Oscars: New Members Highlight Advances Women Are Making in Traditionally Male-Oriented Crafts

Invitations went to such women as Sara Bennett, who won a VFX Oscar for 'Ex Machina,' and 'The Neon Demon' cinematographer Natasha Braier.
Getty Images; Courtesy of UTA
Sara Bennett (left) and Natasha Braier

As the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences opened its doors this week to more diversity in its ranks, it extended 683 invitations to new members, 46 percent of whom were women — and, in the process, underscored that in certain branches where men still dominate their fields, women are beginning to gain ground.

While women have found success in some crafts — most notably film editing, where there is a long tradition of award-winning female editors — in many others, men still rule. In the cinematography category, for example, there has never been a female Oscar nominee.

But this year, the ranks of new female invitees was reflected in a number of the branches that have long been male-oriented.

Nine women were invited to join the cinematography branch. Among them are Argentine cinematographer Natasha Braier (The Rover, The Milk of Sorrow), who photographed Nicolas Winding Refn’s recent Cannes contender The Neon Demon; French cinematographer Hélène Louvart (The Wonders, Pina) and Danish cinematographer Charlotte Bruus Christensen (Far From the Madding Crowd, The Hunt). (Meanwhile, two existing members, Nancy Schreiber and Mandy Walker, are among the current candidates for a seat on the board of governors, representing the cinematography branch.)

The visual effects branch added four women including Sara Bennett, who won an Oscar in February for Ex Machina. She was only the second woman to win an Academy Award in VFX, the first being Suzanne M. Benson, for 1986's Aliens.

Others invited to join the VFX branch include Lindy Wilson De Quattro (Pacific Rim, Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol), Betsy Paterson (The Hunger Games, The Incredible Hulk) and Simone Kraus Townsend (Ant-Man, Avengers: Age of Ultron).

The sound branch added nine women, including Susan Dawes (Deadpool, Wild), Nina Hartstone (The Book Thief, Gravity) and Anna MacKenzie (Spectre, Prometheus).

They will follow in the footsteps of trailblazers like Kay Rose, who received a special achievement award at the Oscars in 1985 for sound-effects editing on The River, and Cecelia “Cece” Hall, who was the first woman nominated in a competitive sound-effects editing category in 1987 for her work on Top Gun and who then became the first woman to win in 1991, for The Hunt for Red October.

While, when sound-editing and mixing teams appear at the Oscars, they often appear to be made up of teams of men, women are becoming a more familiar sight in that area of filmmaking: Two-time Oscar winner Karen Baker Landers took home the prize for sound editing for The Bourne Ultimatum and Skyfall. Lora Hirschberg became an Oscar-winning sound mixer for Inception. Rerecording mixer Anna Behlmer is a 10-time Oscar nominee for films like Star Trek, and sound editor Becky Sullivan was recently nominated for Unbroken.