Guest Post: Going Back to School with Martha Coolidge’s ‘Valley Girl’ By Women and Hollywood Earlier this month, the hashtag #WomenCallAction flew around the Twittersphere. This live chat hosted by The Women’s International Perspective includedparticipation by director and activist Rachel Feldman and Women and Hollywood’s Melissa Silverstein. The participantscalled for action by the studios, the unions, and by women themselves, urgingeveryone to seek out stories told by women. Silverstein put the conversationinto perspective by stating, “Women’s stories aren’t valued and women’s historygets erased.” This shared sentiment drives the mission behind Seeking Our Story. I started this LA-basedscreening series to watch movies directed by women that I had not seen before. Throughsharing these movies, we build a community of filmmaker friends while keeping alivethe history of women who paved the way. Martha Coolidge is one suchgroundbreaker. Growing up in New Haven, Connecticut, Coolidge had just her siblings andher mother. During a 2001 interview, the director recalled making movies with her father before he passed: “When Iwas very young, my father had a hobby of making 8mm movies and using us kids asthe actors. He edited them with a little set of rewinds at home. After he died when I was nine and the oldest of the three siblings, I became the ‘director.’” As a student, Coolidge became the first graduate at the Rhode IslandSchool of Design to receive a Bachelor of Fine Arts in filmmaking. She went onto gain a Masters in Fine Arts from NYU. After creating a number ofdocumentaries in New York in the early 1970s, Coolidge directed asemi-autobiographical film titled Not aPretty Picture (1976) that blended narrative and documentary styles todissect an incident of date rape. After the film’s completion, Coolidge movedwest to Los Angeles, where she worked at Francis Ford Coppola’s Zoetrope Studio. Coolidge directed another feature, worked in TV, and directed moredocumentaries. Finally, she caught a break with Valley Girl (1983). The film not only changed her life, butintroduced Nicolas Cage in his first leading role. Though Coolidge was paidonly a small stipend for her work, the film’s success launched her towards aseries of pictures. After directing two more features, City Girl (1984) and Joy ofSex (1984), Coolidge gave Val Kilmer his start with Real Genius (1985). Her subsequent films include Plain Clothes (1987), Rambling Rose (1991) for which Coolidgewon an Independent Spirit Award, Lost inYonkers (1993), Angie (1994) withGeena Davis opposite James Gandolfini in his first major role, Three Wishes (1995), Out to Sea (1997) with Jack Lemmon andWalter Matthau, and The Prince and Me (2004).In addition to many made-for-TV movies, Coolidge directed episodes for TV shows like The Twilight Zone, Sex and theCity, Weeds, Psych, CSI, and TheGlades, among others. She has been nominated for multiple Emmy awards indirecting and won the DGA Award for Best Director. Of her career, Coolidgesaid, “Allmy films have been about people facing personal challenges in their lives andovercoming them. But as a director I like to stretch. I certainly enjoy theaction and the hardware as much as the next guy, but my films center on strongcharacters. My greatest joy has come from working with so many talentedactors.” Coolidge served as the first woman president of the Directors Guild ofAmerica starting in 2002. The DGA credits Coolidge withremaining “committed to promoting diversity and encouraging studios andnetworks to hire minority and female directors.” Regarding her career indirecting, Coolidge told Women and Hollywood, “It’sa job very well suited to women. Half the traits of any good director arefemale traits and half are male. Nurturing, listening, creative thinking, andall the people skills are very female. Leading, making tough decisions underpressure, long hours doing very physically and mentally demanding work,managing equipment, large numbers of people and machines is very male. But allgood directors have these.” Join us Friday, August 29th as Seeking Our Story presents MarthaCoolidge’s breakout hit Valley Girl. The film screens as part of MiMoDa Studio’s FridayNight Film Club and is sponsored by @TheDirectorList. Doors open at 7:30 PM, and the film starts at 8 PM. This is a community screening with donations accepted at the door. Please RSVP. Samantha Shada is a Los Angeles based story teller and artistic entrepreneur. She produces the Seeking Our Story series, screening an alternative approach to film history by highlighting the works of women directors.