Blockbuster movies are finally breaking the barriers, both on set and behind the scenes. Following yesterday’s news that WB hired Cathy Yan to direct the untitled Harley Quinn film, comes word that Victoria Mahoney has been hired as the second unit director for Star Wars: Episode IX.
Which is big news for those who know what kind of responsibilities the second unit director has, including shooting the supplementary footage, which consists of shots, stunts, inserts, and cutaways. More on the story below.
A Wrinkle In Time director Ava DuVernay broke the news in a tweet that was posted last night:
If you are unable to read the embed, here is its in text form:
Happy to share this historic news. A black woman directing stories in a galaxy far, far away. First unit director #JJAbrams. Second unit director @VictoriaMahoney. #StarWarsE9 #StarWars
This is pretty exciting news for people of color, particularly women of color, who have been fighting for a chance to have these sort of responsibilities. They have just as much of a creative voice as anyone else, and to deny them the right to express it, would be wrong. So it’s a pretty exciting time to be alive when we can see that women can be as much of a geek as the person next to them. These hires are definitely a step in the right direction, and hopefully we will get to see more of them in the near future.
DuVernay is definitely one of the figureheads leading the charge of this change. She was the first WOC to direct a $100 million-plus budgeted film. Though it may not have performed well at the box office, it did mark a shift in the right direction in the industry. Episode IX director J.J. Abrams himself is a proponent who is advocating for more diverse hires within the industry. Both on screen and behind the scenes.
Now Mahoney is not exactly a household name, but she has directed a handful of TV episodes including Queen Sugar, Power, Grey’s Anatomy, American Crime, and the pilot episode for the upcoming American re-envisioning of the British show Misfits. So, Star Wars: Episode IX is a huge leap from her previous projects.
A second unit director is responsible for shooting supplementary footage; this includes establishing shots, stunts, inserts, and cutaways. Basically, they are shooting the action scenes with the stunt performers whenever the first director, in this case Abrams, is busy with the principal cast. These scenes may also require a significantly different filming arrangement than for ordinary scenes. Second unit directors may also be responsible for shooting settings that don’t require the principal cast. Meaning, they would take care of the close-ups, inserts, cutaways, and establishing shots.
With Star Wars: Episode IX being a massive undertaking, it only makes sense that Abrams split the responsibilities to make the production a lot easier. The hiring of Mahoney represents the positive changes that are happening within the industry. This latest hire can only open the doors for more minorities to have larger roles both on screen and off.
Star Wars: Episode IX is scheduled to begin filming later this summer, and is set for a December 20, 2019. release.