Behind the Lens: 'Mudbound' cinematographer discusses her industry and historic Oscar nomination

"Hopefully it's the first of many," the "Mudbound" director of photography said.

ByABC News via GMA logo
March 4, 2018, 6:55 AM

— -- "Mudbound" director of photography Rachel Morrison has been asked countless times over the past few weeks about her historic Oscars nomination. Her motivation to continue answering the same questions again and again, she said, is knowing that it might be having an impact on little girls around the country who are contemplating a career in film.

In January, Morrison made headlines for becoming the first woman in the history of the Academy Awards to earn a nod in the best cinematography category.

In an interview with ABC News for "Behind the Lens," a series that focuses on nominees who work behind the camera, Morrison said that hopefully her nomination is "the first of many" for female cinematographers.

"There's a visibility that comes with being the first that has been really eye-opening to me," she said. "The number of people who've sort of said how inspirational it is and in some cases, it's the encouragement that they needed -- there's a certain responsibility behind that."

Growing up, Morrison, 39, said she had many heroes in the field of cinematography, both male and female, and always had a love of photography and later, film. She told ABC News that once she began her career in Hollywood, she never faced overt sexism on sets, though, she acknowledged, "I'll never know what happens behind closed doors or why I don't get hired for things."

"It has been an industry where I've always been the anomaly," she conceded. "You just sort of get used to being one of the only women on set, so it's really refreshing to start to enter a time when that's not the case anymore."

She credits "Mudbound" director Dee Rees with championing female department heads, as well as Ryan Coogler, who directed "Black Panther," a film on which Morrison also served as DP. The movie, which had one of the biggest openings in the history of film, is also one of the first featuring a female cinematographer. Morrison said that she hopes both her critical and commercial success will help pave the way for other women who work in her field.

While actors and even sometimes directors have been known to have meteoric rises in Hollywood, "behind the scenes, you really have to kind of work your way up, and historically, it's maybe even a slower journey for women," she said. "I think that's changing! I actually feel it changing, which is exciting."

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