FYIG recently had the chance to chat with director Sherren Lee about her short film Benjamin, her first feature film Might & Grace, how she got into filmmaking, and much more!
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I’m a director born in Taiwan, bred in Montreal and currently located in Toronto. I started writing and directing my own independent work in 2007 and have since worked in the film and television industry. I’m a middle child and a romantic and I can’t get enough of making movies!
I’ve read that you originally wanted to be an actress, but your passion shifted to directing. What was it about directing a film that captivated you to change your career path?
I remember when an adult asked me why I wanted to be an actor, my twelve-year-old answer was that I couldn’t imagine a better way to put yourself in someone else’s shoes, to really experience what they’re going through… to play all those parts, any part, and attempt to embody these characters, so I could better understand the world—and each other. When I directed for the first time. I was seduced by the craft and realized that as a director, I could accomplish what I wanted to do as an actor on a greater level. I could explore characters and worlds more deeply and encourage empathy And as I keep telling stories, I’m constantly fascinated and uplifted by how different and unique we each are, but actually, by how much we’re really all the same at the end of the day.
How did your time at the Cineplex Entertainment Film Program Directors’ Lab shape your career?
Attending the CFC Directors’ Lab was everything to me. I didn’t go to film school, so the programme enabled me to figure out where I stood in terms of my skill, talent, and potential, and it gave me community. The CFC trusted me and re-introduced me to the industry as a professional director. No other institution can do that in Canada.
Your short film Benjamin was one of the projects selected to be developed and produced through the CFC’s Short Dramatic Film Program. What was it like to get that big break?
Making Benjamin through CFC’s SDF Program was such a blessing. This program was built like a studio system — we had to pitch our idea, get green-lit for development, then do our development, and get green-lit for production. It wasn’t a sure thing till we got to a script our team could really stand behind. The opportunity to get a short film made and paid for is so rare, and I’m so grateful that I had the chance to take advantage of the programme.
How might your path have changed if Benjamin wasn’t selected for that program?
It’s really hard to say! We might’ve abandoned the project and the team (producers, writer, editor, etc) might’ve gone our separate ways, but we might’ve decided to still make it ourselves. One thing is for sure–we wouldn’t have had access to nearly the same amount of resources. Having five days to shoot this piece was a luxury and absolutely made the piece better. But who knows, maybe the film would’ve become something entirely different and still had success. Or not. But it’s no use thinking about that. I’m just grateful for the path that I’ve been on.
Talk to us about your short The Things You Think I’m Thinking. It has received several awards and accolades. How did it feel to receive such great recognition for your work?
The Things You Think I’m Thinking is a short about a black male burn-survivor and amputee who goes on a date with a regularly-abled man for the first time since his accident. This film has done so well and I’ve been so humbled by it. I’m always amazed by the power of cinema and how it can reach people, move them in ways that I can’t possibly imagine, create conversation, and make people feel seen. I have to thank Prince Amponsah for trusting me with his first film experience, and simply for being so generous and brave to offer his talents and put himself on screen. I really believe this film is important and hope that everyone who watches it can find more empathy and be less uncomfortable interacting with people with disability, or simply, people who are different than them, then that would be enough. But if we can look inward, examine the assumptions we make about other people, and reflect on how much of that is merely a projection of our own demons, I think we could probably change the world that way.
You’re developing your first feature film Might & Grace. What can you tell us about this film?
With Might and Grace is a feature-length drama about a grieving mother and talented chef at the height of her career who checks into an illegal assisted-suicide facility with a reflection period of fifteen days. There, she meets a group of people, each with their own struggles, who challenge her right to choose own fate. I wrote this screenplay and am currently pitching it to producers. I hope to direct With Might and Grace as my first feature film.
What’s your next big goal for your career?
The next big goal is definitely to get my first feature film made. I can’t wait to tell this story and sink my teeth into telling a feature-length story.
What advice would you have for aspiring directors/filmmakers?
Be clear to yourself and to the world about what you want and go for it. That involves self-reflection and discipline, but if you can take at least one baby step a day to advance your career, hone your craft or get to know yourself, then I think you’ll get farther than you think in no time.
Let the readers where to find you online.