When title sequence director Pamela B. Green first came upon the story of Alice Guy-Blaché, she was in disbelief that the 19th-century filmmaking pioneer was so little known, and was inspired to make her first documentary: Be Natural: The Untold Story of Alice Guy-Blaché.
“I just couldn’t believe I’d never heard of her,” she said in an interview at Deadline’s Cannes studio. “I never went to film school, but I don’t think you need to go to film school to know about this person. She should be famous because she’s a business woman and an artist.”
Nor did Green realize at first how tough it would be to uncover the details of Guy-Blaché’s life. “If I could go back in time,” she said, “I would shoot myself because it’s so much work. There were so many times that I wanted to give up because of the funding, and how much work it involved. It just never ended. Piles and piles and piles that you would think would get smaller. These mountains of climbing and climbing over the piles, and sorting the material was a lot of work.”
Green was able to get Jodie Foster on board as narrator, and include many interviews with leading figures in the industry because of her existing work contacts. “I actually work for directors, for producers, for studios doing opening credits for films, marketing logos, editing,” she said. “[With] Robert Redford, I had done some title sequences on some of his films so I had the courage on the second movie working with him to ask him if he had ever heard of Alice, and he had not. He joined in because he is very much about promoting women. Then, Jodie Foster came along. It was a no-brainer. She speaks perfect French. Then all the other filmmakers. Some I had worked with, and others I pursued because I felt Alice was so complex. We wanted to make sure that it was as easy as possible to follow, and also have the best in the business to help tell the story because she’s amazing, so we need amazing people to help tell the story.”
Green chose to structure her investigation into Guy-Blaché’s life rather like a detective story. “I wanted the detective element to be there,” she said, “because it’s a story that took place a hundred years ago. How do you make it relevant? I love detective stories. I’m a very curious person. I love history, and I’m a Nancy Drew by nature so I’m glad that that’s projected in the film, because that was the intent.”
In making this documentary, Green has given voice to a woman who certainly deserves a great deal of attention and credit for her achievements – hopefully also inciting more investigation into women who’ve been overlooked. “I think this story doesn’t only open the door for more investigative work about her,” Green said, “but so many other women. Not just in cinema, in different fields, because history is constantly changing. And with social media, with internet research, you can find so many new things, so it’s pretty exciting.”
For more of our Cannes interview with Pamela B. Green, click above.