Women Behind Canadian TV: Lisa Rose Snow

Credit: Brent McCombs
Credit: Brent McCombs

Sometimes not having a plan is a good thing. It certainly seems to be working out well for writer, director and actress Lisa Rose Snow. In recent years, the actress has followed her passion behind the camera, graduating from the Canadian Film Centre’s Film Writer’s Lab in 2014 and co-founding Organic Water Productions, an independent film production company, with producer Lora Campbell. Together the pair have created three short films, including the multiple award-winning Two Penny Road Kill and When Fish Fly. They will have another short film begin the festival circuit this year, the family comedy Age of Reason.

Snow is an artist that wears many hats and she’s also gained first hand knowledge from a couple of other Women Behind Canadian TV series participants. In September she joined the team at Killjoys as showrunner Michelle Lovretta’s assistant. Through her work with Lovretta on the SyFy and Space Channel series, in addition to a previous stint working for former Rookie Blue and current The Catch writer Sherry White, Snow has gained valuable knowledge and insight into the inner workings of the television world. She recently spoke with The TV Junkies about those experiences, as well as what life is like as a young writer and director trying to make a name for herself.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

The TV Junkies: You began your career as an actress, so what made you want to get behind the camera and into writing and directing?

Lisa Rose Snow: I’m still definitely an actor. For me it was a matter of control. When you’re an actor you have to rely on someone somewhere writing something, a producer deciding to produce it, a casting director deciding to bring you in and then you getting the part. Between you and getting to actually express your creative work and the thing that you love, there’s so many steps. It was just a matter of wanting to work more and realizing that in order to do that I would have to take some of the steps myself.

I’m really grateful for all the roles I’ve gotten to play–and I’ve gotten to work with a lot of really awesome people–but I’ve also played a lot of roles where the main purpose of me being there was just to make out with some guy. My character had no depth. It was ‘Oh, here’s some pretty girl that we covered in makeup that this guy can make out with.’ I was missing out on what I was wanting to see, so I thought ‘I’m going to start writing those roles.’

There’s something very exhilarating about someone being excited by my work not based on what I look like, but based on actually looking at the words I’ve written and having no idea what I look like–or that not even factoring into it–and being like ‘let’s make this’ versus getting cast because of my hair color or how much I weigh.

TTVJ: It seems like the biggest thing is just getting that first foot in the door. What kind of roadblocks or challenges have you had to overcome as you’ve tried to do that?

LRS: It’s hard and you have to be really resilient and keep trying and keep believing that your work is worthy of being made. I started most of my behind the camera training in Nova Scotia and they have a program by the Atlantic Filmmakers Co-op called Film 5. It’s basically a granting program with a few months of training and if you get to the next phase you get to make a film with a professional crew and mentors. That’s how I made my first film Two Penny Road Kill. That program was really cool because there were eight filmmakers in total and seven of them were women. It wasn’t on purpose, it’s just that’s who was making the best stuff at that time.

Right after that I did the National Screen Institute’s Drama Prize program which is like Film 5 but on a national scale. That was awesome because everyone but one person was a woman as well. My directing and writing mentor were both women. Again, that was just how it went down and not a mandate. Then I went to the Canadian Film Centre and again it was all girls and one guy.

It’s just a funny thing, but you can see that there are a lot of women trying and succeeding. It feels very hopeful on the lower levels. There’s definitely gender disparities in the industry, but I feel that personally I’ve come up surrounded by all these amazing, talented women. It’s been really exciting.

TTVJ: That’s exciting to hear because over and over we hear we just need the pool of young women to be larger. It seems like that’s definitely been your experience.

LRS: The thing with it is that it’s just a matter of keeping writing and finding the courage to keep going. You can do these programs and then find that it gets harder to get into a room or to keep taking the next step. So I think the key is to start writing, or whatever you’re doing, and not stop. Keep pushing.

TTVJ: How did the opportunities to work for Sherry and Michelle come about?

LRS: By some streak of magical wonder! Sherry and Michelle are two of the most kickass women in the industry and just so kind and so talented and so cool. I feel so lucky. I met Sherry through a friend I met at the Film Centre. Sherry has been such a strong mentor. She’s been so open with sharing her work with me and letting me watching her process, giving me lots of real talk while still being supporting and helpful.

I’m not actually sure how I started working with Michelle. [laughs] Sherry went to LA and she passed my name onto the folks at Temple Street, who produce Killjoys, and somehow my resume landed on Michelle’s lap. She and I hit it off right away and spent most of my interview laughing and making totally inappropriate and excellent jokes. It really felt like we were on the same page.

