A few days ago, Production Weekly informed us that Vera Farmiga will star in and direct the upcoming film Higher Ground, and it is a bit of news that I have really pondered since then. Farmiga, a terrific actress for quite some time, finally made her mainstream breakthrough last year with her Oscar-nominated turn in Up in the Air, and hopefully that buzz will convince people to keep an eye on this project.

Along with Up in the Air, Farmiga's most notable mainstream presence comes in Martin Scorsese's The Departed. In both of these films, Farmiga is very good, giving audiences every reason to seek out some of her earlier films. But for some reason, her more indie type efforts have just not gotten the recognition they deserve. In 2008, she starred in two great films that very few people saw: The Boy in the Striped Pajamas and Nothing But the Truth. Going back even further, since the days of Down to the Bone, Farmiga has given consistently excellent performances.

It will be interesting to see how Farmiga is able to direct herself. One of her best characteristics as an actress is her fluidity, and I wonder if that will be affected. Considering the nature of her role in this new film, which is that of a woman struggling with her religion, Higher Ground is probably going to be a strait-laced drama, something more akin to her earlier work rather than Up in the Air.

There have been many famous stars to successfully make the jump between actor and director. In 1971, Clint Eastwood directed the thrilling (if somewhat cheesy) suspense flick Play Misty for Me, and he simply hasn't looked back, both in front of the camera and behind it. In similar fashion, Robert Redford won an Oscar for his 1980 directorial debut Ordinary People, and proved that it wasn't a fluke with another nomination in 1995 for Quiz Show. Redford also has a new film, The Conspirator, which is set to be released sometime later this year.

If you look at some of the other more notable actors-turned-directors, such as Sean Penn or George Clooney, these are some pretty iconic screen performers, and Farmiga is by no means in that category just yet. I am intrigued to see if Farmiga's more low-key status is something that might work to her advantage. Among mainstream audiences, this project will most likely remain in the shadows for quite some time, possibly keeping expectations at a reasonable level.

If anything, with this decision, Farmiga provides another prominent name into the ever-growing canon of recognizable female filmmakers. Who knows, maybe five or ten years before 2010 Farmiga would not have been able to convince a production company to finance her film. Maybe this is what directors like Kathryn Bigelow have changed in the industry. Perhaps they haven't changed the way producers or audiences think, but they have surely instilled confidence in other women to go out and fight for their films and their visions. And that is more than half the battle.

Farmiga, a notoriously busy worker, has another rigorous year ahead of her. Along with developing her directorial debut, she is currently in-production on three films: Henry's Crime, W.E., and Source Code. The latter will be the second feature from Duncan Jones, who directed Sam Rockwell in Moon.

Do you have any thoughts on Farmiga's potential, or actors-turned-directors in general?

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