Have you noticed how some people branch out into a variety of paths during their career? You might be working with someone right now who not only is committed to his or her day job, but who is also working on one or two side projects that complement their career path. There might be a sales representative in your office who also teaches a marketing course at night, for example. Being multi-faceted in one’s career requires hard work, time and perseverance. But, it also can add a certain depth and breadth to one’s career that can be personally satisfying and rewarding.
If you are thinking about widening your career path and are looking to draw some inspiration from someone in Canada’s film and television industry, look no further than Canadian actress, producer and writer Katie Boland. This young, dynamic and multi-talented actress from Toronto, ON, has an impressive and lengthy resume and has no plans to stop anytime soon. From short films and feature lengths, to web series and book publishing, Katie is highly passionate about and dedicated to her work.
When she’s not acting or writing, Katie runs the production company, Straight Shooters, with her mom and award-winning director, Gail Harvey. Before her father retired, Kevin Boland was a well-known journalist and a best-selling author. Katie’s career isn’t only limited to family influences, however; she also enjoys working with her friends and strangers alike in the industry.
Short Film Fan recently reached out to Katie during her very busy schedule to learn more about herself, her career and her insights into shorts films in Canada.
Short Film Fan: Who or what influenced you to become an actress?
Katie Boland: I knew I wanted to be an actress when I was three years old. My mother was a stills photographer at that time, and is now a very successful director. So, I think growing up being surrounded by the film industry must have had an impact. But, I would say my defining characteristic as a person is that I am obsessively curious. Even as a small I child all I wanted to do was ask other people questions. So, I think, being an actress was always about trying to find answers to all the questions I had about people. It still is. I wanted to be an actress because I wanted to get to live as other people, to understand other people, to be able to ask and answer every question I had.
SFF: What was the experience like when you trained as an actress?
KB: I didn’t really train as an actress. I have worked since I was about eight without any real break, so I didn’t train which sometimes I regret and other times I don’t. I learned on the job and have worked very closely with some amazing directors. Honestly, huge life experiences have been my greatest teachers. You go through a break up, you’re a better actress. You lose your grandfather, you’re a better actress. You go to therapy and deal with some of your b******t, you’re a better actress. You start writing; at first you write about yourself and then you get the confidence to write about some other people, you’re a better actress. The way I look at acting is that my experiences are my source material. Classes scare me. Maybe it’s part of my asking questions or that I’m rebellious, but I get freaked out by anyone who wants to be a ‘guru’. Anyone who covets that kind of power probably shouldn’t have it. I know some wonderful teachers; people who really help very impressionable and vulnerable young actors. But, I’ve also seen teachers destroy people. I have always taken what works for me and left the rest. I let life inform most of my work.
SFF: Not only do you have multiple film and television credits, you’ve also written and produced the highly-praised web series Long Story, Short, published a book of short stories called Eat Your Heart Out and you were recently appointed by federal Heritage Minister Mélanie Joly to review Canada’s current cultural policies with a panel of other Canadian cultural experts. Where do you find the time and energy to work on all these projects?
KB: Truthfully, I’m tired but taking a day off freaks me out. Being this busy, things slip. I’m forgetful. My social life suffers, but my hope is that my life is only going to get fuller. I feel I don’t have a choice but to keep going at the pace I am. I think this is the new artistic model. I really admire James Franco because he’s not putting himself in a box. He’s doing it all. He directs, acts in everything from Oscar movies and soap operas, produces, writes fiction and has a dope Instagram. What I also really love about him is that he doesn’t seem to be super concerned with reception. I’m often of the mind that what other people think of your work isn’t really your business. To answer your question, I find the time to do a lot of things because all I do is work. I don’t really have the energy, but I push through anyway because I really love trying to do it all.
SFF: You’ve been involved in a long and impressive list of short and feature-length films. How does acting in a short film compare with acting in a feature?
KB: In my mind, it’s the exact same. You’re just trying to be whatever person you’re playing, and you’re trying to serve the story as best you can. That’s how I look at it anyway, there’s no real difference.
SFF: In the short film The Date by Mazi Khalighi, you starred as ‘Steph’ opposite Noah Reid, who played ‘Mike’. This film was definitely different, as all the acting took place in one spot: at a restaurant table. What was it like working on this unique film project?
KB: It was definitely very unique! Noah Reid is one of my favourite people and Mazi is a really good friend. So, we had a lot of fun. But we also improv-ed most of it and shot it in basically two set ups in one day. So, in a lot of ways, it felt like a play. We did really long takes.
SFF: In another short film, Given Your History by Molly McGlynn, you played ‘Alanna’, whose mother had passed away from breast cancer. There was a moment in the film that Alanna thought that she also may have breast cancer. How did you prepare for this challenging and moving role?
KB: Molly McGlynn is one of my best friends and she lost her mother to breast cancer. She wrote this short based on her experience, so to play a version of her was an incredible honour but also something I took really seriously. I love Molly so much and I know what a wonderful woman her mother was, so I really wanted to do it justice. It wasn’t hard to access the tragedy of the story. I didn’t find it challenging to be Alanna. Molly is such a good writer; all the tragedy and complicated feelings were on the page. Also, I’ve said this before in interviews I think, but right as we were shooting that short I was in a fevered grief state over a break up, so to finding that kind of sadness in myself wasn’t particularly difficult.
