I am already loving the video “Keep Shining.” Did you ever consider that your purpose in this field to bring the message of female empowerment to the audience?
Sarah Michelle Brown: Showing strong, complex female heroes are an important part of my voice as a writer/director. But for me, it’s not just about female empowerment. I hope that in showing brave, funny, flawed and complex women going through big experiences, that people from all genders can feel uplifted by the stories that I tell and the images that I show. I want to do my part in making the telling of women’s stories a universal experience.
What do you hope couples from all walks of life get when seeing Just Like Love?
SMB: In seeing Just Like Love, I hope that what resonates are some of the universal qualities of how we learn to love one another. This film is in its own way, a day in the life of a relationship, and anyone who has ever loved or been loved knows about the small acts of bravery that it takes to open your heart to another person.
I was at a wedding last year and the father of the groom got up to speak about the nature of relationships. He said that love was like tending to a path. If a weed starts to grow, you have to pluck it right away. Because if you allow it to grow, it will take root, spread out, and then eventually become difficult to fix. Just Like Love was designed to reflect some of this idea. That being said, I hope that all people, not just couples, can identify with the joy, the beauty, the mistakes and the small triumphs of the duo in Just Like Love.
What – or even who – you inspire to go into acting, writing and directing, and why?
SMB: I was always very dramatic as a young kid. Me and my little friends would get up every Friday at the school assembly with some sort of prepared skit, and I would often be the director of our mini productions. If memory serves, we did a skit about Alvin and the Chipmunks, a Grease 2 excerpt and I think I’ve blocked out the rest. Oh, and once, at the cottage, I coordinated a reenactment of the musical Cats using my stepsister and our friends. Yeah, I’d say that my directing eye began at a young age.
However, when I hit my teens and early 20s, instead of rebelling, I began to explore my intellect. I eventually went into Bio-Chemistry. I felt a push, due to my strong academics, to become a scientist, researcher or doctor. But as fate would have it, a very sympathetic academic advisor at the school saw that I had a different kind of life inside of me and suggested that I find out what my true dreams were. You don’t find that kind of gift every day. Then with the great support of my parents, I left science behind and eventually rediscovered my passion for artistic expression. My dad summed it up so beautifully when I nervously told him that I was leaving Biochem: “Don’t end up in a job that you hate. Do what you love” Damn right.
I read that you shadowed Oscar winner Paul Haggis. Have you ever gotten the chance to work on one of his films?
SMB: That was a tremendous learning experience! I shadowed Paul on his pilot for The Black Donnellys during production in NYC and through post-production in L.A. I also had the opportunity to shadow his Crash co-writer, Bobby Moresco, on a stage production in Chicago. Truly, it was a great opportunity to absorb creative gold from these two extraordinary storytellers. They were incredibly generous with their knowledge and were open to my questions. One key lesson that I learned during this time was the importance of surrounding yourself with a great team.
Do you ever have a dream that never sleeps? If so, what is it and why?
SMB: Oh, yes indeed! Without a doubt, my dream that never sleeps surrounds my story, First Hand Woman. This is a stage play that I first started writing about 8 years ago. We have taken Montreal and Toronto by storm and I am simply bursting to mount it again. I believe that this piece encapsulates everything that I am striving to achieve in storytelling. The basic idea is set within one woman’s heart and mind. It is designed to be a powerful journey through heartache and healing, as told by the boisterous and unapologetic stages of grief. So the characters onstage are Denial, Bargaining, Anger, Depression and Acceptance and they are played by five different women. This story brings together humor, strong and complex female characters, powerful imagery, an increasingly more perilous situation and an intense and uplifting transformation for each of the women – and for audience members. A Montreal critic wrote “it’s not just the alternative to the Sex and the City movie; it’s the real thing.” Yep, it’s definitely my baby and I believe that it holds strong international appeal. It also reflects my mission to make women’s stories universal experiences and I am ignited by my dreams for this work. Many people have asked if I will make a feature film of First Hand Woman and all I can say is I would definitely relish the opportunity to translate it for the big screen.
You can purchase tickets for “Keep Shining” and Just Like Love at http://www.reelworld.ca/festival/program-2012/