Show­case: The Di­rec­tor’s Chair

The young girl with a dream now has her sights set on mak­ing a fea­ture-length film

Our Canada - - Contents - By Sher­ren Lee, Toronto

Meet di­rec­tor Sher­ren Lee—born in Tai­wan, bred in Mon­treal and cur­rently liv­ing in Toronto, this im­pres­sive young woman is go­ing places.

At six years old, when my fam­ily em­i­grated from Tai­wan to Mon­treal, I was the kid in kinder­garten who didn’t speak French. When I was 12, my fam­ily moved from Mon­treal to Toronto, and I was once again the new girl who didn’t re­ally speak the lan­guage. I think be­ing an out­sider at a young age forced me to learn to adapt quickly. I’ve al­ways been fairly shy and of­ten spend con­sid­er­able time ob­serv­ing be­fore en­gag­ing, but some­how I man­age to as­sert my­self and forge my own path.

I feel very for­tu­nate to have al­ways had this sense that if some­one else could do some­thing, I could do it, too. Why not? Peo­ple of­ten told me I was naive, but I was proud of be­ing an ide­al­ist. Maybe it’s be­cause I am a mid­dle child, or be­cause my im­mi­grant par­ents couldn’t re­ally help me nav­i­gate the world around me, but if I wanted some­thing, I took it upon my­self to fig­ure out the steps to make it hap­pen.

Ever since I was a child, I wanted to be an ac­tor and when­ever an adult asked me why, my 12-yearold an­swer was that I couldn’t imag­ine a bet­ter way to put your­self in some­one else’s shoes. I fig­ured act­ing would help me bet­ter un­der­stand the world and the peo­ple around me. I even mailed my sum­mer-camp head­shot to all the agents I could find— and got re­jected by all of them. At 17, I paid for my own singing les­sons, which were a joy for me to pur­sue. I went to univer­sity be­cause that was ex­pected of me, but I kept do­ing com­mu­nity mu­si­cal theatre through­out my time at Mcgill Univer­sity— un­til I di­rected a play for the first time. I was se­duced by the craft of sto­ry­telling and re­al­ized that,

as a di­rec­tor, I could ex­plore per­spec­tives and ex­pe­ri­ences in a fuller and more com­plex way. I never acted again, but I kept telling sto­ries from a di­rec­tor’s per­spec­tive. I’m con­stantly fas­ci­nated and up­lifted by how dif­fer­ent and unique we all are— and, at the same time, by how much we’re re­ally all the same when you get right down to it.

When I grad­u­ated with a bach­e­lor’s de­gree in com­merce in 2007, I thought the best way of en­ter­ing the film in­dus­try was through pro­duc­tion. So, I worked as a pro­duc­tion man­ager and as­so­ciate pro­ducer for more than seven years, pri­mar­ily with Mushkeg Me­dia and Fran­tic Films.

While work­ing in pro­duc­tion, I was also writ­ing, di­rect­ing and pro­duc­ing my own in­de­pen­dent work. I didn’t re­ally knew what I was do­ing ini­tially, but I fo­cused on the things that made me ex­cited and put ev­ery­thing I had into the next thing I was ca­pa­ble of do­ing, no mat­ter how small a step it was to­wards be­com­ing a full-time film­maker.

I made a web se­ries and a dozen short films be­fore ap­ply­ing to the pres­ti­gious Di­rec­tors’ Lab at the Nor­man Jewi­son Cana­dian Film Cen­tre. I was a res­i­dent there for six months in 2014 and spent an­other six months mak­ing my short film Benjamin (2015) through their Short Dra­matic Film pro­gram, which pre­miered at the Toronto In­ter­na­tional Film Fes­ti­val. It was also screened at the Palm Springs In­ter­na­tional Film Fes­ti­val, and earned us a Golden Sheaf Award in 2016 at the York­ton Film Fes­ti­val in Saskatchewan.

Since then, I be­gan my tele­vi­sion ca­reer by di­rect­ing on Sink­ing Ship En­ter­tain­ment‘s ac­claimed se­ries, Dino Dana (Ama­zon, TVO, Yoopa) and the Emmy-win­ning se­ries Odd Squad (PBS, TVO). I also got my start di­rect­ing one- hour dra­mas a few months later, on Shaftes­bury’s pe­riod crime drama, Mur­doch Mys­ter­ies (CBC). I’ve re­turned to Mur­doch Mys­ter­ies for an­other two episodes dur­ing their 12th sea­son this year, and I am ex­cited to be di­rect­ing an episode on the first sea­son of Muse En­ter­tain­ment and Back Al­ley’s new show, Coro­ner (CBC).

This past year, I’ve been lucky to travel to var­i­ous fes­ti­vals with my lat­est short, The Things You Think I’m Think­ing (2017), which has won sev­eral awards in­clud­ing the Os­car-qual­i­fy­ing Grand Jury Award for Best In­ter­na­tional Nar­ra­tive Short Film at Out­fest. It has been in com­pe­ti­tion at more than 20 fes­ti­vals, in­clud­ing Slam­dance, South by South­west (SXSW) and LA Film Fes­ti­val, and it’s con­tin­u­ing its fes­ti­val run.

De­spite it be­ing ten years since I made my first film, I feel as though I’m just get­ting started and look for­ward to the many mile­stones ahead of me. As I work to­wards my first fea­ture film and con­tinue to grow as a film­maker, I of­ten re­mind my­self to dream big, but to take it one step at a time. I also make an ef­fort to take care of my­self in or­der to cul­ti­vate my love for this craft and re­tain the pas­sion and stamina for this ex­cit­ing and un­pre­dictable path I’ve whole­heart­edly com­mit­ted to. Here’s to the next ten years! n Find out more at http://www.sher­ren­lee.com.

Left: Sher­ren is all smiles on set. Right (from top to bot­tom): Sher­ren (right) pic­tured here with her sis­ter Jane and their grand­fa­ther shortly be­fore the big move to Canada in 1990; giv­ing notes to ac­tor Jean-michel Le Gal dur­ing the film­ing of her short film,Benjamin (2015); set­ting up a cool, one-shot scene on the TV show Dino Dana with cam­era op­er­a­tor Brett Hurd and 1st As­sis­tant Di­rec­tor Mary Reynolds.

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