a Steven Spielberg, with a baseball cap." But hours of researching at the Acad- emy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' library in Los Angeles told Richards that perception hadn't always held true. She dug up a long list of women who pioneered the film industry in the silent-film era but then were pushed out when talkies took the spotlight. There was Alice Guy-Blachee, a French woman who directed the first narrative film. And Dorothy Arzner, who invented the first boom microphone when she told a sound- man to attach a fishing pole to a micro- phone and follow actors around. And Lois Weber, who was the highest paid director in 1916. Andrea Richards ' 96, right, at her book-slgnlng.
Richards drafted mini-biographies of
these and other historical heroines, but she
wasn't finished with her role-model quest.
Her next step was to get dozens of present-
day female directors to dish out their advice
for the upcoming generation of filmmakers.
These women included Sleepless in Seattle
director Nora Ephron, The Little Rascals'
Penelope Spheeris and Clueless' Amy Heck-
Richards thought it was important to get
input from women who had made a name
for themselves in Tinseltown. She wanted to
feature their achievements as a way of
showing just how far moviemaking could
take a girl.
"It's a real risk and a real leap you have
to take: she said. "Dealing with a crew
requires a lot of confidence, diplomacy,
skills, sometimes therapy. And I think those
are important skills to have."
Girl Director's conversational tone
makes the reader feel as if this is just one
girl talking to another. Catchy phrases and
hip lingo pepper Richards' easy-to-grasp
deconstruction of the movie-making
process. She covers everything from script
writing, set design and editing to copyrights,
first screenings and digitization.
The text is in no way short on encour-
agement. Quitting, Girl Director says, is
"never, ever, an option."
During the writing
process, Richards exem-
plified the self-starter attitude she advo-
cates in her book. She wanted to write a
chapter on animation but had never done
an animated film.
"So, I just pulled out my camera and
made a little animated movie to see how it
works: she said. "(The book contains)
really the most basic film knowledge. But
that's all you need to know. It's a book
Richards' interest in the topic began dur-
ing her childhood. A self-described "geeky
reader kid," she frequently made her own
magazines and newspapers and recorded
her ideas in journals.
The Apex native began making short
Super 8 films during her UNC days. Several
of her movies have since been screened at
small film festivals on the West Coast and
in Canada, Australia and Mexico. The
screenings included the L.A.-based Flicker
Film Festival, which was founded by her
filmmaker husband, Norwood Cheek ' 90.
Richards also has published freelance
pieces in magazines such as Bust and
Fringe Golf. And, through the publishing
company she co-founded in 1999, she is
seeking the funds to start her own maga-
In the meantime, she has been
delighted by the success stories shared by
girls and women alike who have decided to
try directing films after reading or hearing
about her book. It's an adventure Richards
wishes every Girl Director reader would pur-
"I'd love for her to grab her two closest
friends, and go make a movie: she said. "If
she doesn't do that, at the very least that
she value her experiences and stories.
There's so many stories that we've never
heard, that have never been articulated,
and a lot of them come from girls or
"Now get started," Girl Director con-
cludes. "The world is waiting."
) a n/I ary / Feb r u ary 2002