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Victoria Mahoney Is the First Black Female Star Wars Director as 2nd Unit Director on Episode IX

Star Wars: Episode IX has only just started pre-production, and there’s already great news coming out of that shoot. Yesterday, Ava DuVernay announced via her Instagram that the film’s director and executive producer, J.J. Abrams, has hired Victoria Mahoney as his 2nd unit director on the film, making her the first black woman to direct on a story from a galaxy far, far away.

For those who are unfamiliar, a 2nd unit director is basically like director backup. Most big films are divided into two units, one crew that shoots with the main cast, and another entirely separate crew of filmmakers that shoots supplementary footage like establishing shots, stunts, inserts, and cutaways. Both units are often working at the same time so that the filming part of production can move faster. So, the 2nd unit director is in charge of all that footage, getting to use their eye (in conjunction with the first unit director, obviously) on large swaths of the story.

So this is a pretty big deal, and it’s awesome that we didn’t have to wait until some “next” opportunity to see this happen.

Mahoney has done most of her work in television, having directed episodes of shows like Queen Sugar, Grey’s Anatomy, Claws, and Power. She also directed the pilot of an upcoming American adaptation of the British sci-fi show, Misfits. However, Mahoney does have a feature film under her belt as well, having written and directed a 2011 film called Yelling to the Sky, starring Zoë Kravitz and Sonequa Martin-Green.

She’s also recently directed the pilot for another show for DuVernay called Red Line for CBS, which DuVernay is producing with Greg Berlanti, and as we learned last summer, Mahoney is the writer on her upcoming television adaptation of Octavia Butler’s Dawn.

Now she’s in a unique position, getting to direct on a Star Wars film in a way that will prepare her for being a first unit director on a film of this size and scope. While I’ve admittedly not been thrilled about how slow-moving Lucasfilm has been about hiring female directors, this is actually a pretty great way to get talented female directors in the pipeline for future films a lot sooner.

I’m thrilled that Abrams has made this hire, and I’m excited to see what Mahoney brings to the table. She’s having a pretty big year, and it shows zero sign of slowing down.

Hell. Yes.

(via Variety, image: Lucasfilm/Disney)

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