Janet Lee Rose is a actor, director, and storyteller based in Toronto. Her work includes the short films, Wonderland, Installing…, and the remaining pieces. Rose says her passion is to tell stories that speak to the human condition. As a writer and director Rose says she wants to create more diversity in the film industry.
Interview by Gloria Star
Welcome to Openbeast, tell us about yourself.
Well, I am a Writer and Director based in Toronto. My passion lies in telling a good story. This love developed at a young age when I discovered books, ever since then I have had a wild imagination and a need for self-expression. I love a good glass of wine and am addicted to coffee. And just for fun, I love tattoos and have seven (smiles)!
How did you get started in the world of film?
I first started out as an actress in Vancouver, attending school for an intensive acting program and then finding myself an agent. I would go to auditions and work on short films but I was always drawn to the writing and production aspects. Part of me was also frustrated with the roles available for women and the lack of diversity in the film industry, so I decided, why not make my own films.
Tell us more about your experience acting and directing.
Acting is a joyous and exhilarating experience but it is also difficult because of the vulnerability required. With acting there are no rules, your guard is down, you let everything go and the character comes through you. Directing is another challenge in itself, you have to trust everyone on your team and all work together towards the same goal: creating a vision and telling a story. I feel lucky to have experience with acting as a lot of directing is communicating that vision to the actors. It’s also creating a safe creative space to let the actor do their thing. I am definitely just beginning my journey as a director, there is so much learn and so much for me to create.
Do you enjoy acting or directing more?
While acting will always hold a special place in my heart, I have found my calling with directing and writing. Nothing is more exciting than world building and seeing your story and vision come to life. It’s also a privilege to work with such amazing people, going from pre-production to post-production. You get to work with and build relationships with all of them and there’s a real family sense when you’re all working so closely to create a film.
What has been your favorite project so far?
It’s really hard to pick a favourite project but if I had to, it would be Wonderland. The reason is mostly because the team I worked with was phenomenal. They were all amazing, Hayley Wong, the Director of Photography has a great eye and Nadine Kimiko was the perfect actress for the role. Sometimes, the filmmaking process can be hard to enjoy so having a great cast and crew is so important!
Other then the obvious (Alice in Wonderland) what was the inspiration behind your short film Wonderland?
To be honest, Wonderland was inspired by my real life. It’s about overcoming darkness within your mind and the self-destructiveness that accompanies that. I wanted to express the duality within humans and how you can follow your darker self into places you know you shouldn’t, thus the two Alices. I actually want to do another cut of the film and create something with many more layered elements as the one that is currently online is a school cut.
Tell us more about your short film Installing.
I watched Spike Jonze’s “Her” and was so enraptured by the aesthetics, the story and the whole loneliness of the film. It was one of those films you watch and don’t stop thinking about. I think it’s very poignant on how, in a society where we are all so connected, that everyone is still very lonely and lost. I wanted to explore that and the origins of the OS. Also, being a woman in film, I wanted to see it from the female perspective. In “Installing…”, Emily is always alone. She talks to the camera, she attempts human relationships but she finds instead an incredible connection with an operating system. I thought it would be neat to create a film with that one perspective. It was also due to limited resources that I filmed it the way I did!
Are there any upcoming projects you would like to talk about?
My current passion project is a short film that I’ve written and would like to develop into a feature, “Penny & Jo”. It’s a dark comedy about two women who are fed up with the current state of the economy. They take it upon themselves to enact revenge against the 1%. How? By posing as escorts and robbing them blind – except everything goes horribly wrong for them. I’d like to think of it as “Springbreakers” crossed with “Thelma & Louise”.
I am also currently producing two thesis films for two very talented female writer/directors, Julianna Notten and Heyishi Zheng, who are both in their final year at Ryerson University.