SFF: Besides acting in short films, you’ve also produced a number of them. What challenges have you faced as a producer of short films?
KB: I love producing short films! Last year I produced Boxing which premiered at TIFF, was a Sundance Short Film Select and was directed by two of my closest friends who I also have a film collective with: Aidan Shipley and Grayson Moore. I was in a feature they directed that we wrapped a few months ago called Cardinal. I also produced Lucy in Her Eyes; my best friend Megan Park’s directorial debut that is premiering at the Austin Film Festival in October! When producing Boxing, I worked alongside Mackenzie Donaldson who is a powerhouse producer and I learned a ton from her. The challenges are trying to pull everything together with a limited budget. But getting to watch my best friend’s work, to be involved on the ground level of that kind of talent; it’s so exciting. I’m so lucky.
SFF: What is your most memorable moment working on a short film, either as an actress or a producer?
KB: Hm, this is a good one. We did a really long one take shot in Boxing that is a fight scene at the end of the movie. I think watching Aidan and Grayson’s joy when we finally got the take, watching the super talented cinematographer, Guy Godfree, pull it off; that was really exciting. Also, the scene where I’m lying in bed in Given Your History, next to Rachel Wilson who plays my sister – that was memorable. I was crying really hard about a lot of things and it felt cathartic. Just being lying down next to another human in that moment felt healing and devastating. It was weird but it was cool.
SFF: In your opinion, what draws people to watch Canadian short films?
KB: I think short films are how our great film makers get started. How it usually works in Canada is you get funding a short film, like through bravoFact. Then, you get to go to Telefilm and try to make a feature. So, I think by watching Canadian short films, you’re discovering new voices. I also think it’s the art form that is, to be crude, the least f****d with. You aren’t dealing with a million notes from a million different people. You’re allowed to stay true to whatever vision you have as a filmmaker or a writer. That’s honestly very rare. So, I think people are drawn to the authenticity.
SFF: Do you think short film viewership in Canada will grow in the future?
KB: I hope so. Sometimes I wonder what purpose short films really serve because no one is making money from them. But, I hope we continue to make them. I hope we keep funding bravoFact. bravoFact mandates that they give 50% of their money to female filmmakers. Maybe soon, Telefilm will follow suit. The truth is, we can take more risks on short films. Film and television are often risk-averse by design, so we need short films. It’s the least diluted art form we have. In Canada, in the arts, we need to take more risks.
SFF: What new short or feature film projects can we look forward to seeing you in next?
KB: I have three films coming out this year: Cardinal, (directed by my best friends Aidan and Grayson), Love of my Life, a British-Canadian co-pro and Joseph and Mary, a biblical period piece. I also have television shows in development that I’ve created and am writing, so I hope one of them goes. It’s a long process. Megan Park and I just wrapped new web series called We’re Adults Now that we’re shooting in New York City! We co-wrote, co-created, co-directed and co-starred in We’re Adults Now and I am truly excited about it. I also wrote a short film called Lolz-Ita that I got bravoFact funding for and we shoot in December. Last year, I produced a documentary that was directed by my mother, Gail Harvey, on Rickie Lee Jones, called The Other Side of Desire that is now available on iTunes and Amazon. My mom and I are also shooting a movie this winter based on a Linwood Barclay novel called Never Saw it Coming.
SFF: Do you have any advice for any up-and-coming actors and actresses in Canada?
KB: Yes! If there’s anything else that will make you happy, do that. But if there’s not – congratulations you’re in for a wild ride! Try and make things with your friends. You can do it. I did. If it’s bad, who cares, just get better. Your only job is to try to be as good as you can possibly be. Focus on that; don’t focus on being famous. Try and be good; that will lead you to the right crowds and the right mentors. That’s the right energy to be in. Other actors and creative people are your best friends and greatest allies. My best friends are other actresses. We are each other’s greatest support. You need to understand that there is room for everyone and that people rise up together. Dream big, and as Drake says, get the jokers out of your deck. Lots of people are going to tell you why you can’t do it. The only reason I’ve had any success at all is because I’ve persevered. Try and recognize that no matter where you are, there are challenges. They just shift and take different shapes. It’s always going to be difficult, so try to enjoy where you are right now. Also, good luck!
Katie’s enterprising and enduring nature is very inspiring. As she previously mentioned, being involved in multiple projects can makes one’s life too busy, but it is becoming the new norm in acting. The same can be said about other professional careers, as well. Having many projects on the go is also perhaps the best way to make sure one does not get bored or complacent in their career and life path.
We’re looking forward to seeing more of Katie’s work on screen and in print. There has been much written previously about Katie being the next rising star nationally and internationally. With her drive, talents and successes, Katie Boland will definitely become a household name much sooner than anyone could anticipate.
P.S. Readers: Next month, SFF will review Molly McGlynn’s Given Your History which starred Katie Boland and Rachel Wilson. Stay tuned!