‘Ask for Jane’ director Rachel Carey: A Socially-Conscious Storyteller

Ask for Jane was released five years ago today! It is a moving period film about Chicago’s Jane Collective. Telling the story of the group of women who set out to provide safe abortions in a pre-Roe v. Wade era in a way that is both emotionally resonant and informative was a big challenge. It was a challenge which filmmaker Rachel Carey accepted and knocked out of the park. 

Rachel Carey is an American filmmaker, best known for her work on the aforementioned critically-acclaimed documentary Ask for Jane. However, her filmmaking career didn’t begin right away. Though she received a graduate degree in film directing at NYU Tisch, she started as a high school English teacher for two years after school. However, she was dissatisfied and decided to pursue a career in film after all.

 At this time, she wrote and directed two short films: Your Adoring Public (2011), about two women who run into a celebrity while on a jog but cannot remember his name, and The Unbelievers (2012), about a young woman searching for an apartment with an old friend, which brings up complex emotions for both of them. 

It was by directing Ask for Jane that Rachel established herself as a strong voice in the indie film world. In 2018, the film premiered at Tribeca Film Festival, and received rave reviews from both critics and audience members. 

Rachel’s thoughtful direction and screenplay brought this story to life with authenticity and sensitivity.

The movie is a period piece based on the true story of a group of women who created an underground network to provide safe abortions in the pre-Roe v. Wade era. Rachel’s thoughtful direction and screenplay brought this story to life with authenticity and sensitivity. As FF2 contributor Katusha Jin describes, “The light tone of this film, that is in fact incredibly educational, encourages the audience to stay with the characters and the development of the story. It is a perfect combination of documentary and narrative.”

In an interview with FF2 Contributor Diane K. Martin, Rachel describes her experience constructing the story for Ask For Jane: “A lot of the details in my film Ask for Jane were based on real-life stories I heard and read, including stories told to us by the wonderful Judith Arcana, who worked with the original abortion service of the Chicago Women’s Liberation Union and was one of the “Janes” who got arrested and put on trial. Then when we took the film to festivals, frequently, after the screenings, women who had lived through that era would stand up (or approach us afterward) to tell their personal stories about illegal abortions, sometimes for the first time. That was deeply meaningful and moving.”

Aside from her work in film, Rachel is also a playwright and an author. Rachel’s most recent work in theater is The Female Genius, a collection of short plays about well-known female artists. One play, The Disciple, about writer Ayn Rand, was developed into a full-length play and premiered at The Wild Project in the East Village in 2021. Rachel’s debut novel, Debt, a social satire taking place in the 2008 recession, was published in 2013. In her interview with Diane, Rachel states: “Debt was a lot of fun to write. It’s a cathartic, satirical novel based on my time working for very wealthy families in Manhattan (which I did for a few years to pay down my film school debt).”

With a sense for the most important stories to tell and an ability to tell them well, Rachel makes art that both starts and changes conversations.

© Julia Lasker (5/17/2023) FF2 Media


Read Diane K. Martin’s interview with Rachel Carey here.

Read Sophia Jin’s review of Ask for Jane here.

Learn more about Ask for Jane here.

Learn more about Rachel Carey and her work here.


Featured photo: Film still from ASK FOR JANE.

Tags: Ask for Jane, Chicago Women's Liberation Union, Debt, female author, Female Filmmaker, female playwright, filmmaker, Rachel Carey, Roe V. Wade, The Disciple, The Female Genius, The Jane Collective, The Unbelievers, Your Adoring Public

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As an associate for FF2 Media, Julia writes reviews and features for films made by women. She is currently a senior at Barnard College studying Psychology. Outside of FF2, her interests include acting, creative writing, thrift shopping, crafting, and making and eating baked goods. Julia has been at FF2 for almost 4 years, and loves the company and its mission dearly.
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