From Hollywood to music, World cinema to mastering; our writers give you their pick for the best women in entertainment. With names like Jessica Chastain and Taylor Swift, this list has plenty of big names, but it also celebrates the likes of those women hidden in the background, whether they be behind the camera or in the recording studio. Every woman on this list is a favourite of ours, and we can’t help but google at the work they produce.
Claire Denis is a French film director, often credited as one of the greatest female directors currently living. Though she only recently edged closer to mainstream success with her first American film, High Life (starring Robert Pattinson, Juliette Binoche and even Andre 3000), Denis has been making phenomenal films for decades at this point with massive amounts of critical success.
Her unique takes on masculinity – seen in Beau Travail (1999) and 35 Shots of Rum (2008) – and her beautiful romance films – Let The Sunshine In (2014) and Friday Night (2002) – have both cemented her as one of World cinema’s most revered and talented directors, who appear to be finally gaining more recognition thanks to her working with A24 recently and a general shift in attention to paying more attention to the female directors who have long been underrated or left in shadows.
Denis is one of the best directors alive, working with a unique, poised sense of poetic realism that makes her films consistently enthralling. Whatever comes next from her is always exciting.
The skill of mastering is often considered a ‘dark art’ in the world of music production. A highly specialised role at the end of an album’s production, very few engineers rise to the top of their craft and only 2% of those are women. Emily Lazar is such an engineer that is thriving in a male-dominated recording industry, having worked on over 3000 albums including the likes of David Bowie, Panic! At The Disco, Coldplay and Sia. Three of the eight albums nominated for the Album of the Year Grammy in 2021 were mastered by Emily Lazar, a record amount for the same year and in 2019 she became the first woman to win the Best Engineered Grammy for her work on Beck’s Colour.
In just ten years, Lazar has led major innovations in the world of audio mastering, including the process of ‘stem mastering’, giving engineers greater control over individual tracks in a mix rather than having to edit the combined audio track. With her new initiative ‘We Are Moving The Needle’, Lazar aims to use her platform to support other women entering the recording industry, through support with industry contacts and equipment lending.
There are very few modern actresses who are as sauve, talented, and iconic as Jessica Chastain. From her big Hollywood break in Zero Dark Thirty; starring in Christopher Nolan’s epic, Interstellar; earning her first Academy Award nomination in The Help; bagging a further two Oscar nominations, most recently for The Eyes of Tammy Faye – the list of her achievements certainly feels endless. Yet, Chastain has always been more than her film work. As a proud feminist, penning essays for The Hollywood Reporter about the gender imbalance in the film industry, and even outspoken in the passive portrayal of women in films; Chastain has always faced the issues of being a woman in her industry and sort to make palpable changes. However, Chastain has sort to make a change even outside the film industry, supporting the non-profit organisation, To Write Love on Her Arms, and promoting the importance of the visibility of mental health and mental wellness. Through and through, Chastain is an advocate and an undeniable role model, and these are just a few of the reasons why she deserves to be mentioned on International Woman’s Day!
So often, the entertainment industry can be limited to the action fronts of the lights and the cameras; but these things are only possible with the people behind the moving parts. One of these women, breaking through the photography and directing industry is Sarah Carpenter. With credits like Joshua Bassett, BLACKPINK and Lauv, Sarah has worked her hobby of photography into her full-time career flitting between New York and Los Angeles for photoshoots, music videos and online concerts. She started her Instagram photography account @dontshakethepolaroid in 2016 for fun, taking photos of her sister, artists and actress Sabrina Carpenter; and since then has grown her platform and broadened her area of expertise handing her directing roles in music videos for Joshua Bassett, and her sister. She’s taken photos for magazines like Cosmopolitan and Vogue and is widely recognised throughout the industry for hr experts in film and Polaroid photography. She also runs the overall creative direction for both Josh and Sabrina; shaping the visions and visuals for their brand, videos, and promo shoots – and is generally the one behind the camera actioning her own ideas too.
Overall, despite a long career in front of the camera and on stage always alongside her sister, her role behind the camera has served her and sees her growing and developing with each new project.
I bet you think about Miss Americana herself, Taylor Swift. If you don’t, let me speak now but promise that this piece will not solely consist of song and lyric references. Although that would be perfectly fine, Swift has many more reasons as to why she should be celebrated, the first being that she herself continues to celebrate and promote other women in the industry. Whether they wear short skirts, t-shirts or both, the media can be unjustly brutal to stars new and old but especially women. Swift sent gifts and support to both Avril Lavigne and Katy Perry for personal and professional milestones and used her Billboard Woman of the Decade award speech to highlight media double standards. In the speech, Swift praised other female artists including Halsey and Camila Cabello stating that; “we are held at a higher, sometimes impossible feeling standard”. In support of people away from the media, she has helped stressed fans with student loans and medical bills, donated thousands of books to her hometown library and continually supported sexual assault charities such as the Joyful Heart Foundation. Thus, Swift remains a leading figure in support of all the girls who are killing it.
With her latest film Ali & Ava out in cinemas now, filmmaker Clio Barnard is a woman at the top of her game who deserves to be celebrated. Born and raised in West Yorkshire, Barnard’s stories tell of Northern life through experiences of grief and struggles through heartfelt scenes. Barnard has been nominated for two BAFTA awards over the past decade, as well as winning big at Cannes, Toronto, London Film Festival and Sheffield Doc/Fest.
Her 2010 film The Arbor told of Bradford playwright Andrea Dunbar in a realism, documentary-esque study of Dunbar’s home life. Barnard’s films delve into relationships, with Ali & Ava showing her ability to sensitively explore heartbreak and the difficulty of moving on. Whilst Clio Barnard has been compared by many to other British realist filmmakers such as Ken Loach, she stands alone as a pioneer of Northern cinema in modern life.