CJFF_001The Citizen Jane Film Institute began in 2006 with the Citizen Jane Lecture Series, with a desire to bring working professional women in the film industry to Stephens College so that the Digital Film students could learn directly from them. In 2008, we created the Citizen Jane Film Festival, a three day festival celebrating and supporting the women who make films. We also began the Citizen Jane Film Series, screening films made by women and again bringing them to Missouri. In 2010, in collaboration with Stephens College and Columbia Public Schools we hosted the first Camp Citizen Jane, a filmmaking camp for young women 12-17 years old. Every June, Camp Citizen Jane now holds a Basic Filmmaking and Media Literacy Camp and an Advanced Filmmaking Camp for young women. In 2013, we began hosting free professional filmmaking workshops with these filmmaker in conjunction with the Film Series to spread the incredible wealth of film knowledge of our guests to the community. Also in 2013, we hosted the first annual CJ Summit, a day long conference that brings influencers in film together with participants from Stephens College, the University of Missouri and guests throughout the region to strategize on ways to change the ways women are represented in film and to increase the number of women in film.

In 1978, the EEOC published a report identifying the gross inequities facing women in film. Thirty-six years later, according to the Celluloid Ceiling, only 6% of the top 250 grossing films were directed by women. And this number is down 3% from the year before. Women don’t fare much better in front of the camera. Last year, women accounted for just 15% of protagonists, 29% of major characters, and 30% of all speaking characters. Not coincidentally, we find that when women are in a controlling role on a film project, these statistics improve. According to the study, “Gender Inequality in 500 Popular Films” by the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, “the percentage of girls/women on screen is significantly higher when at least one female is involved in the directing or writing process”. And according to Five Thirty Eight’s recent test analyzing female centric films with their box office numbers, “films containing meaningful interactions between women do better at the box office than movies that don’t”.

Citizen Jane has been working since 2008 to meet these challenges head on with the Citizen Jane Film Series and Workshops, Camp Citizen Jane, The Citizen Jane Film Festival and the Citizen Jane Women in Film Summit. It is our mission to create a network of women and their allies to provide support, to share knowledge and to shine the light on the amazing work of women in film.

The Citizen Jane Film Series takes place throughout the year and showcases a specific film and filmmaker with a free, public screening, a discussion with the filmmaker and professional filmmaking workshops on topics as diverse as crowd funding, screenwriting and filmmaking as activism. We have hosted filmmakers such as Guinevere Turner, Meera Menon and Aurora Guerrero and this year our attendance has nearly doubled.

Camp Citizen Jane is a free, hands on filmmaking camp that teaches young women between seventh and twelfth grades the tools of filmmaking and media literacy. Students create PSA’s to show at the Festival and are supported and encouraged to continue working on film after the camp through mentorship with Stephens film students.

The Citizen Jane Film Festival features narrative, documentary and short films from women around the world. We are committed to bringing the filmmakers to the festival with their films and have created an intimate, non-competitive weekend where the filmmakers can connect with audiences and each other to create communities of support. Citizen Jane Film Festival is well known for being a diverse international film festival and for supporting emerging and established filmmakers, hosting guests and their films as varied as Christine Vachon, Eliza Hittman, Lena Dunham and Yvonne Welbon. CJFF features some of the best in independent film making and tackles the underrepresentation of women in the film industry creating a community that engages in lively discussions featuring the filmmakers, workshops, and one-of-a-kind parties. It is clear that there is support for this work as our attendance has grown by nearly 50% almost every year.

The CJ Summit, held the day before the Festival has hosted guests such as Yvonne Welbon PhD, Award-winning filmmaker (Sisters in Cinmea) and a graduate of AFI’s Directing Workshop for Women, Julia Reichert, six-time Academy Award nominated filmmaker and founder of New Day Films,  Melissa Silverstein, author of the Indiewire blog, ‘Women & Hollywood and the book ‘In Her Voice’ and founders and co-editors of ‘The Riveter’ Magazine, Joanna Demkiewicz and Kaylen Ralph.

Citizen Jane is a passionate community of film lovers and filmmakers working for change and this community will allow us to create an even wider array of projects to support this mission. We believe that through the support of avid audiences and fellow filmmakers we can ultimately change these dismal statistics and create a better future for us all.

 Photo by Paul Mossine