The directing field has been traditionally dominated by men and their point of view. Lately, we’ve seen more up and coming women behind the lens as well as veteran female directors getting some well earned respect. Finally! And Sherren Lee is one of these women. Lee, an award winning director whose short film The Things You Think I’m Thinking, has become an award winning film festival darling. The film focuses on a differently-abled man trying to find love after an accident changed his life.
I spoke to Lee about her experience in directing, what inspires her, and what franchise she’d like to tackle given the chance.
Erin Lynch: What was the film or show that inspired you to become a director?
Sherren Lee: Hmmm there wasn’t one! For me, it was directing a play for the first time in University that made me realize that it’s what I wanted to do.
EL: What is it like to be a female storyteller in a male dominated field?
SL: It’s hard for me to pinpoint what the “female” experience is in this male dominated field. I must say that since I’ve always been surrounded by men from the beginning of my career, it’s just felt “normal.” Which is so scary. It’s been so wonderful seeing more and more diversity on set over the last couple of years.
EL: What from your own life have you brought to your work, whether it be how you grew up or how you’re living now?
SL: Directing is such a personal thing to me — I think it’s impossible to not bring anything personal, from how I grew up to what my personality is. The way I am on set is completely linked to my personal values, like being attentive ad being kind. The types of stories I tell are all inevitably from my perspective: I can only see things the way I see them. That’s what makes the work unique. But it’s also important to be aware of the flip side: we all have blind spots, so we should be more careful in considering those and seeking out different perspectives.
EL: Your stories are based around human connections, from the small act of writing a song to an abused woman dealing with Stockholm Syndrome – what sort of human connections are you drawn to the most?
SL: I’m certainly fascinated by human behaviour — the way our brains work, the way we are socialized, but what intrigues me most, is the way we affect and relate to one another. Love, in the form of family, friendship and/or romance, is such a powerful thing that it can transform a person’s life and their path. I think that can be incredibly beautiful yet scary at the same time… which draws me to these stories that are rooted in love, every single time.
EL: With The Things You Think I’m Thinking, how important for you was it to tell a story like Sean’s? Was Prince Amponsah’s own experience something you both drew from?
SL: It was crucial for me to tell a story about a differently-abled person that did not reduce them to an object of pity nor chalk them up to an inspiration. I wanted to focus on Sean’s like, and not just on his disability. The script was completely inspired by Prince — while fictional, the film was written specifically for him. He kept us honest.
EL: What’s been the most difficult thing you’ve filmed and the most joyful thing you’ve filmed?
SL: I have a no asshole policy as a result of taxing shooting experiences. Making a movie is hard enough with people that you like, there’s no need to work with anyone difficult. On the flip side, working with a great team is always what brings be the most joy. You can’t trade a creative, passionate, collaborative and kind cast and crew. That’s priceless.
EL: What has been your favorite medium to work in with feature films, short films, or television?
SL: I’ve yet to make my first feature film, but I certainly revel in creating my own content and being able to carry my vision on a film from development to post-production — so regardless of form (short film, feature film or television), if I have the opportunity to do that, then that’s the best.
EL: Who is on your wish list for collaborators?
SL: Oh man, there are too many to name! Currently eyeing Lakeith Stanfield to work on absolutely anything with.
EL: Which director do you look up to the most?
SL: This one is so tough! If I must pick one, I will choose Richard Linklater. I think he’s a philosopher in the form of a filmmaker and has the incredible talent of creating drama with the seemingly banal.
EL: If you could pick any franchise, which one would you want to direct a film for?
SL: Ocean’s! I think the next one should be Ocean’s 21, where Ocean’s 8 and Ocean’s 13 go on a heist, only to discover that they’re both after the same job. Hi WB! You’re welcome.
Thank you so much to Sherren Lee for taking the time to talk to us!
Be sure to check out Sherren’s work over on her website and keep your eyes peeled for more from this talented lady.
[Feature image by Kristina Ruddick]
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