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Filmmaker Spotlight: Elizabeth Banks

This installment of Filmmaker Spotlight features Elizabeth Banks, whose third feature endeavor in the director’s chair, Cocaine Bear, is continuing to attract some serious star power. Names like Keri Russell, O’Shea Jackson and Ray Liotta are slated to star in the upcoming thriller inspired by actual events in Kentucky in 1985. But many know the rising director best for her own work in front of the camera in films such as Love & Mercy and The Hunger Games, as well as series like 30 Rock and Modern Family.

The multi-hyphenate is a self-declared “proud native” of Pittsfield, Massachusetts, and followed up her undergraduate work at the University of Pennsylvania with an MFA from the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco. One of the first major films she appeared in was Wet Hot American Summer, which is also the first project on her IMDb page in which she’s credited as Elizabeth Banks rather than with her birth name of Elizabeth Maresal Mitchell. 

Banks continued gathering on-camera credits, but by 2002 she felt like women weren’t allowed enough influence in Hollywood and launched Brownstone Productions with her husband Max Handelman to create more opportunities for female voices to be heard. The company has produced a number of projects that include Hulu’s Shrill and Universal’s Pitch Perfect series. Besides reprising her role as Gail in Pitch Perfect 2, Banks also made her feature directorial debut with the film. “As a female leader in Hollywood, someone who runs a production company and makes film and television and has the Pitch Perfect franchise under my belt, I care about telling stories in new ways and highlighting interesting, underserved voices,” Banks noted during a Forbes interview. “Especially women’s voices.”

That dedication can be seen in Banks’ sophomore feature endeavor as a director, the 2019 reboot of Charlie’s Angels, which also earned the multi-hyphenate her first writing credit. “I wanted it to remind people that women are everywhere, that you can’t ignore us and that when you underestimate us, you give us a superpower,” Banks shared during an IndieWire interview about the film. 

The filmmaker has certainly made waves in the industry and was recognized in 2019 as the “Pioneer of the Year” by the Will Rogers Motion Picture Pioneers Foundation, making her the first female director to receive the honor in the foundation’s history. And she’s not slowing down anytime soon. Besides Cocaine Bear, Banks has a number of projects in the works. One example is the animated adult comedy series entitled Bedrock that she’s executively producing, a spinoff of the Flintstones which picks up two decades after the original.  

Besides developing the series, Banks will also lend her voice to the adult version of Pebbles Flintstone.She’s pulling off a similar feat with the upcoming series adaptation of Victoria Aveyard’s YA fantasy novel Red Queen. Banks is slated to appear in the upcoming project and develop it via Brownstone Productions, as well as direct

The list of all her upcoming projects is impressive in length, and each one presumably shares the same mission behind it. “I want people to feel happy, I want people to feel inspired, a little bit braver, and a little friendlier when they watch something that I do,” Banks shared during a Variety interview. All things considered, we think the rising filmmaker has certainly earned her place in the spotlight.


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