EXCLUSIVE: The filmmakers behind acclaimed Cannes 2018 documentary Be Natural: The Untold Story of Alice Guy-Blaché are re-teaming on a narrative biopic about their subject, the little-known but remarkable cinema pioneer, who was the first ever female film director, screenwriter, producer, and studio owner.
Active from the late 19th century, Frenchwoman Guy-Blaché was in the room when the Lumière brothers held the first ever cinema screening in Paris in 1895. Inspired by what she saw, the Gaumont secretary went on to become an in-house film-maker at the French studio.
Guy-Blaché would travel to the U.S. where she became artistic director and a co-founder of Solax Studios in Flushing, New York, and a prominent investor in a new studio in Fort Lee, New Jersey, which was the center of American filmmaking prior to the establishment of Hollywood.
During her career, she made more than 1,000 short and silent films, including comedies, westerns and dramas, many of which spotlighted women. Her 1906 film The Consequences Of Feminism imagined a world where gender roles are reversed. In 1912 she made the film A Fool And His Money, which was probably the first to have an all-African-American cast.
Solax was briefly a success, working with early screen stars such as Lionel and Ethel Barrymore and Billy Quirk, and having movies distributed by MGM. But despite her trailblazing career, in 1921 the filmmaker was forced to auction her studio and other possessions in bankruptcy as the East Coast film scene was overtaken by Hollywood. She returned to France in 1922 and never made another film. In her final years she moved back to New Jersey with her daughter, dying in 1968 aged 94.
Be Natural: The Untold Story of Alice Guy-Blaché, narrated by Jodie Foster, played at dozens of film festivals, including Cannes, New York, Telluride and London. Our critic Pete Hammond described it as “maybe the best and least seen film of Cannes 2018”.
Pamela B. Green, director-writer-producer of the documentary, is re-teaming with the film’s co-writer Joan Simon and co-producer Cosima Littlewood to pen the feature script which includes new material found during the making of the original film.
Geralyn White Dreyfous, Jamie Wolf and former CAA agent John Ptak, who executive-produced Be Natural along with Robert Redford, Regina Scully and Hugh M. Hefner, are also producing the new project, which is currently in early development.
Prolific documentary producer White Dreyfous, known for Oscar-winner Born Into Brothels and Oscar nominees The Square and The Invisible War, recently teamed up with veteran producer and journalist Wolf as part of the producing teams on Emmy-nominated Netflix doc The Great Hack and Sundance hit The Truffle Hunters, which was snapped up by SPC last year.
Most recently, director Green has been developing Aces Never Sleep, a female-driven detective series, with Wolf’s Foothill Productions and producer Ptak. The team is in talks with financiers about the series, which charts the story of America’s first female detectives in the Pinkerton Detective Agency.