I had a chance to chat with Lee Lawson, an actor who has been part of a number of great indie productions. She answered a number of questions concerning all of these projects and gave voice to some great works you can see, especially in the Toronto area. Thank you to Lee Lawson for this interview.
Could you tell our readers a little about yourself?
In three words? Actor. Oddlet. Eater… of soup. In more words? I’m a filmmaker who is wildly passionate about the Toronto scene. Hi!
Speak Your Mind recently won best feature at the Toronto Independent Film Festival, could you discuss this film and your role?
That was a pretty exciting development! In Speak Your Mind I play Iris, the therapist of the lead character. It was a neat role because although the film is an ensemble piece, I occupy this very isolated space. All of my insights come second hand, through the filter of Stephen Kaszas’ Jacob. Working on this was such a meaningful experience; Cyrus Baetz, the director, created an incredibly safe, open environment to try, test and push the limits of each moment. I’m so proud of the work we did on this one. And it’s damn funny.
You are also in Freelancer, which is screening at Bufferfest, would you be able to share more about this short and the festival?
Bufferfest is super fascinating! So often film festivals can feel like part of a closed circuit; the films are made by people who are part of the festival audience to screen exclusively in that very specific context. Buffer Fest showcases creators who have their roots on Youtube; who have developed their own audiences and create content with those audiences in mind. I think bridging that gap, creating work to exist in the space between the art world and the internet produces really interesting films.
Speaking of which! I feel so lucky to have been part of Freelancer, which is this brilliant, tightly wound sci-fi. Not the spaceships and aliens kinda sci-fi, but the far scarier, “just one step ahead of where we are now” type. Acting in concept-driven stories is really interesting especially in short format pieces because the performance is as much a part of the world-building as the design elements. You learn what sort of world you’re in through the characters who inhabit it and the film’s director, Zach Ramalan, does a brilliant job of making the audience feel like they’re seeing just a tiny piece of a much larger, denser, darker world. I don’t want to spoil anything, because his team is pursuing the possibility of a series, but I can say that the film explores the dehumanization of a freelance service economy to its darkest conclusion. Think “evil Uber”.
You also have A Noise That Carries screening at Toronto After Dark, what is this short about?
Oh! Another film that’s tricky to speak about without giving away the game! I can say that the story is based on a spooky storytelling podcast, so it has that classic “creep-out urban legend” feel, but of course, with a twist. So often in horror films, if you’re female, you’re running away from things trying to kill you, screaming at the top of your lungs. The film’s director, Guillermo De la Rosa, gave me a chance to explore a very different space… SO excited to share the film with audiences at TAF.
Could you discuss Of Wise and Earnest Men?
OWAEM is very near and dear to my heart. The film is set at Hart House and centers around a debate that actually took place there in 1926, regarding the role of women in society. The film takes the debate as a backdrop to the politics of the day playing out through the relationship of the Messecar siblings: Oscar and Cordelia. Siblinghood is an intriguing entree to examining the human mechanisms of social change. It opens the door to examining the way in which familial bonds and loyalty change your personal politics; how who you love impacts how you think. Also, to the delight of my inner cinephile, the film was actually shot on 35mm which means it had to be rehearsed like a play. This is a really invigorating way to work, everyone is on point because every take is precious. It’ll be really special when Oliver Kraker, the film’s director, and Aaron Alter, the film’s DP finally share their work.
I’m also curious about Think About a Dolphin For Once, would you be able to describe this a bit more?
Yes! Up and Coming! Dolphin is a… well… You could say its a metaphysical comedy?… set in the mean streets of Rosedale? It’s hands down one of the weirdest, funniest, smartest scripts I’ve ever read. Miles Barstead (of Dim the Fluorescents) somehow takes these enormous ideas about wealth and spiritual life and a world populated by these really quirky, heightened characters and ends up with a story that feels eminently human and wry and honest. It’s a bit of a magic trick. Can’t wait to get started on this one.
You also direct and produce, could you share some of your own upcoming projects?
Well, this past year I’ve really expanded my horizons as a filmmaker. I’ve gotten to do art department work on my friend’s films, like Jacob Wiebe’s Sailor which opened at Fantastic Fest and James Salmon’s forthcoming short (which I also co-produced). As of right now, I’m in the final stages of pre-production for my short Sit. which is an exploration of the intimate world of babysitting. It’s a meditation on the implicit assumption that pre-teen women are trustworthy and innocent. I think it’s telling how harmless the world thinks young girls are, how often they’re underestimated. It’s going to be… interesting.
Where can our readers keep up with you online?
My insta is best! leelawson_! Or they can catch up with me at Toronto After Dark on the 22nd!