The Girls In The Band: Film Tells Untold Stories Of Women Jazz And Big Band Musicians

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Award-winning filmmaker Judy Chaikin grew up in a family of musicians. She studied music as a young girl, playing trumpet in her Junior High School band. But it was early on that Judy found that the band wasn’t a welcoming environment for a girl, so she called it quits.  Although she gave up her trumpet, Judy has spent most of her life following her passion for performance. Judy’s career has taken many twists and turns. She started out as an actress, was a dancer, and even tried her hand as a stand-up comedian before becoming the acclaimed director, writer and producer that she is today.

“It’s been a very long road. I started about thirty years ago when there were hardly any women directors in film or television and I’ve had to carve out a very circuitous path for myself. Because of that I worked wherever I could: theater, film, television, industrial films, educational films and documentaries,” Judy explained in a brief interview with WYSK. “So what was initially very difficult became a challenge that eventually shaped me as a filmmaker. I may not have had as lucrative a career as my male counterparts, but I’ve had a very creatively satisfying career.”

When the world told them they couldn’t play, they did it anyway.

It’s her most recent project – The Girls In The Band – that took Judy back to her musical roots. This full feature documentary film tells the untold stories of female jazz and big band instrumentalists from the late ‘30s to the present. It uncovers how these incredibly talented women endured sexism, racism and diminished opportunities for decades, yet continued to persevere, inspire and elevate their talents in a field that seldom welcomed them. Today, there is a new breed of gifted young women taking their rightful place in the world of jazz, which can no longer deny their talents.

Layout 1The Girls In The Band first premiered in 2011 at the Vancouver Film Festival, and played the festival circuit throughout 2012, winning several prestigious awards including Audience Choice Awards, a Best Music Documentary Award and Best Documentary Award.

Just yesterday, a Collector’s Edition DVD of the film was released that includes many never before seen stories. It’s also now viewable as Video On Demand through iTunes, making this important retelling of jazz history accessible to countless people.

Having left her trumpet behind, we wondered what inspired Judy to take on this documentary, which delivers a powerful message to all women. “Eight years ago a friend told me about a 90-year-old woman who said she had been a big band drummer in the 40’s. I didn’t believe it because I had never seen a woman play an instrument in a big band,” Judy shared. “I did a little research and discovered a hidden treasure of women musicians that no one ever had talked about.”

So we have Judy Chaikin to thank for bringing their untold stories to light and for preserving the contributions these incredibly talented women made and are continuing to make to the jazz and big band scene.

Watch The Official Film Trailer: The Girls In The Band

More About Judy Chaikin

Judy_ChaikinJudy is a graduate of AFI’s Directing Workshop for Women and is best known for writing, producing and directing the Emmy nominated PBS documentary, “Legacy of the Hollywood Blacklist.” In 2004, she received her second Emmy nomination for the documentary “Building on a Dream: The NoHo Art Project.” Recently she directed and co-wrote the short romantic-comedy film, “Cotillion ‘65”, which has appeared in 40 film festivals winning Best Short, Best Comedy, Best Director and Audience Choice Awards.

Judy was a Supervising Producer/Segment Director on the ABC series, “FBI: The Untold Stories,” a Co-Producer of the CBS Movie Of The Week, “Stolen Innocence,” the Writer/Director of the bi-lingual PBS documentary, “Los Pastores” and in 1996, she won the Blue Ribbon at the American Educational Film and TV Festival for the docu-drama, “Sojourner Truth: Ain’t I A Woman,” featuring Julie Harris.