Feminists & Filmmaking: An Evening With Jane Campion

Last night, I had the privilege of attending a reception organized by Women & Hollywood's Melissa Silverstein for Bright Star director Jane Campion, given at the home of Gloria Steinem. In attendance: A small group of impressive women:

Bloggers, writers, filmmakers, producers. The poet and actress Sarah Jones. Pamela Tanner Boll, director of Who Does She Think She Is? Leslie Harris, director of Just Another Girl On The IRT. Fear Of Flying author Erica Jong. Kitty Kolbert, of Barnard's Athena Leadership Program. And many more. Amazing, accomplished women (including my nemesis, Ann Curry).

There was a bar in the dark, book-lined bedroom and hors d'oeuvres were passed in the elegant, well-lit living room, and then Ms. Steinem spoke. "I'm writing an on the road book, but I feel bad, because I don't know how to drive," she told the room of 30 or so women. "But then I found out that Kerouac didn't either."

Ms. Steinem introduced Jane Campion, whose new film, Bright Star, is a dreamy, touching tale about the poet John Keats, and his relationship with his neighbor, Fanny Brawne. (Excellent performances in those roles by the foxy Ben Whishaw and the luminous Abbie Cornish.) Ms. Campion spoke about the film, and then the topic of filmmaking came up. "I look forward to the day when we stop saying 'woman filmmaker,'" she said. "I mean, you just say 'artist.' And there are so many women novelists…" But she admitted that filmmaking has a glass ceiling, when it comes to women, and Ms. Steinem pointed out that Campion is the only female director to have won the Palm D'or at the Cannes Film Festival — an award that was introduced in 1955. In addition, Campion is one of only three women — out of 396 people — ever nominated for a Best Director Oscar. No woman has ever won.

Melissa Silverstein reminded everyone that 50% of movie tickets are purchased by women, yet women direct 9% of films. She insisted that purchasing a movie ticket is like a vote, and urged those listening to vote for women, and to vote well — opening weekend.

The conversation touched upon how hard it is to get funding, and how, since many film critics are men, films made by women often suffer from harsh reviews after they're made. Campion admitted that her career was given a boost by grants given to female filmmakers by the Australian government.

Ms. Campion closed with this thought: "Women gave birth to everyone on this planet. No one, no one on this planet didn't come through a woman. It makes me furious that people don't seem to care what women think."