Exclusive interview with Julia Lederer – Screenwriter
Julia is a writer from Toronto, Canada. Her work has been described as: “delightfully original” (Toronto Star), “laced with sophisticated poetry and wry insight” (The Los Angeles Times), and “deliciously twisted” (Chicago Standard). An internationally acclaimed playwright, her plays have been produced all over North America and in Europe, in places including: Los Angeles, New York, Vancouver, Toronto, Alaska, Boise, Paris, France. Most recently, her collection of one-act plays, REALITY THEATRE, was produced at Chicago’s Trap Door Theatre. Julia’s most widely produced play, WITH LOVE AND A MAJOR ORGAN, was part of the Theatre @ Boston Court’s 2017 Polly Warfield Award-winning season and nominated for multiple awards, including the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle’s “Best Production”. It’s published by Scirocco Drama. Julia has also adapted WITH LOVE AND A MAJOR ORGAN into a feature film script, which was short listed for the Sundance Feature Development Lab, selected for the Whistler Film Festival’s Screenwriters Lab, and received Telefilm Canada’s regional funding. It’s set to shoot in 2020.
Julia was selected from over 800 applicants for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s emerging writers room, and worked on the hit show, KIM’S CONVENIENCE (CBC/Thunderbird/Netflix). Her short films have been selections at many festivals worldwide, including: TIFF, Cucalorus, FIN Atlantic International Film Festival, Festival du Nouveau Cinéma, Canadian Film Fest, CineQuest, FilmBath, Aesthetica, London Short Film Festival, Sun Valley Film Festival, Pendance Film Festival, Breakthroughs Film Festival, etc. (www.julialederer.ca)
NY Glam: What projects are you currently working on?
My first feature film, an adaptation I’ve written of my internationally acclaimed play, With Love and a Major Organ, is going to camera in the fall, so I’m getting that polished and ready in combination with a couple of new scripts for theatre and television.
NY Glam: What makes a film great for you? Are there certain qualities that make a film better for you?
I am drawn to stories with both levity and depth. I love the use of imagination in storytelling to help see the real world in a different way, and comedy that is unexpected, unique, and stays with me because it says something true (or is just incredibly funny, so it brings me a lot of joy). With all art I’m most excited when all I want to do is open up the writer’s brain and look in it. As in, how did they possibly come up with that amazing thing?
NY Glam: As a screenwriter, what is the most important aspect of building a character?
They often feel like friends — I try to create characters that I’m invested in and curious about, excited when they succeed and sympathetic when they don’t. I relate to their faults and am inspired by or envious of their strengths. Characters that are people I want to know and know more about. I also think the way we act and appear to others is often vastly different than how we feel and appear to ourselves. Sometimes the distance and discrepancies between these parts of a character are the most fun and feel the most true.
NY Glam: Top 3 favorite projects that you have been involved in?
I hate rating things (which is probably very Canadian of me) because I know I’ll forget something! And each project is so different and I’m grateful for all of them.
Three recent projects I’ve loved: writing my short film, IT’S NOTHING (about a young woman digging a hole the serves as a metaphor for a eating disorder), for lots of reasons – the challenge of it, the team I got to work with, and being from Toronto, it was especially meaningful to have it premiere at TIFF. The conversations I’ve had about how it resonates have made the anxiety I felt about making it completely worth it. I wanted to try and show something complicated from the inside, in a way that could be more universally understood. I think we accomplished that as a team with the film, so I’m very proud of it.
Another is a short film I adapted from a play of mine, called SPOONING. It’s about a woman who has been playing a spoon in Beauty and the Beast for twenty-one years. We shot it in one day, one location, one (amazing) actor (Krista Morin), a tiny crew lead by a (then) first-time director, Rebecca Applebaum. It’s screened at festivals internationally and won awards. It’s a homage to WAITING FOR GUFFMAN combined with my own experience playing a spoon. Which I did in my 20s for free (it was community theatre) because it was just the kind of experience I couldn’t turn down. Human cutlery. I regret nothing.
I’ve been working on a new play called SMALLBOTS. It’s a little bit of a spin-off of another play I wrote (a modern, feminist re-telling of Karel Čapek’s R.U.R., called U-R-U). SMALLBOTS is about what happens when adults start adopting robot kids instead of having human children, and how teenagers react. I was really inspired by recent youth activism. I’ve been developing it with a group of teenagers in the Senior Company at the Young People’s Theatre in Toronto and having their feedback on a play about their generation has been invaluable. They were supposed to perform it in June, but now something online is in the works instead. Which is funny with this play, where technology is basically destroying everything humane.
NY Glam: Do you express yourself creatively in any other ways?
I really just write, often in other mediums too. I love language. I love to look at visual art but I’m not really one to make it. I used to do some acting and a very little bit of stand up comedy, but found I’m much happier focusing on the written parts of any performance.
NY Glam: What advice would you give to someone who wants to have a career in filmmaking?
Patience, persistence, and balance are things I’m always telling myself to seek and foster. Also, to try to find the balance between pushing forwards and taking risks while also taking the time to stop and learn. I think it can feel like you need to be constantly rushing in this industry, but things actually (usually) take a long time. You need to be able to be OK with that and love your projects enough to want to stick with them. You also need to be able to let them go.
NY Glam: What can we expect from you in 2020?
Social distancing. After that, screenings of IT’S NOTHING and EAT YOUR HEART OUT, and SPOONING will become available through CBC’s Canadian Reflections series for streaming and broadcast in the summer/once things resume. There are some cancelled theatre productions that might end up as online content. I’m hoping to do some more television, so focusing on that as well.
NY Glam: Where can everyone keep up with you to learn more? …social media…website
www.julialederer.ca , @juliabirdwords on twitter , @juliaalederer on instragram