July Filmmaker Spotlight - Nadia Litz

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Canadian actress-turned-director Nadia Litz has a clear passion for films and a sly sense of humor.  Her work tends towards a dark surrealism but always with a sincere depth of being.  Inspired by filmmakers such as Jim Jarmusch, David Lynch and Eric Rohmer, Litz is becoming known for her focus on female protagonists and her innovative casting – such as hiring Pamela Anderson to play the hardboiled model ‘Signe’ in her warmly received feature film ‘The People Garden’.  Haunting and stylish, yet rooted in the reality of emotion, Litz’s films have gained her international attention and homegrown love.

Former Breakthroughs chair and award-winning co-writer/producer/star of ‘Great Great Great’, Sarah Kolasky, chatted with Litz about her dream project, who inspires her and the due process of becoming one of Canada’s top female directors.

SK: What project(s) are you currently working on?

NL: Perhaps the only sage advice I have for emerging filmmakers is to not talk about what you are working on.  So I don't. 

SK: If you had unlimited budget, access to cast etc…what would be your dream project to direct?

NL: I would make a magical biopic on Bjork.  Spike Jonze would produce it and Stephanie Sokolinski aka Soko the Cat would play Bjork and Matthew Rhys would play Matthew Barney and Louis CK would play Lars Von Trier...  Not bad right?

SK:  I find that being a creative, self-employed person comes with a lot of challenges. When working with self-imposed deadlines, how do you motivate yourself and organize your day in order to meet those goals?

NL: My discipline comes from being obsessed with what I do.  So, I don't worry the work is not going to get done.  If I wake up and don't feel like going to my computer and writing and instead I want to go to an art gallery, I go.  I spend a lot of my time igniting the inspiration and then the work part comes quite natural.  

SK:  Who are your inspirations? Cinematic or otherwise.

NL: I like really successful females, and the reason is because the visibility that comes with success is powerful and it changes our industry and that's inspiring to me.  Filmmaking is not a male birthright despite what the canon and Criterion Collection catalogue seem to want to normalize.  So I love Kathryn Bigelow, Sofia Coppola, Lena Duhnam and Jenni Konner, Ava Duvernay, Sarah Treem, Reese Witherspoon...  But yeah I get inspired by a lot of different people.  People that I know a bit from around Toronto like filmmaker Patricia Rozema or restaurateur Jen Agg, the designers of Horses Atelier or Aurora James who created Brother Vellies.  I just read a great book on choreographer Twyla Tharp. Basically I just get inspired by people who have found a way to be themselves and create things.

SK: When developing a project, there's a lot of emphasis on "knowing your audience" before the script is even written. Do you create work with an audience in mind, or trust that it will find one later?

NL: I do think it is important to know your audience, actually.  The People Garden was a niche story but I also believed it could be impactful in certain ways - including financial - if you could reach that niche audience.   Now, knowing your audience and having a distributor agree with you on what that audience is, is an entirely differently beast!  But yeah I think having an awareness of who you want to reach is an exciting part of the creative process not a restrictive one.

SK: As an actor, what is a crucial piece of advice for new directors working with actors?

NL: Cast the person who has the most interesting life outside of acting and then ask them to contribute their thoughts on all aspects of their character.  Adjust accordingly. 

Nadia Litz is an alumni of York University Cinema, Canadian Film Center, Berlinale Talents, TIFF Talent Lab, and TIFF Screenwriting Lab.  Her short film How To Rid Your Lover Of A Negative Emotion Caused By You! played over twenty festivals internationally including TIFF, Cannes Short Film Corner, MIFF, Brooklyn Film Festival and Austin’s Fantastic Fest where it won best short.  It was included on Dave Eggers' curated quarterly Wholphin alongside works of Jay Duplass and Sean Durkin.  Her script for her feature The People Garden won the audience award at TIFF’s inaugural Screenwriter Lab.  It was shot in Canada and Japan and premiered at BAFICI in Buenos Aires and was recently awarded the Grand Jury prize for cinematography at Rhode Island Film Festival.  In 2017 Litz was named part of the New Wave of Canadian Cinema by VICE, NOW Toronto and the Globe and Mail.  Her feature Hotel Congress which was made for $1000 can currently be seen on Apple TV/Roku in the U.S.