Sherren Lee is a Toronto-based film director who I recently had the pleasure of meeting with and getting to know. We met up for coffee at a little shop local to both of us (turns out we live in the same neighbourhood!) and had a lovely chat about film and theatre while I got to know Sherren and about her newest film, The Things You Think I’m Thinking. It’s a pleasure to introduce you to Sherren!
Sherren didn’t set out with a dream of becoming a director; instead, her childhood ambitions were to become an actor and she performed in plays throughout her young life through to her early university days, though she never saw it through to act professionally. I don’t think that Sherren was destined to become a professional actor, though, because it seems she found her calling working off-stage — she directed a play at McGill University (where she attended for business studies) after applying for an ad that was looking for a director and that was when she realized what she truly wanted to do. That moment was such an epiphany that she never acted again. Sherren also dabbled as a playwright and wrote the script for the second play she directed. After graduating from McGill, Sherren transitioned from theatre to film and spent the next seven years working as a production manager, all the time directing on the side. She gained a ton of experience and built up a body of work that allowed her to apply to the Canadian Film Centre and she was 1 of 5 directors accepted into their exclusive Director’s Lab in 2014; Sherren has been directing ever since.
Sherren’s latest film, The Things You Think I’m Thinking, centres around Sean, a black male burn survivor and amputee who re-enters the world of dating and goes out with a regularly-abled man for the first time since his accident. The film was an official selection at over 20 festivals this year, including SXSW Film Festival, Outfest Los Angeles, and Slamdance Film Festival, and won several awards, including the Golden Sheaf Award For Best Director Fiction at the Yorkton Film Festival. Sherren was asked to direct the film by its writer and one of its leading actors, Jesse LaVercombe, whom she met through the Canadian Film Centre and had worked with before, having directed Jesse’s showcase piece at the end of his acting program at the CFC.
Working with actors is one of Sherren’s favourite things about directing. It’s possibly because she used to want to be an actor herself, but mostly because she just has so much admiration for actors, acknowledging that they are the most generous and vulnerable people on set since they have to be so present and reveal so much of themselves. It’s a special feeling for Sherren when she can communicate what she wants to elicit from an actor and can see that they’ve understood her — she appreciates these moments and they are what make her love what she does. Her goal as a director is to make a difference, and if she can move just one person significantly as they watch one of her films, then she feels she has accomplished what she set out to do. Sherren also gives back to the film community by teaching school groups ranging from grades 4 to 12 at the Toronto International Film Festival’s “Film in a Day” workshops, exposing kids to all the different jobs available in film.
Sherren is hard-working and very dedicated to her craft, and she speaks so passionately about film and the projects she’s worked on. It’s been a pleasure getting to know her and I’m excited for what looks like her very successful future as a director. If you would like to see The Things You Think I’m Thinking, a screening will be held at the Tiff Bell Lightbox during their shortcut series on August 2nd, 2018.
Want more? Here’s what #WeWantToKnow about Sherren:
I can't start my morning without... hot black coffee.
I have a weakness for... noodle soup.
Most people don't know that I...used to write my own songs.
Currently reading... Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari.
An important lesson I learned from a challenge I faced...there are no rules. You have to figure out for yourself how you want to work, and how to live your life.
I want... to spread as much love as I possibly can.
Thank you Sherren, for participating in #WeWantToKnow!