Jane Campion on fearlessness and common sense
After a couple of months there, I'm used to my little office at the Institute of Modern Letters, no longer feel so awkward. I'm familiar with the machines, know that the toaster takes the same time to brown the bread as the photocopier takes to print a 90 page script. And the flowering cherry tree's right outside (leaves just starting to shrivel) if I glance up from the computer. I can see people going into the gym next door or down the stairs at the side of the building. Sometimes they glance in and smile at me and I smile back, wave. Sometimes, unnoticed, I watch passersby and eavesdrop. Sometimes, perhaps, unnoticed by me, people look through the window and see some tomato slide off the toast as I lift it to my mouth. When I'm reading.
Almost everything I've read for the PhD is now in my server-based bibliography—621 items—creative industries, autoethnography, ethics (complicated because of the continuum from social science to creative writing to film production—those insurance issues), women's feature making, scriptwriting, writer/activist/theorists Virginia Woolf, Tillie Olsen, Audre Lorde, Adrienne Rich.
And best of all, just before the Easter break, a wonderful supervision session. I can't wait to do the next Development rewrite. The slight trembliness that's always there is there. But I'm trembling more from excitement than from fear.
So on Maundy Thursday I closed the office door and ran down Allenby Terrace's long run of steps and into the city. Easter eggs and hot cross buns at New World Metro with a couple of newspapers, across the road into Unity for a quick look, then on into the library. And there was a new book about Jane Campion, Jane Campion, by Deb Verhoeven, an Australian.
In it is a long, rich, interview where Jane Campion talks about her approaches to filmmaking. In the middle of it she discusses the qualities that she believes distinguish her from others. Fearlessness is one. She says:
When I talk to people and I listen to other filmmakers or students talking about themselves trying to get work together, the thing that I constantly hear and recognize is that what's really difficult for people is dealing with the fear that they have about their work. Quite often that feeling is so great, it completely obscures them; they kind of lose themselves in their fear and they can't really do the work... Whereas I have got some kind of capacity that when I'm engaged in a project or an idea, I have enough sense of love and charm for it, that I don't think about what could go wrong. So when I get excited about an idea I can't think negatively. I just think it's only going to work out well; of course it's going to work out... I can be critical as well but on the whole I think, yes, I've got to fix this and that but it will work out. And then it's not till it's really completed that I start to freak and be able to see the other sides or the negative positions that people could take on it. What I've said doesn't sound like very much, but it's probably the single best quality I've got.I went "AH", because Greta, one of my filmmaker characters in Development spends a lot of time talking about her fear to Jasmine-the-shrink. And she overcomes her fear. And as I've said, there are days when I'm pretty scared myself, especially when I'm about to take a script to pieces.
The second quality Jane Campion identifies is common sense:
Common sense is also very underestimated. the very word makes it sound like it's just hanging around everywhere, but it's quite rare; that sort of practical ability to find a middle line. The quality of my enthusiasm being greater than my fear and my common sense are the two only real qualities that I have that distinguishes myself as someone who can have an ongoing career as a filmmaker. And to know what's achievable. All those sort of very dull things. I'm really practical. I'm very, very deeply practical and have great capacity to work out what can fit into what size box. I think so many people are creative; everybody is and I'm just only as creative as anybody else, but just with those different qualities of being fearless at the right time and having lots of common sense.
A big thank you to Deb Verhoeven for Jane Campion; I'm finding it fascinating.
Jane Campion's new feature Bright Star will be released later this year (June, in Australia first, according to imdb).