It is true. There are more male than female directors in film. However, what will always remain undeniable and unchangeable is that the sex of a director has nothing to do with what makes a director valuable. He or she has to have a strong vision and passion for film. In order to bring a script to life, a director has to be able to capture and understand the vision of the screenwriter and the tone of the film. Not only does Lisa Cholodenko embody the qualities of a director, she is also a talented screenwriter. She focuses on the psychology and shifting states of mind of her characters. At times in films, woman characters display only one side, whereas Cholodenko aims to expose and highlight the multifaceted personality of a woman.
Cholodenko’s upbringing and her eclectic and transformational academic career molded her into the film maker and screenwriter she is today. She was born into a liberal Jewish family in the San Fernando Valley of California. She studied anthropology, ethnic studies, and women’s studies at San Francisco State University. Her curiosity and interest in social sciences has always had an influence on her choice of subject matter. After college she took some time off and traveled to India and Nepal, and then spent 18 months in Jerusalem. She had her first experience working in film in New York City when she worked as an apprentice editor on John Singleton’s Boyz n the Hood and on Beeban Kieron’s Used People. Similar to the way her academic interests made a mark on her craft, her work experience also influenced her, realizing that although she wasn’t very involved in the overall film, she learned how much time and effort it takes to make a film.
Through this experience she realized she needed to learn more about film and that eventually she wanted to make her own, so she went for an MFA in directing and screenwriting at Columbia University. Film school was where she felt she could hone in on her talent and get more first hand experience in screen writing and film making, as well as where she wrote and directed some of her most promising work. She started off with short films, such as Souvenir (1994) and Dinner Party (1997), which won awards in various international film festivals. She later moved onto feature films, such as High Art which won the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award at the Sundance Film Festival. As well as Laurel Canyon, which premiered at Cannes Director’s Fortnight. In 2010 she won the “Women in Film Dorothy Arzner Directors Award”.
Her latest film, The Kids Are All Right received a nomination for an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay and a Golden Globe Award for Best Screenplay nomination. She cowrote the film with a screenwriter friend of hers, Stuart Blumberg. It was the first time that she worked with someone else on a script and found that they collaborated well together, and that working together actually sped up the process. They were both able to put a little bit of their characters into the film. Julianne Moore and Annette Bening starred as the devoted gay married couple going through a transitional and emotionally difficult period in their marriage. When their two kids decide they want to reconnect with their sperm donor father, this event causes some friction in the family, but is what eventually helps them to grow. Cholodenko wrote this during a time that she herself was looking for an anonymous sperm donor, and it just so happened that Blumberg was a sperm donor in college. So they both had a lot of real life material to work with. Her eclectic, realist, humanistic personality shines through this film, as well as in her previous ones.
Her films are refreshing and thought-provoking as she digs deep and dissects the inner workings of family, love, and relationships. Through her talent and dedication she paves the way for other aspiring woman directors and writers to move forward with their visions and ideas and work towards turning them into a reality. She also shows that in order to create a successful film you don’t need to go beyond the boundaries of reality, because there is beauty and truth in the reality we live in, and that the day-to-day mundanities of life are actually stories to be told.