INTERVIEW: Director and Filmmaker, Sherren Lee, on ‘The Things You Think I’m Thinking’ and Her Inpsirations

Sherren Lee produced and directed The Things You Think I’m Thinking, a short film about a black male burn-survivor and amputee who goes on a date with a regularly-abled man. The film explores the main character’s demons and how he faces intimacy 10 years after his accident. This award winning film will be making the rounds at different festivals this summer. Get to know the woman behind the scenes and read the interview below!

Thank you for taking the time to answer our questions, Sherren! ​Tell us a little about yourself. How did you get into filmmaking? When did you know you wanted to get involved in making movies?

I grew up wanting to act and participating in all the school plays. In university, I directed a play for the first time and have not acted since. It had never clicked in my head that directing could be something I can do, but as soon as I had a taste of it, I knew it was what I wanted to spend the rest of my life doing. I didn’t go to film school, so when I graduated from McGill with a Bachelor of Commerce, I only looked for film and television work, proceeded to work in production for seven years while creating my own independent work on the side. I didn’t give myself an alternative.

What movies or people inspired you, or continue to inspire you? Bonus: If you had to pick one movie only to watch for the rest of your life, which one would it be and why?

I get inspired all the time, whether it’s by seasoned master directors like Richard Linklater, David Fincher or by my fellow filmmaker peers who are hustling just as I am. I think it’s crucial to have a community of storytellers who you admire and trust– they’re really the ones who keep me grounded, remind me of the reasons why we do what we do and motivate me to keep going.

If I had to pick one movie to watch for the rest of my life… that’s impossible! I love all kinds of movies of every genre… and watch movies for different reasons. But if I don’t overthink it, I’d choose Moulin Rouge– I love the songs, the performances… and what more can you ask for above freedom, beauty, truth and love?

Tell us about your short film, The Things You Think I’m Thinking. How did you get involved with this project? What message do you hope people will get from watching it?

I got involved when the writer, Jesse LaVercombe brought me the script. If this film can help audiences have more empathy and be less uncomfortable interacting with people with disability, or simply, people who are different than them, then that would be enough. But if we can look inward, examine the assumptions we make about other people, and reflect on how much of that is merely a projection of our own demons, I think we could probably change the world that way.

Do you have any other projects you are currently working on that you can tell us about?

I am currently developing a drama series called LITTLE THINGS with my co-creator Kathleen Hepburn, based on my short film Benjamin. I’m also working towards my first feature, a drama entitled WITH MIGHT AND GRACE.

What has been your best memories while working on a film?

The best memories always come from being on set with your collaborators– your key creatives, your producers… and the impossible things we manage to achieve. I must say though, there’s a special place in my heart for all the times I’m in sync with an actor and they nail the performances we need to tell the story. That’s the absolute best. There’s nothing quite like it.

As an Asian woman, what challenges do you face within the industry, or what do you hope to achieve in the future?

It’s hard for me to define what challenges I face specifically as an Asian woman. The statistics are clear: there aren’t enough of us directing, and that’s something we all need to pay attention to. But being a filmmaker comes with many complex challenges so it’s not evident which ones are due to what. All I know, is that as a woman of color, I need to stand my ground, claim my space and be the best that I can be, in hopes that the industry will have more trust in future directors of color who are women. It’s sad to think that we have to work harder than anyone else right now, and that we are accountable for each other’s work. I hope that filmmakers of color will not need to worry about this and simply have the luxury of focusing on their craft.

What advice would you give aspiring female directors and filmmakers?

Make yourself known. People can’t help you if they don’t know that you’re out there. Tell the stories you want to tell. Dig deep into yourself and don’t be afraid to show the world who you are!

Very important questions: if you could have one superpower, which would it be and why?

I think a lot of our problems could be solved if miscommunication could be eradicated. If I could, I would want the power of allowing people to communicate what they truly mean, taking away any barriers of language, culture, bias, etc. I really think we’re all the same at the end of the day!

Check out more of Sherren Lee’s work at her website:

Follow her on Instagram @sherrenlee or at Twitter @SundayAfterProd.

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