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Five Minutes with Jane Campion

Interviews
by Melissa Silverstein
January 24, 2013 2:00 PM
2 Comments
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This week at Sundance I got to sit down for a brief couple of minutes to check in with Jane Campion who was in town promoting her six hour mini series Top of the Lake which will premiere on the Sundance channel on March 18th.

Women and Hollywood: You’ve always been supportive of women directors, you presented Julia Leigh’s movie [Sleeping Beauty]. Talk about why that’s important to you.

Jane Campion: You know, I love women and I think they are great storytellers.  And they are all so different so it’s really a problem to stereotype them.  I love that Kathryn Bigelow is so great at telling war stories.  I think she’s just smashed the cliché. It’s very liberating for all of us.  I like to feel that there are new voices out there.

WaH: You were there this morning for the presentation of the new research Exploring the Barriers and Opportunities for Independent Women Filmmakers. The numbers are still bad even here at Sundance and they haven’t changed in the last decade.

JC: You’ve got to put it in perspective. C’mon, are the numbers good anywhere in the world? For women in business or other industires anywhere?  To be honest, I don’t see it as any different.  It’s always hard for women.  And to be matched or have the same degree of representation in all the high end businesses, don’t you think?

WaH: Like in politics.

JC: I used to sit with my mother and I liked to annoy her. She was like “don’t be silly.” I’d be like “okay give me the newspaper.”  And we’d do a very random search and we turn the page and count how many pictures of men and women there are in the newspaper.  She would be like “this is completely ridiculous. See, there’s a woman.”  We’d count them up and you’d be amazed at the difference, almost 80% guys. 

But do I care? No, I’m too old to care. I don’t care anymore. Let them have it. I’m going to think about other things.

WaH: I spend a lot of time counting numbers on my site and it’s terrible. For example, last year’s Cannes Film Festival did not have a single female in competition.

JC: Cannes Film Festival is actually very supportive towards women filmmakers though.  They have been very supportive.  There just weren’t great movies from the ladies, and it’s not their fault, it’s the financing of the women. I don’t think it’s at that level to attack. I think it’s at the funding level.  We need more women being funded.

WaH: But what they said, the guy that was at the head of it, said that they didn’t look hard enough. That they needed to work harder.

JC: I’m sure they said that.  They like women filmmakers at Cannes.

WaH: The last three years they’ve had no women in competition twice.

JC: Yes, but how many women are producing movies? There are just 20 movies in competition and in total there are only 4% of women directing features.

WaH: That's the top 100 grossing films.

JC: That really lowers the option. It’s really hard for them.

WaH: But part of it is bringing awareness about women’s visions.

JC: I’m sensible about it. If there were more women making film, then yes, there’d definitely be no problem.  Women are very clever.

WaH: You don’t think there are enough women making movies?

JC: No, not to get to that level.

WaH: We need more women in the pipeline, like in politics.

JC: One thing, I think that was really important in Australia was that our funding is public. You can demand that public money be funded without gender bias.  And that’s what they did. Women really pioneered and feminists really made sure that the funding went to support women. And that changed the whole scene. 

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2 Comments

  • Oy | January 24, 2013 3:33 PMReply

    Oh boy. With all due respect to Ms. Campion, I think she's a little blind to the realities of the current state of women in film. For one, there are a lot more women directors than it seems she realizes. Also, she kept saying that Cannes is good to women, but didn't give an example of that. Granted, maybe she wasn't given the chance to...Still, I think her unyielding defense of Cannes shows a bit of ignorance. Festival programming is not an objective process and that is precisely why festivals need to make a greater effort to find the films made by women. There are a lot of politics and cronyism involved in programming and those two things have historically left women on the sidelines.

  • Oy | January 24, 2013 3:33 PM

    That being said, I do agree with her on the lack of funding for films by/about women. And, I'm glad she pointed out how Australia's arts funding helped women directors.

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