Alumna Deborah Chow '03 is the First Woman to Direct 'Star Wars'

Gina Hackett
December 17, 2019

Alumna Deborah Chow '03 became the first woman to direct a live-action installment in the Star Wars franchise when she directed two episodes of Disney +’s new series The Mandalorian.

According to Rolling Stone, Chow wasn’t even aware of the achievement until production on the first of the two episodes, “The Sin,” was about to begin. 

“Even when I first got this job, it didn’t even cross my mind,” Chow told Vanity Fair. “I don’t know what fairyland I was in, to not think this was significant. But I went through prep and it didn’t occur to me until somebody said it on one of the first days of shooting.”

In directing the widely-viewed episode, Chow was influenced by classic Asian cinema such as Akira Kurosawa’s Yojimbo and the Hong Kong action films that her father watched while she was growing up.

“There’s definitely a lot of my dad in that episode,” Chow said. “Sadly he didn’t get to see this. But he would be very proud. He would probably also be in shock.”

Chow also got to direct a character that has recently taken hold of popular culture: Baby Yoda.

“When you’ve got even tough grips who are falling in love with a little creature, you know that you have something,” Chow told Rolling Stone. It was an amazing mix of visual effect and puppetry, and just getting to create something special that ended up feeling very human, and like a real living, breathing character.”

Chow is also set to direct an as yet untitled Obi-Wan Kenobi series, also backed by Disney +, starring Ewan McGregor.

Prior to The Mandalorian, Chow has directed episodes of ReignJessica JonesThe Vampire Diaries, and Better Call Saul, amongst others. 

She also wrote and directed Daypass, a short film that took home the prize for Best Short at the Turin Film Festival and screened internationally at several film festivals. 

The feature script version of the short film won the Comedy Central Award for Best Comedy Screenplay.

Chow’s following short film, The Hill, premiered at the 2004 Toronto International Film Festival. Both of her short films have aired on CBC, and Daypass is available on iTunes.

Her first feature, The High Cost of Living, starred Zach Braff and Isabelle Blais, along with winning Best First Feature and Top Ten at the Toronto International Film Festival.

Chow received Kodak’s 2005 New Vision Mentorship and has attended the Berlinale Talent Campus, Toronto International Film Festival Talent Lab, and Praxis Screenwriting Lab. 

Chow’s next episode of The Mandalorian will be available to stream on December 18.