Nell Shipman (1892 – 1970)

Nell Shipman

Nell Shipman was an actor and filmmaking pioneer. If not the first Canadian woman to become a filmmaker, she was among the first. Shipman was born in Victoria, moved to the U.S. as a young child, and at age 13 began travelling and performing with vaudeville shows and in theatre stock companies. Although her first starring role in 1916 made her an overnight success, Shipman refused a seven-year studio contract to start an independent production company with her husband. She later launched Nell Shipman Productions, where she wrote, directed and starred in outdoor adventure movies, performing her own stunts and training the wild animals that appeared with her onscreen. Unable to compete with the larger studios, Shipman eventually left filmmaking and devoted her career to writing short stories, novels and screenplays.

“I have proven that woman is on a par with man in driving a motor car, as she is in every other walk of life. All she needs is the experience – the physical training – the freedom from restraint.”

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