Katie Boland Talks Women in Film and Television



Katie Boland Talks Women in Film and Television

We chat with the Toronto-based rising star ahead of the 2015 WIFT-T Showcase, profiling the work of women in screen-based media.

Still from Given Your History.

WIFT-T Showcase

The Royal (608 College Street)
April 1, 7 p.m.

Anyone seeking one last confirmation of the film industry’s structural bias against women and filmmakers of colour got plenty to work with earlier this year, when Ava DuVernay failed to snag a Best Director nomination at the Oscars for Selma despite the film’s critical acclaim and the relative softness of competitors like Morten Tyldum for The Imitation Game. Speaking to Entertainment Weekly on the verge of her snub, DuVernay predicted her own fate, pointing out that she knew not one person in the directors’ branch. Though she probably got closer to the brass ring than most, DuVernay’s situation feels representative. In the United States alone, some of the strongest independent work in recent years has been directed by women like DuVernay, Kelly Reichardt, Gina Prince Bythewood, Amy Seimetz, and Josephine Dekker, yet when it comes to the industry’s top honours, the status quo still prevails.

Events like the WIFT-T Showcase, an intensive screening and networking event featuring 8 short films by Canadian women, don’t single-handedly fix the problem. But they do remind us that there are other branches, so to speak, such that one can go through an entire film program seeing only the work of women filmmakers. Among the showcase’s highlights, we’re particularly fond of relative newcomer and TIFF favourite Slater Jewell-Kemker’s relationship drama turned supernatural thriller Still. We also have a soft spot for former Mighty Morphin Power Rangers and Flashpoint star Amy Jo Johnson’s Lines and Shooting Blanks, precursors to her upcoming feature debut.

Ahead of the showcase, we spoke to Toronto’s Katie Boland, one of the stars of Given Your History, Molly McGlynn’s moving and handsomely produced two-hander about two young women mourning the recent loss of their mother. Boland is a good face for the showcase, as a multi-hyphenate talent who landed on TIFF’s inaugural Rising Stars list before going on to produce, write, and perform in her web series Long Story, Short and publish a short story collection entitled Eat Your Heart Out. We chatted with her over the phone from L.A. about the importance of controlling your own career, the possibilities of the internet, and the challenges of making a living between Canada and the U.S.

You’ve been building a substantial profile for yourself these past few years as an actress, a writer, and a digital media producer. Do you think it’s important for women emerging in this industry to have that kind of versatility?

We’re at a time in history where it is easier to do all of those things, just with technology. You can have a greater reach through the internet, so you can make art and have people see it pretty quickly—instantaneously, in some cases. But I do think it’s important for women, especially for actresses, to also be creators and producers, mainly because it gives you a little bit more control and say in your own career and your own destiny. The film industry is still a difficult one for women, and a sexist one for actresses. I started writing and creating because I wanted to have a say in what I put out into the world.

So it’s not just the technology but the stories themselves that are important?

Yes, and I also felt like I’ve been an actress for such a long time that maybe it was just a natural progression, realizing that I have more to say now.

Is acting part of the same creative process for you? Is it freeing sometimes to not have to be the single creator behind something?

It’s interesting because I always tell people that I think I use the same part of my brain when I’m acting and when I’m writing. But now, when I go do movies or TV shows that I didn’t have a hand in creating, it does feel so much easier. I think I like the combination of both in my life. People ask me a lot, “So are you only going to do your own stuff now?” And if I was only doing my own stuff, I think that would not be as fun as being able to balance the two. I get bored very easily, so I like being able to move around between those projects.

You’re a staple in the Toronto film scene, and you’ve done quite a bit of Canadian television, but you’ve also worked in the United States. How do you see yourself moving back and forth between the two? Is there a ceiling in Canada?

You know, I don’t think I’ve figured out the living in both places part completely yet. I think that there’s a lot of amazing work in Canada, and there are a lot of wonderful filmmakers I feel grateful to work with, but it’s easier to make a real living in the States. Sometimes I feel torn between the two worlds, but ultimately I would always like to keep it so that it’s one foot in Canada, one foot in the States.

I haven’t had this experience, but if you get an American TV show that takes off, you’re kind of okay for life, in some ways—or at least you could buy a house. And that’s just not the case in Canada. If you’ve worked in the States, then you can work in Canada for the rest of your life. So I sort of feel like I have to do my due diligence here and try to get some jobs, but I do have a career in Canada that’s pretty busy. It’s a balance that I’m still trying to figure out.

Is there a difference for you between TV, film, and web series? Does it change your process as either an actor or a producer to work in one medium or another?

From a creative standpoint, it doesn’t. I think now that every television series is a web series—it just varies in terms of length. I only watch TV on my computer. I think, creatively, the greatest thing I take into consideration is the tone. Otherwise, though, revenue is different, how you get things funded is different, and probably the development process is different. There are fewer funding agencies for web series, whereas for TV shows and movies you have more options. So how you get the revenue and how it gets dispersed is different, but, creatively, I think they’re all the same now.

What about writing? You’ve published a short story collection and you’re working on a novel: does all of this intersect with your visual media work, or is it separate?

The last creative part of my life that I only do for myself, to see how I feel about it, is fiction writing. Now, my mom and I have a production company and something in development for screenwriting, and there are more people involved there. But for me, fiction writing is the last thing I want to do, maybe to prove to myself that I can do it.

What’s next for you?

Basically what I want is for my mom and I to be running a television series, and I hope that’s what gets to happen. So, that’s my goal: I want to write a television series that I star in. I’m also doing a film called Love of My Life that I’m really excited about. It’s a Canadian-British co-production. And I’m trying to finish this novel, so I think a lot of this summer will be spent in development.