Working for Michelle has been incredible because it has been such an insider eye to behind the scenes and how hard she works. She’s like a superhuman and works so hard. It’s good to know that if that’s the path that I eventually end up on, that this is what your life is going to look like. Get sleep now because you’re not going to sleep as a showrunner.

TTVJ: Founding your own production company is a huge risk, both financially and professionally. Why was that a risk you wanted to take?

LRS: I started it with my business partner and best friend Lora Campbell–another kickass, up and coming female. She’s a producer extraordinaire and we did all the programs together. We are now working on our first feature together. It’s one of those things when someone gets you and wants to tell the same stories, plus you love being around them, it just makes sense. We wanted to have a name to put our work under and say these are the projects we make together.

Through the Drama Prize program, part of the requirement was incorporating, so we had to. I feel like we would’ve waited a little longer otherwise because it is super expensive. While it is that, it is an investment and we’re in it for the long haul. It’s just one of those things that her and I will sit together, drinking our cheap wine and have a laugh like ‘Ah, someday we’ll look back and laugh at this right?’ It’s amazing though because I get to make movies with my best friend. Eventually it’ll all even out but it’s definitely a risk that you take. But it’s life, you’ve got to take risks and try.

TTVJ: In the past year you’ve had a couple films shown in different festivals, graduated from the CFC and started working on Killjoys. How do you manage to juggle all that and is that something that’s important as a young writer/director, keeping your face out there as much as possible?

LRS: Yes, I think it’s essential. It’s very hard in Canada to do just one thing, unless you’re absolutely, completely extraordinary at it. I feel confident in my skills in a lot of different areas, but I’m not Meryl Streep. Unless you’re undeniably the absolute best in your field, then I think as a Canadian artist you have to have multiple streams of income. You have to have multiple avenues you’re pursuing. You can’t ever put all your eggs in one basket.

It’s important to have things that you’re doing that always are authentic and you feel excited by, but multiple things and in different stages of development. I have a film in post right now, I’m writing a couple films and I still have a film doing the festival circuit. Various stages of projects make it easier to handle everything. If I had 10 things that were just in development that would be totally impossible because there’s just not time to write that much or produce that much. By having things in different stages it’s really helpful.

It’s also that I don’t want to work a “Joe Job.” I have worked every “Joe Job” under the sun. I’ve been a nanny, I’ve worked at McDonald’s. It came a time where I was like ‘OK, how can I work in my field and still pay my rent and still make my own thing?’ So I’ve been very fortunate to have a job where I’m in my field, I’m paying my rent and I’m learning a ton under amazing people–lots of amazing women but lots of amazing men as well. I feel like if you surround yourself with really good, strong female leaders then the men they put in the room are good, strong men that are the kind of men you’d want in a room.

TTVJ: But it has to be hard to put in 12+ hour days on Killjoys and then come home and try to find the energy to work on other projects.

LRS: It’s very, very hard. I started on Killjoys back in September and I’m just now starting to really find a groove. For me it’s going to bed early and then waking up really early. I usually do about two hours of my own work, go in and work 12-15 hours, then I come home and I’ll do maybe another hour or two of work. But I have my weekends as well versus someone like Michelle whose weekends are spent still writing and still doing all the work.

I also have little vacations here and there. So as long as I have a light at the end of the tunnel to look for I don’t mind the grind and the hustle. It’s doing stuff that I love. I love working on Killjoys and we have the funniest talks. A group of adults sitting around the boardroom table talking for hours about space goo. These very serious conversations that are totally legit but sometimes you look around and see everyone’s eyes twinkling. It’s fun and certainly challenging and has stresses that come with it, but at the end of the day it’s like we’re making an awesome, fun TV show.

TTVJ: You’ve done films, and I know you keep your options open, but do you have interest heading down the TV path?

LRS: Yes. I try to be open to the opportunities that come and whatever excites me or lights my fire. I’m definitely not leaving film and television and I don’t think I’ll end up specifically doing just any one thing. I love acting and would love to balance acting and writing and creating. So maybe working in a writing room and doing some fun acting gigs and making a feature. I just really don’t know what’s going to happen next and I’m super OK with that because everything that has happened so far without me knowing has been really awesome.

 

Thoughts? Comments? Sound off below! Read more from our Women Behind Canadian TV series here.

Killjoys will return for Season 2 on SyFy and Space Channel in Summer 2016.