Hollywoodland is a passion project – a hobby for now, but I have big plans for it!It is dedicated to uncovering and celebrating the fascinating and feminist world of the dawn of Hollywood.
Over the past year or so, the dire situation for women in Hollywood has been a hot topic of conversation, with the #metoo revelations and protests over lack of women represented both on screen and behind the camera.
But in all this discussion, one very important point has been missed.
There’s a pervasive idea around that filmmaking is somehow a dude’s game and it always was – which is simply not true.
Within five years the feminine influence will be fully fifty-fifty in Studio Land.
–Ladies Home Journal, 1920
For the first decade or two of the film industry, women were a dominant force both in front of and behind the camera.
Female stars could expect top billing, had control over who directed and wrote for them, and were paid as much — and often more — than their male counterparts. The first star to sign a million dollar contract was a woman. The first studio head was a woman. The highest paid screenwriter between 1915 and 1935 was a woman, and in the teens Universal was famous for its army of female directors.
The fair sex is represented [in Hollywood] as in no other calling to which women have harkened in the early years of the twentieth century.
– Motion Picture Classic in 1915.
In 2015, 11% of Hollywood movies were written by women, and 7% directed by them. But up until 1925, a full 50% of films were written by women – and for many of those years, women were directing around half too. For the first two decades of the movie industry – from the turn of the 20th century until the early twenties or so – women were writing, directing, producing and editing films in numbers we can only dream of today.
And that’s what the Hollywoodland Project is all about. Season Two of my podcast celebrating these female pioneers of movies, Women of Hollywoodland, will be out in September. I’ve just launched Diary of a Twenties Girl that’s a tongue-in-cheek imagining of what a lifestyle blog might have been in 1921 – it’s ‘written’ by a studio secretary and will explore the life of a young professional woman of the period, revealing some surprisingly modern attitudes. I’ll also be posting the odd essay about the early days of Hollywood and bits, pieces of fiction and loads more too… you can find it all at fullyfiftyfifty.com.