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TCM, Women in Film LA Launch ‘Trailblazing Women’ Programming Initiative (EXCLUSIVE)

Turner Classic Movies has teamed with Women in Film, Los Angeles, for a programming initiative designed to highlight the work of women behind the camera in the movie business.

In the month of October, actress-director Illeana Douglas will host a twice-weekly “Trailblazing Women” series featuring movies directed by women. Douglas’ wraparound segments will feature interviews with filmmakers and discussion of statistics compiled by Women in Film about gender disparity in the film business, notably the 5-to-1 ratio of men working in film production compared to women.

TCM and WIF LA are building out a dedicated section of the TCM website focusing on the history of women in the film biz, WIF LA’s studies on gender issues and links to various resources for aspiring female filmmakers.

“Trailblazing Women” grew out of TCM’s effort to curate a month’s worth of movies directed by women. The idea was sparked when Charlie Tabesh, TCM’s senior VP of programming, saw that TCM had obtained rights to 2008’s “The Hurt Locker,” the movie that made Kathryn Bigelow the first woman to win an Oscar for directing.

“We were pondering what preceded Bigelow and ‘The Hurt Locker,’ ” TCM general manager Jennifer Dorian told Variety. “Our job at TCM is to think about the long view and the entire spectrum of film history. (Tabesh) put together a look at women pioneers going back to 1906.”

As the package came together, Dorian realized that there was an opportunity to add a “pro-social” layer to the effort, which prompted her to reach out to Women in Film LA.

“We recognized that this is a timely and topical issue, and that we could not only create awareness of women’s historical contributions but shine a light on today’s issues and bring resources and information to today’s generation of filmmakers,” Dorian said.

“Trailblazing Women” will be a multi-year project for TCM, with a similar monthly showcase planned for 2016 and probably 2017, Dorian said. The inaugural effort is focused on the work of female directors, but future showcases will delve into other disciplines such as writing and producing.

The series launches Oct. 1 and will air Tuesdays and Thursdays in primetime, encompassing more than 50 films. The series begins with film historian Cari Beauchamp discussing the work of pioneers including Alice Guy-Blache, Dorothy Arzner, Agnes Varda and Lina Wertmuller.

Other directors who will co-host nights alongside Douglas are Allison Anders, Julie Dash, Connie Field, Amy Heckerling, as well as producer and WIF LA president Cathy Schulman.

“There are tremendous growth opportunities for women working behind the camera and by shining a spotlight on these talented ‘Trailblazing Women,’ we hope to inspire change,” said WIF LA exec director Kirsten Schaffer.

Here’s the complete schedule for “Trailblazing Women”:

Oct. 1:  Film Pioneers with Cari Beauchamp
Oct. 6: Studio Directors from the Dawn of Sound into the 1970s with Cari Beauchamp
Oct. 8: Independent Classics with Allison Anders
Oct. 13: The 1980s: A Step Forward with Amy Heckerling
Oct. 15: Essential Docs with Connie Field
Oct. 20: 1990s: Mainstream Hits with Amy Hecklering
Oct. 22: African American Independents with Julie Dash
Oct. 27: International Breakthroughs with Cari Beauchamp
Oct. 29: A New Generation with Cathy Schulman

(Pictured: Illeana Douglas)

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