Jordan Canning fell in-love with directing and has directed more than a dozen short films that have been featured in festivals including Tribeca, the Toronto International Film Festival and Interfilm Berlin. She talks to Defective Geeks about her journey into becoming a director and her inspiration.
What kind of journey led you to becoming a director? When did you know it was something you wanted to pursue as a career?
As a kid I was always watching movies. That was usually what me and my parents did every night after dinner– that, or watch Star Trek: The Next Generation. When I was alone, I would make up stories and little scenes and play them out in my room (did I mention I was an only child?). I went to university in Montreal for creative writing, working mainly in short fiction. After I graduated I moved back to St. John’s and started working at a production company, writing for a docu-drama series about ghost stories and shipwrecks. (Think Creepy Canada, but on the East Coast.) I started conducting the on-camera interviews, and eventually I began directing the dramatic reenactments.
Around the same time I adapted one of my stories into a short film script and applied to the First Time Filmmakers Program at our local film co-op, NIFCO. With the help of a mentor and a volunteer crew, I made my first short film– Pillowtalk. Making that film, something clicked. The entire process of filmmaking hooked me. After that, I focused all my energy on directing as much and as often as I could. I made a bunch more short films and kept busy in the industry working as a script supervisor for several years. In 2009, I moved to Toronto for the Director’s Lab at the Canadian Film Centre. After that, I just kept making more work– short films, two seasons of a web series and eventually (finally) my first feature in 2013, We Were Wolves.
What or who inspired or continues to inspire you when you are directing movies or television? What is your favorite part about it?
After I made my first feature, I tried for years to break into directing TV. It was an uphill slog. What kept me inspired were the women who were out there, building careers as directors and paving the way for the rest of us. Reed Morano, Mimi Leder, Lynn Shelton, Ava DuVernay… I saw them succeeding and it made it feel possible that I could get there too someday. As for a favorite part, that’s so hard to narrow down. I love collaborating with talented, creative people. I love seeing the spark of an idea take shape and get fleshed out and come to life on screen. When I’m at the monitor– just after I’ve called action– and I’m entirely focused on the shot playing out in front of me, my brain firing on all cylinders, watching a million things come together to form a successful scene… That’s my happy place.
So far, do you have a favorite project that you directed? Or, do you have any memorable moments on set?
Making my second feature film, Suck It Up, was an unforgettable experience. We were all living up in the Rocky Mountains together, just as summer was starting and the days went on forever. Everyone was so invested in what we were doing. I felt so connected to the material, like I really had something to bring to the story. Every day I was so inspired and grateful for the people on that journey with me. It was like falling in love a little. A great film shoot can do that. It’s magic.
As a female director working in the entertainment industry, what has been the biggest challenges for you so far? How do you overcome these challenges personally?
For the most part I have been fortunate. I’m lucky that I don’t personally have any real horror stories about being a woman in this industry. There have definitely been a couple of personalities I bumped up against along the way. People who seem determined to try to undermine your authority as director. I’ve always interpreted it as an assertion of dominance or something equally caveman-like. They don’t really listen to what you’re saying, then insist you didn’t clearly explain what you wanted and make you repeat yourself. That old chestnut. It’s pretty tiresome, especially when you have six million other things to be worrying about when you’re directing. It sucks knowing someone doesn’t have your back. But ultimately I don’t let those people shake me. I know I can do my job, with or without them. It would be a lot more fun for everyone if they weren’t questioning my competence at every turn. But if they aren’t going to get on board with me then I have no problem leaving them in the dust.
What kind of advice would you give another woman who want to go into directing in film and television?
Trust your instincts. There will be so many curveballs thrown at you, know what you want and communicate it clearly.
Do you have current or upcoming projects you can tell us about?
Currently I have episodes of both Schitt’s Creek and Little Dog airing, as well as the new season of Baroness Von Sketch Show which airs later this year. I have a music video coming out with Tim Baker called DANCE. I’m working with amazing Toronto animator Howie Shia on a short animation called Four North A. And, if the stars all align, I will hopefully be shooting my newest feature film later in 2019.
What would be a dream project for you?
A big goal of mine is to develop a television show and get to make it with all of my amazing writer, actor and filmmaker friends. Getting to create work with the people you love is the dream.
Thank you so much for talking with us, Jordan! For our final question: if you can have a single super power, which would it be and will you use it for good or evil?
I’d love to be able to teleport. Possibly because it’s -25 outside right now and I really don’t want to walk to the grocery store. I would my power only for good/fun/laziness purposes.
Photo by Shlomi Amiga.