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Gillian Armstrong

Gillian Armstrong

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Also Known As: Gill Armstrong, Gillian May Armstrong Died:
Born: December 18, 1950 Cause of Death:
Birth Place: Australia Profession: director, producer, screenwriter, editor, art director, waitress

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

A gifted and award-winning filmmaker from Australia, Gillian Armstrong first garnered attention with her debut feature, "My Brilliant Career" (1979), which helped propel her to international recognition. The film's release gave Armstrong the distinction of being the first woman to helm a feature-length movie in her homeland in almost 50 years. Coupled with the themes of "My Brilliant Career," she was threatened from the outset with being pigeonholed as a so-called feminist director, a tag that Armstrong vehemently refused to accept. Meanwhile, she built on her success with the light and frothy "Starstruck" (1982) and the true-to-life "Mrs. Soffel" (1984), both of which allowed her to explore female protagonists striking out on their own, albeit in vastly different situations. Not strictly a narrative filmmaker, Armstrong helmed the occasional documentary, starting with "Smokes and Lollies" (1975), which focused on three working-class adolescents' dreams and aspirations. She returned to the same subjects over the ensuing decades, with Armstrong exploring them as they grew into adults and had teenage children of their own. But narrative filmmaking remained her main focus. She had one of her greatest...

A gifted and award-winning filmmaker from Australia, Gillian Armstrong first garnered attention with her debut feature, "My Brilliant Career" (1979), which helped propel her to international recognition. The film's release gave Armstrong the distinction of being the first woman to helm a feature-length movie in her homeland in almost 50 years. Coupled with the themes of "My Brilliant Career," she was threatened from the outset with being pigeonholed as a so-called feminist director, a tag that Armstrong vehemently refused to accept. Meanwhile, she built on her success with the light and frothy "Starstruck" (1982) and the true-to-life "Mrs. Soffel" (1984), both of which allowed her to explore female protagonists striking out on their own, albeit in vastly different situations. Not strictly a narrative filmmaker, Armstrong helmed the occasional documentary, starting with "Smokes and Lollies" (1975), which focused on three working-class adolescents' dreams and aspirations. She returned to the same subjects over the ensuing decades, with Armstrong exploring them as they grew into adults and had teenage children of their own. But narrative filmmaking remained her main focus. She had one of her greatest critical successes with a rich and compelling remake of "Little Women" (1994), which she followed with well-crafted films like "Oscar and Lucinda" (1997) and "Charlotte Gray" (2001). Though often denying any favoritism toward period films focused on independent female protagonists, there was no doubt that Armstrong was a great practitioner of those exact kinds of films.

VIEW THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Filmographyclose complete filmography

DIRECTOR:

4.
  Charlotte Gray (2001) Director
5.
  Oscar and Lucinda (1997) Director
6.
  Not Fourteen Again (1996) Director
7.
  Little Women (1994) Director
8.
9.
  Fires Within (1991) Director
10.

CAST: (feature film)

1.
 Fourteen's Good, Eighteen's Better (1980) Interviewer
2.
 Busy Kind of Bloke, A (1980) Herself
3.
 Smokes and Lollies (1975) Interviewer
4.
 Promised Woman (1974) Nurse
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

1971:
Debut as director, producer and screenwriter, 8-minute short, "Roof Needs Mowing"
1972:
Worked as an editor for Kingcroft Productions
1971:
Made three short films while in school (including "Gretel")
1974:
First credit as art director, "Promised Woman" (also first film appearance, played a nurse)
1975:
Shot documentary "Smoke and Lollies"
1976:
First documentary as producer, "The Singer and the Dancer" (also director)
1978:
Feature directorial debut, "My Brilliant Career", starring Judy Davis; became the first woman in 50 years to direct a feature in Australia
1980:
Wrote, directed and produced the documentary "Fourteen's Good, Eighteen's Better", a sequel to "Smoke and Lollies"
1984:
First Hollywood feature, "Mrs. Soffel"
1986:
US TV directing and producing debut, "Bob Dylan in Concert" for HBO
1987:
Reunited with Judy Davis on "High Tide"
1988:
Completed third installment of documentary begun in 1975 following the lives of three teenage girls, "Bingo, Bridesmaids and Braces"
1991:
Removed her name from "Fires Within" when MGM edited the film
1994:
Helmed the remake of "Little Women"
1996:
"Not Fourteen Again", a feature version of her documentaries that followed three women from their teens to adulthood released in Australia
1997:
Directed the adaptation of Peter Carey's award-winning novel "Oscar and Lucinda"
VIEW ALL MILESTONES

Education

Swinburne Technical College of Advanced Education: - 1971
Australian Film Television and Radio School: - 1973

Notes

"The whole women's thing should be buried by now. I had to speak out as the only woman filmmaker in 50 years in [Australia]. It's putting me in a ghetto to always be hit with the women's questions." --Gillian Anderson in DETOUR MAGAZINE, December 1997-January 1998

"One thing I'm very sensitive about--and have been since film school--is this preconception about women film directors. We're always seen as having to be the little mother on the set, which is the last thing I ever was. Actually, I have wonderful people on my production crew who mother and look after me, and many of them are men." --Armstrong quoted in DGA MAGAZINE, September-October 1995

"The script is everything. But I am finding at the moment that American scripts, of which I am reading dozens at the moment, tend to be mostly formula. Time and time again when I read something that has an extra edge to it, in which characters have more depth, it has been adapted from a book." --quoted in SIGHT AND SOUND, April 1995

"Hollywood IS hard on women. It's still that terrible cliche that when men stand up for what they believe in it's considered artistic expression; a woman is being a troublemaker and a bitch." --to Ruth Reichl in THE NEW YORK TIMES, March 8, 1995

Companions close complete companion listing

companion:
John Pffefer. Editor. Father of her two daughters.

Family close complete family listing

daughter:
Billie Pffefer. Born c. 1985.

Bibliography close complete biography

"35mm Dreams: Conversations with Five Directors" Penguin Australia

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