Siobhan Murphy was born and raised in downtown Toronto. She received her training and degree in acting from York University's Acting Conservatory in 2005. Upon graduating Siobhan was cast as one of the leads in the W Network original sitcom The Smart Woman Survival Guide. She has since appeared as a series lead in CBC’s Men with Brooms, and Nickelodoen’s Max and Shred. Her television credits also include, Saving Hope, Murdoch Mysteries, Rookie Blue, The Good Witch and the CW’s Reign. She most recently appeared in the award winning feature at the Canadian Film Festival, Filth City.
PHOTO: Vanessa Heins
Who, or what inspired you to become a filmmaker?
I fell in love with the rush of an audience. There’s a brief lightening bolt of euphoria when you’re telling a story and you feel that you’ve made a connection. It’s often difficult to gauge that feeling when you’re working on a set, it’s a bit of a vacuum from your eventual audience. In those cases it’s more the feeling of looking into my scene partner’s eyes, and the corner piece of the puzzle clicks into place and I know we’ve made something real. That indescribable feeling, that’s what inspired me to pursue a Mad Hatter’s life in this business.
What film can you not live without and why?
This is a wildly unfair question, who can choose only one film? One film forever?? Insane. I know this is going to be a deeply unpopular choice given the filmmaker but it’s Annie Hall. That film, god that film still kills me. It was the first time I think I understood that there can be comedy in the simply mundane truths of the ordinary. Diane Keaton gives the most irresistible, wonderful and charming performance in this. I think 90% of everything I’ve ever done in my career is some busted rip off of her work in this film. It cracks my heart wide open every single time i watch it, even though I know what’s coming, that final scene fills me with such melancholy. It was the first film that taught me the best comedy isn’t in the punchline, it’s the honesty of the absurdity in a situation. Can we love films even if we think the filmmakers are number one creeps? I can’t not love Annie Hall.
What film do you currently find yourself watching ad nauseam? And what about it keeps bringing you back?
If The Royal Tennenbaums is on, I don’t care what I was supposed to be doing, where I’m supposed to go, it’s done, my day is hijacked and I’m watching that. Honestly, every Wes Anderson movie has me charmed and fixated with his attention to detail, his immaculate production design, the soundtrack, everything. The Royal Tennenbaums is my all time watch-it-till-I-ruin-the-VHS-tape though. Maybe because it was the first of his films I ever saw, it held a special magic. The universe he builds is so immersive and complex; his characters so wonderfully strange and tragic while still making you laugh. I think his story telling is what keeps me coming back, in all the specificity of each cut away or flash back you know exactly who these people are. And has there ever been a more perfect character than Margot Tennenbaum? Whoever you’re thinking of, you’re wrong, she’s perfect.
Is there a saying, code or decree you live by as a filmmaker?
When I was in theatre school, the hot book we all were devouring was True and False by David Mamet. In it, he basically tries to demystify the whole acting process, taking to task all the Method techniques and other more athletic, strenuous schools of thought on performance. His mission statement is more or less, just shut up, breathe and say the words. Tell the story. That’s our job, and the directness of his words really helps me when I get too in my head, too precious about the emotion or the conditions in which we’re working. I’m just a vessel for a story, and the best way to contribute is with clarity of intention and trust in the words. It’s not a lesson I’ve achieved yet, but it’s what I aim for.
How do you continue to educate yourself as a filmmaker?
How does anyone educate themselves? You consume as much knowledge as you can, every day. You watch what others are doing, and you read and you talk with others about it. Its tough as an actor, because it’s one of the only artistic mediums that you can’t really practice on your own. You need an audience, you need collaborators to make things. So it’s tough to practice when you’re not actively on set but educating yourself is so useful. Watch everything you can. Devour other people’s genius.
What’s great about making films in Canada?
What’s so great about making films in Canada is the sense of community it fosters. The relationships you build during these collaborations. We’re a huge country, but a very small scene in a lot of ways, and i think that’s actually really beneficial. It gives space to grow, and to explore without the huge noise and volume of a larger market. Also being on Canadian sets is a real study in removing ego from your practice, everyone is making this living, breathing thing together, and it’s not easy, and it’s cold but we’re going to do it together. There’s always a strong sense of ‘the team’ on a Canadian film set that I think is so lovely.
PHOTO: Vanessa Heins