Clara Altimas is a writer, director and actor originally from Montreal, now based in Toronto. Her directorial debut, Girl Couch, which she also co-wrote, was selected as the winning screenplay by the Toronto ACTRA Women's Committee in their 2014 competition. Clara’s first feature script Benson is set to go to camera spring 2017, and she is in early stages of development with Vice on No Dollar, No Chat, a one take, iPhone shot series she’s co-writing.
Clara was shortlisted as one of 14 filmmakers from Canada, the U.S. and the U.K. for the 2015 Kevin Spacey Foundation’s Artist of Choice Award and her short film Jeremy and Margot Make a Baby, which she wrote, produced, and acted in premiered at the Austin Film Festival (October 2016) and continues to make festival rounds.
Clara studied screenwriting with the University of California-Los Angeles Extension Program and has just completed a residency in the Writer’s Lab at the Canadian Film Centre. Clara attributes her love of story and character to her extensive training in acting; she studied Meisner technique with the late Jacqueline McClintock, scene study and script analysis with the renowned Larry Moss, and improvisation at Toronto’s Second City.
PHOTO: Kourosh Keshiri
Who, or what, inspired you to become a filmmaker?
I had an amazing acting teacher in my early twenties who constantly encouraged me to make my own work. Eventually, after having as many doors as I could find closed in my face as an actor, I listened.
What film can you not live without and why?
Centre Stage. It’s the best film of all time.
What film do you currently find yourself watching ad nauseam?
I saw Manchester by the Sea three times in the theatre. It’s a masterpiece. I could watch Planes, Trains and Automobiles everyday of my life. I don’t, but I could.
Give us the elevator pitch for the first film you ever shot.
A social media obsessed, bandwagon “feminist” of today hosts 5 change-making women of the past (Marie Curie, for example) on her talk show, Girl Couch, and unintentionally shines a light on how incredibly not far we’ve progressed.
What lesson did you learn from your first moments behind the camera.
I recognized pretty quickly that I had quite a bit of power... That a lot of people had shown up for me. And that I needed to treat that with respect and take responsibility for it.
What filmmaker has formed how you approach your own films?
Nicole Holofcener. She doesn’t write outlines and she’s not concerned with structure. She starts with a scene that interests her and writes it, not knowing where it’s gonna take her till she gets there. Then she gets there and writes the next scene. That’s how I write, and she makes films I love, so I find comfort in that.