Campion: women directors need more armor

Posted by · 10:30 am · May 15th, 2009

Jane CampionThat Jane Campion is one of three female auteurs competing for the Palme d’Or at Cannes this year is seen as a relative step up for the fairer sex compared to years past, though by any logical standards, a 3-to-17 ratio is still an indication of a globally male-biased industry.

Campion, however, has an interesting take on the matter: though she blames studio sexism to an extent, though she thinks women themselves have some responsibility for the situation. Noting that the imbalance begins as early as the film school stage, she wondered at a Cannes press conference whether her female peers are more easily deterred by criticism:

I would love to see more women directors because they represent half of the population and gave birth to the whole world … Without them the rest are not getting to know the whole story. I think women don’t grow up with the kind of criticism that men grow up with. We are more sensitively treated. It is quite harsh when you first experience the world of film-making — you have to have a tough skin. My suspicion is that women are not used to that. We must put on our coats of armour and get going because we need them [female directors].

I’m neither agreeing nor disagreeing, but from a successful auteur who has endured her share of criticism in past years, it’s an interesting perspective. Thankfully, considering the wealth of high-profile female-directed projects in the wings this year — from “Bright Star” to “The Hurt Locker” to “An Education” — things may be looking up.

Meanwhile, strong reviews for Campion’s film continue to pour in; Todd McCarthy calls it an “impressive return” for Jane Campion, and amps up the buzz for star Abbie Cornish. U.S. distribution rights were snapped up a few days ago by ex-Picturehouse chief Bob Berney and Bill Pohlad’s new outfit.




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5 responses so far

  • 1 5-15-2009 at 11:17 am

    Aleksis said...

    Maybe Campion should head straight to the screening of Precious if she thinks we live in a world that treats women more sensitively than men. Gawd.

  • 2 5-15-2009 at 6:51 pm

    Blake said...

    I wouldn’t necessarily call the filmmaking industry a “male-biased” industry, as much as a “male-centric” industry. When you really look at the numbers, I don’t think that many women want to be filmmakers as much as men. Not only do you have to have a strong stomach for criticism, you have to be a bulldog to make your way in the business. Do you know how ugly those interparty agreement meetings can get? Production jobs such as camera operator and key grip will almost always attract male workers because of the physical demands. Screenwriting is a lonely profession. So is editing. In the end, I think you see less women in the industry because they have more common sense than guys do.
    The fact that there are less women filmmakers than men doesn’t take away from the fact that they are just as talented. In fact, women make better editors than men. When you look at the work of Anne V. Coates, Thelma Schoonmaker, and Didi Allen, you wish there were more female editors working today.

  • 3 5-15-2009 at 7:12 pm

    Tina said...

    “I don’t think that many women want to be filmmakers as much as men”

    Or maybe they’re just not as encouraged? I know plenty of women writers and directors, but they’re constantly discoursed in film school because of the fact that it’s a “male dominated industry”. It’s sort of like a self-fulfilling prophecy. You keep telling women “slim chance you’ll get a shot” and they’ll eventually go onto different avenues where they can becoming successful is more likely. That’s being smart. Some are more stubborn than others, and they’re the ones who break through. But to say women can’t handle the cut-throat business aspect of it is just plain stupid and sexist, sorry.

  • 4 5-15-2009 at 7:13 pm

    Tina said...

    Discouraged, not discoursed. I don’t know where that came from.

  • 5 5-17-2009 at 1:14 am

    Glenn said...

    Blake, how about Sally Menke too? However, then look at the cinematography side of things and not one female Oscar nominee ever. A frightening statistic.