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Jane Campion's Workshops #1 – Starting Out

Jane Campion

Last Monday was a special day in Wellington, celebrating Richard Campion (1923-2013). As distinguished actor and co-founder of Wellington’s Circa Theatre Ray Henwood wrote–
Richard was the leading figure of New Zealand theatre during the latter part of the 20th Century and we are privileged to remember him as an important part of our history and the first man of New Zealand professional theatre as we know it today.
At the Paramount Theatre at 4pm there was ‘a celebration of Richard Campion’s work and the life force of theatre’ and before then one of Richard Campion’s daughters, Jane Campion, ‘shared the love’ at Circa, where he had often been in the audience. This is how she announced the workshop programme–
My father, Richard Campion, was passionate about theatre, about performance, about creativity, about people having a go. He was a wondrously generous man who breathed warmth and belief into my fledgling hopes of making film and television. In his memory and honour, I am offering three free workshops at Circa.
The three workshops were intended for different audiences, but lots of us crossed over. They've been referred to as a masterclass, and I've referred to them that way, too. But because Jane describes them as workshops and they were profoundly about work, I'm sticking with 'workshop' here.

The first was Starting Out
Writing and directing for film and television for people who are starting out (not yet made three short films). During these 90 minutes Jane Campion will answer your questions and discuss how best to build strength and vision as a film maker. Please come with a question personal to your own struggle, written on a piece of paper.
The second was Writing and Directing Film
An in-depth inquiry into writing and directing film and mini series, aimed at people who have directed or written one or more feature films or equivalent e.g. directed theatre or made short film works. This is an exploratory and sharing session where you and I will address issues arising from your work. Please come with one or two questions or topics that interest or confound you written on a piece of paper.
The third was Performance
When acting is not enough; when realism is not enough. An enquiry into performance for film and television. This workshop is suitable for everyone. Please memorise a poem you love, or a part of a poem.
I was excited to learn about the workshops: enquiry, inquiry, strength, struggle, vision, sharing, questions that confound, poems, performance. Delighted that I qualified for all three sessions. Tapped 'Join' on Facebook. Wrote about my delight and excitement. Was further delighted to read this from The Casting Company, an alert, sturdy and warm presence throughout the workshops–
In an age where everything is recorded Jane would like these sessions to be live and would like those taking part not be constrained by delivering for camera. These sessions will not be recorded and we ask everyone attending to be respectful of that. Thank you all.
And then, in response to suggestions, particularly one from the inspiring Shaula Evans (no relation) I emailed the Casting Company to ask if I could write about the workshops. And Jane said 'yes: just no recording devices in the room except YOU'. (I'll call her 'Jane' here although I don't know her except as someone who's been generous to me).

But now I’m nervous. Because the day's shared inquiry was a beautiful and transformative gift, I want to share it here as well as I can.  But I may get it all wrong.

One reason for my nervousness is that I’m in the same cranky space today as I was a week ago, with two scripts that are troubling me. Because of that crankiness, although I prepared for the workshops – my question, my memorised poem – on the evening beforehand I was undecided about whether to go, or to stay at home for another solitary day at the keyboard. Because of that crankiness I'm wasn't too sharp on the day and I'm not too sharp now.

The other reason for my nervousness is that I took my eight year old self to the workshops. On Monday morning, I woke up and knew I was going. And I tweeted:
And at the end of the day I tweeted again:
— Marian Evans (@devt) November 4, 2013 

Eight year olds love to play. Love laughter. And that day there was plenty of playfulness and laughter. But my eight year old self is also a particularly unreliable narrator; she's the precursor of the person who cannot simultaneously listen, engage, and take notes (which is why I didn't at first want to write about the workshops at all).

So to compensate for my crankiness and my eight year old presence,  I've asked for help, from a poet mate and from others at the workshops and am going to divide this post into several parts, starting with this.

Next up will be an extension of this intro. Written by poet Sophie Mayer, it's about negative capability, a concept explored by the poet John Keats (1795-1821) and referred to by Jane in the workshops. I would have found it helpful to be familiar with this idea before the workshops, and feel particularly blessed by Jane's references to it.

Then I'll share what I remember of the workshops, using my uncertain memory and inadequate notes. Next will be a post with the diverse responses of others, which I think are wonderful. Many thanks to all those who contributed and if you went to the workshops and are reading this and have something you'd like to share, please feel free to add your bit, in an email so I can post it, or in the comments. The last post will be about Jane's response to my question. 

In the workshops, Jane talked about a practice she likes – and learned about from Mark Ruffalo – memorising a poem a week. I love this idea, as a life- and work-enhancing discipline. Jane told us that learning a poem a week helps us to attune to a sense of the poetic, to distillation, to looking for essence of things. A poem is a vehicle for mystery, she said (back to, on to, negative capability). A poem seduces, with rhythm, rhymes, images, she added. So each post about the workshops will include a poem or part of a poem. And because the scripts that make me cranky are inspired by American poet Muriel Rukeyser (1913-1980), and because Jane appeared to be 'listening with the whole body' at the workshops, here's an excerpt from Muriel Rukeyser's The Speed of Darkness, to start. It was first published around 1968.


I

Whoever despises the clitoris despises the penis
Whoever despises the penis despises the cunt
Whoever despises the cunt despises the life of the child.

Resurrection music,         silence,         and surf.

II

No longer speaking
Listening with the whole body
And with every drop of blood
Overtaken by silence

But this same silence is become speech
With the speed of darkness.


III

Stillness during war, the lake.
The unmoving spruces.
Glints over the water.
Faces, voices.         You are far away.
A tree that trembles.

I am the tree that trembles and trembles.


IV

After the lifting of the mist
after the lift of the heavy rains
the sky stands clear
and the cries of the city risen in day
I remember the buildings are space
walled, to let space be used for living
I mind this room is space
this drinking glass is space
whose boundary of glass
lets me give you drink and space to drink
your hand, my hand being space
containing skies and constellations
your face
carries the reaches of air
I know I am space
my words are air.


Jane Campion's Workshops #2 – Negative Capability, by Sophie Mayer
Jane Campion's Workshops #3 – My Notes
Jane Campion's Workshops #4 – Participants Speak

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