Page last updated at 08:23 GMT, Wednesday, 7 April 2010 09:23 UK

The Bigelow effect

By Tim Masters
Entertainment correspondent, BBC News

Kathryn Bigelow holding two of her Oscar awards.
Kathryn Bigelow was first woman to win the best director Oscar

One month after Kathryn Bigelow became the first woman to win the Oscar for best director, women in the film industry talk about the significance of her win.

"I did feel I was hitting a glass ceiling as a director."

She may not be a household name, but Susanna White has been described as Britain's Kathryn Bigelow.

The director's most recent television project was HBO's Generation Kill - a drama about a group of US marines during the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

"It's extremely flattering to be called Britain's Kathryn Bigelow," says White. "I e-mailed her when she won the Directors Guild of America award - I was so pleased to see a woman win that for the first time."

Susanna White
Susanna White has been described as the "British Bigelow"

White - whose TV credits include Bleak House, Jane Eyre and Teachers - has just made her first feature film, Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang.

She was offered the movie script while filming Generation Kill in Namibia.

"Kathryn Bigelow said very kind things to me about Generation Kill," says White. "I think it is significant that we both got recognition for a piece of work about an all-male world."

Like Bigelow's The Hurt Locker, Generation Kill was based on the account of an embedded reporter in Iraq.

White says: "When I made Generation Kill things changed for me and people saw me differently as a director, and took me seriously in a way they hadn't before."

Emma Thompson
Emma Thompson has won Oscars for best actress and best adapted screenplay

Nanny McPhee star Emma Thompson, a double Oscar winner, agrees that Bigelow's victory is important because "the director's guild is a very very closed shop".

"It's utterly male - so it's a big step," she says. "We've got to see what happens in terms of women getting directing jobs and being recognised.

"When Generation Kill was winning awards everywhere, Susanna will confess to having felt she was not mentioned in the same breath as some of the male directors.

Thompson added: "We still have the cloak of invisibility that has to be torn away, and Kathryn's done so much for that."

Maggie Gyllenhaal
Maggie Gyllenhaal made her name in 2002 film Secretary

Actress Maggie Gyllenhaal calls Bigelow's victory "pretty significant".

"I think women are in a pretty good place right now, I think women have a lot of power," she says.

"I don't want to put too fine a point on the fact that that movie - which was great - was directed by a woman. It was well directed by a person. But I'm really glad she won and broke that glass ceiling."

Gyllenhaal, star of films like Secretary, Sherrybaby, The Dark Knight and Crazyheart, says she finds working with female director a different experience.

"My relationship with whoever is directing is very intense and very intimate and obviously its a different relationship you have with a woman than you have with a man."

Bigelow herself is often reluctant to be referred to as a female director, making no reference to her gender in her Oscars acceptance speech. After her win, she said she hoped to inspire film-makers of both sexes.

Jane Goldman and Matthew Vaughn
Jane Goldman and Matthew Vaughn have worked together on Stardust and Kick-Ass

Jane Goldman, screenwriter on Stardust and Kick-Ass, echoes those thoughts.

"It's obviously wonderful," she tells the BBC at the Empire Film Awards, "but it'll be lovely when people aren't judged on their gender.

"Kathryn Bigelow is a great director and I see her as a director first rather than as a woman - which is as it should be."

Kick-Ass director Matthew Vaughn adds a male perspective: "Point Break was one of my favourite movies, but I agree with Jane - why should it be made a fuss of?

"If women are going to be good directors they're good directors - it doesn't matter if they are a woman or not."

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