Citizen Jane Institute at Stephens College is a midwestern partner in the fight for gender equality in the television and filmmaking industry. It includes a lecture series that dates back to 2006, a filmmaking camp for girls and an internationally known four-day film festival held every fall.
Actually, Citizen Jane Film Festival is more than a film fest. It’s an artist’s retreat, a holistic experience designed to entertain, enlighten and energize audiences into action and encourage, engage and embolden filmmakers into continuing to ensure that women’s stories are told.
The festival screens narrative, documentary and short films, hosting panel discussions with the filmmakers. It begins with the Citizen Jane Summit, an afternoon discussion that allows industry experts and a public audience to brainstorm ways to better support female filmmakers through crowd funding, mentoring and activism.
The fest is a mix of experienced professionals, up-and-coming talent and beginning filmmakers who are forgoing expectations and testing social norms. They come in person to discuss their films and help strengthen the community of female filmmakers.
CJFF also hosts an opening reception, dance performances, interactive skits, a dance party, Sunday morning brunch and an afternoon film school for those wanting to know more about the industry.
The Citizen Jane Lecture Series was born alongside the digital filmmaking program at Stephens in 2005. Students took an active role in organizing the series and planning the events—the name, Citizen Jane, in fact, was coined by a student.
In 2006, the College hosted a Fem Film Women’s Symposium bringing in industry experts such as award-winning director Jennie Livingston, best known for “Paris is Burning,” and director and writer Tricia Brock. The event was such a success, city leaders suggested Stephens start its own female-focused film fest.
The Citizen Jane Film Festival debuted in 2008, attracting such films as Academy Award-nominee Trouble the Water and the festival also became known for hosting musical talent such as punk songstress Exene Cervenka.
In 2009, attendance grew by more than 50 percent, solidifying the community’s support of the festival. That year, experimental filmmaker Barbara Hammer attended CJFF, as well as rapper MC Lyte.
By 2010, the industry had taken notice of this organically grown festival. That year, CJFF hosted groundbreaking producer Christine Vachon and screened the thought-provoking film “Night Catches Us.” The opening night film was Lena Dunham’s “Tiny Furniture,” a feature-length comedy/drama which she wrote, directed and starred in.
The diversity of guests has continued to increase, and in 2013, the CJ Summit attracted director, producer and screenwriter Yvonne Welbon and experimental filmmaker. In 2014, CJFF goers welcomed such filmmakers as Leah Meyerhoff, who screened her powerful feature, “I Believe in Unicorns,” after in premiered at SXSW. Meyerhoff helped kick-start a Missouri chapter of the international female filmmaking collaborative group Film Fatales during her visit to Columbia.
Citizen Jane is a passionate community of film lovers and filmmakers working for change. There’s a serious gap in the film industry, with women directing just 2 percent of the U.S.’s top 700 films in the last seven years. Citizen Jane is committed to helping reverse these trends, change the dismal statistics and bring the film industry up to society’s expectations.