Erin is a graduate of The American Academy of Dramatic Arts in Los Angeles, studied comedy at The Upright Citizens Brigade and is a graduate of the Canadian Film Centre’s Actors Conservatory here in Toronto. Her film acting credits include the shorts Setup, Punch (Tribeca Film Festival), Fox Trouble, and Bonfire (LA Shorts Fest), which she wrote, produced and starred in. You can see her in the upcoming season of CBC's Murdoch Mysteries and also in the upcoming feature Suck It Up (Slamdance), from director Jordan Canning, which she co-produced and costarred in.
Who, or what inspired you to become a filmmaker?
I had a very visceral reaction, when I was 11, to seeing the first Harry Potter film. Not because it was a particularly mind blowing film, but I remember being so upset that all those kids got to be actors, and I didn’t. I have always wanted to act, but filmmaking was different. If I had to hone in on one film that made me want to be a filmmaker though, it would be Garden State. Watching a movie that Zach Braff directed, wrote, and starred in sparked something in me at the ripe age of 14. Up until that point I didn't even know that was an option. Knowing that an actor could be more than just a hired gun, and actually have a hand in the development of a project, that was a revelation for me at the time. It definitely planted a seed.
What film can you not live without and why?
The Breakfast Club. I KNOW, cliché, but I have a soft spot for characters that don’t know what to do with their angst. At first glance those characters were such stereotypes, but there was so much more humanity in them than there was in these commonly overgeneralized characters we usually see on screen. Not to mention watching them dance never gets old…
What film do you currently find yourself watching ad nauseam? And what about it keeps bringing you back?
Honestly I haven’t watched anything to nausea of late, but I recently saw Get Out and I would see that movie a million more times. The weave of thrill and humour is beautiful. I recently read a quote from Peele that read ‘…the scariest monster in the world is human beings and what we are capable of, especially when we get together.’ This rings very true for me, especially lately.
What lesson did you learn from your first moments as a writer?
My first experiences as a writer taught me that you have to know the rules before you can break them… I’ve never been very good with grammar.
What filmmaker has formed how you approach your own films and why?
So many filmmakers, of various styles and tones, have informed how I approach filmmaking. Most predominantly I would say Sophia Coppola for her crisp reality and poignant satirical tones, and Derek Cianfrance for the very open and unflinching way he approaches his films. Blue Valentine was a big marker for me. I look to the process they went through to create those characters and that world a lot.
I also have to mention Greg Mottola, Lena Dunham and Judd Apatow’s work. Their films/shows helped me see that comedy isn't always in the big physical gags, and that the lines for genre can be blurred. I hesitate to use the words dramady, but I love using aspects of both comedy and drama. I think some of the best laughs come out of the darkest moments and vice versa.
How do you continue to educate yourself as a filmmaker?
I personally feel like the best place for continuing education in this industry is on set. It doesn’t matter how many classes I take, set is always where the real learning is done. I’ve tried to learn in a classroom, but at the end of the day I always learn more by doing - even if it means failing. My father will never read this, but hey, I guess he was right.
What is the biggest challenge you’ve had to overcome as a filmmaker?
The biggest challenge I’ve ever had to face as a filmmaker is auditions. What the fuck man? I think the audition set up is flawed and archaic. Can we not just sit down and have a candid conversation about characters already?? Look, there are so many other more articulate answers to this question, but I think the ultimate hurdle in this industry is never knowing what comes first, the chicken of the egg? You need an agent to get the job. You need a job to get the agent. It’s endless, and it’s a large reason I like creating my own content so much, having someone else dictate my career is not something I’m interested in.
What’s great about making films in Canada?
I think making films in Canada is very exciting now. It feels very much like a new generation of filmmakers are wanting to do things a bit differently, and it feels like a breath of fresh air. Or at least this is my hope… A girl can dream.
What Canadian film inspires you?
I was extremely inspired by a film I saw at TIFF in 2015, Sleeping Giant. I loved its youthful grit and visual style.
I have also been inspired by Xavier Dolan since J’ai Tue Ma Mere, one of my favorite Canadian films, his continuous ability to bring something new and innovative to both characters and visual style is mind blowing to me.
What do you love about the art of filmmaking and why?
When I was a young, watching movies like Thirteen, White Oleander, Fish Tank, Lords of Dogtown, The Breakfast Club… all of these movies helped me shed a light on things in my own life, things I didn’t even quite understand at the time. These movies about youth, these kind of ‘human condition’ films, were almost a mirror for me. I always hoped that someday I could make something that would would help someone else by personifying what they might be going through.