Behind every successful woman is more women who inspired her, lifted her up and supported her throughout her career.
Canadian director Sherren Lee has been writing, directing, and producing her own work since 2009, but before then, Lee actually wanted to be an actress. It wasn’t until she directed a play in university that things clicked and she realized directing was her career path. We recently caught up with the Taiwan-born, Montreal raised, and currently Toronto-based filmmaker to talk about what it’s like being a female director and to ask her about the five women who shaped her career.
Lee’s award-winning and critically-acclaimed short film The Things You Think I’m Thinking is currently screening at multiple film festivals around the world including the 2018 TIFF Short Cut Programme. The film has earned Lee the Best Canadian Short award at the 2018 Inside Out Film Festival and the AWFJ EDA Award for Best-Female Directed Short at the 2018 Whistler Film Festival—just to name a few.
For those looking to do what she does, Lee offers this advice: “Start making movies. Don’t wait till you’re ready. There’s no such thing as paying your dues as a director. Yes, you should take a job as a Production Assistant, or any other job on a film or TV show to learn and soak up as much as you can… Observe. Learn all aspects of filmmaking. Accept any opportunity to work on a production—as long as it’s a safe space—especially when you’re starting out. But if you want to be a director, you also have to be making your own work. You can’t learn to direct by doing anything else other than directing. And don’t let anybody tell you that you’re not capable!”
THE FIVE WOMEN WHO MADE ME
My little sister. She’s been my best friend since the beginning of life. And even though she’s likely the person who’s pissed me off the most, we continue to get to know each other as our dialogues grow more revealing [and] we continue to flourish into the adults we always dreamt to become. She reminds me every day what it means to be strong, to be unapologetic and to embrace all the lady parts of me.
My big sister. My family immigrated to Montreal from Taiwan when I was 6 years old, and Tina, merely two years older than me, was the “adult” who checked my homework and attended my parent-teacher meetings. She was there, every step of the way, to shape my taste in music, in movies, to tell me to ignore that bully in grade three. With her, family and love always comes first. Her unwavering generosity, patience and BIG heart keeps me grounded and humble.
ANNE OF GREEN GABLES
I was obsessed with Anne and watched the anime series (in French) religiously. Anne was a dreamer, a total romantic who often collided with rude awakenings of reality, and yet, remained an unwavering, passionate idealist. I learned the definition of friendship from Anne, and her relationship with Diana. She is 100 per cent responsible for how much I value my friends. Her spirit and tenacity will always stay with me.
JENNIFER LOVE HEWITT
I loved her on Party of Five and became a big fan of hers there after. I’ll forever remember her audition story for Sarah Reeves: she showed up in a T-shirt, jeans, and no makeup, looked around the audition room and it was full of women in “little tight dresses with lots of makeup and hair. They were beautiful, tall and model-looking.” She felt plain and childish next to them, but she got the part. I wanted to be an actor at the time, and this story inspired me to remain true to myself.
THE TRANS AND GENDERQUEER COMMUNITY
I’d like to dedicate my 5th choice to all people who have been in my life, past and present, who continue to support and lift me up every day. So many queens have inspired me, educated me and challenged me, whether they are dear friends in my daily life, colleagues from a distance, or role models in the media. We need each other and I’m so proud to be among this generation of change makers.