Please state your: NAME, AGE, PROFESSION
MARIAH OWEN, 23, FILMMAKER (Producer, Director, Writer & Actress)
How did you get started in the world of producing films?
I started as an actor, then moved into also writing and producing and now directing. I was working on a show as a producer for someone else and thought “I think I can do this on my own, on my own terms.” and a few months after that, I had my very own production company and projects.
How did you make the decision to start your own venture?
The project I was working on at the time was really volatile. The person in charge was someone who treated people really poorly, they would say one thing to an actors or writers face and then something utterly different behind their backs or change things the day of on set. It was a workplace where people were spoken down to and not one where I 1). wanted to work at anymore and 2). wasn’t proud of. And unfortunately, this happens a lot. So the decision was simple. I wanted to create sets where people felt welcomed, their voices heard – regardless of their position on the project and more importantly – create work I wanted to do and would be proud of.
What were the risks?
So. Many. Risks! What if I make stuff and no one likes it? What if the investments I’m making now, don’t pay off? What if I’m actually not good at this (side note to anyone reading this: If you love something SO much, you work very insanely hard at it and you can’t imagine doing anything else with your life – odds are you are pretty damn good at whatever you’re doing). However, all of these risks, seemed small in comparison to working for the rest of my life on projects that didn’t ignite a passion in me. So it honestly was a calculated risk that I knew would be worth it.
What have been the rewards?
Firstly, my personal growth throughout this entire process is such a reward to me. I’m incredibly proud of who I’ve become (and I know I have further to go). In addition to that, my company turns 2 on March 22nd, 2018. In less than two years we have won over 10 awards, have projects with distribution on television and films in some of the largest festivals around the world (SXSW, Cannes & Sitges to name a few). I’d say those are some pretty nice rewards. As well being able to provide new opportunities for women, young people and POC, both in front of and behind the camera. I’ve made work that I’m SO proud of and in various mediums. Some short films, some TV, some alternatives and some features. I’m so excited for what’s to come.
Describe your post-secondary education a bit, what you loved about it, what you wish you had done differently (including would you have even attended uni/college if you knew you’d be where you are now)?
I have a love/hate relationship with school. I love to learn and self educate. I’m very curious however, traditional schooling was tough for me. I fast tracked high school, and went to University of Toronto at 16. I don’t think I was really “ready” as a human being yet, I was smart, mature and could handle school but I don’t think I realized what a privilege it is to be able to receive an education of that magnitude. I took English and Cinema (film history). I love that U of T is such an academic institution, however, I don’t believe that you need to go to school to be a successful entrepreneur or artist… I think going to school helped me with certain qualities (I.E. learning how to write a proper paper or even an email), however, I think I could’ve not gone to school and been just fine (in my profession, you can’t skip going to post-secondary and become a Doctor… duh).
With all this being said – there are days where I think about going back, bumping up to a specialist in Cinema Studies and then going to get my own M.F.A…. so who knows? I guess what I’m trying to say is – go to school if you want to (or need to) and don’t, if you don’t want to. It’s up to you.
Where is the best place you have lived?
Ooooh, I have lived in a lot of different places, all around the world. However, I currently live in the King West area of downtown Toronto, Canada. Growing up, I went to The Second City for Improv and now I get to walk my dog by there every day. I think living where I live now keeps me very inspired. It reminds me to keep working my butt off and think about that 7 year old girl who started improv or the 19 year old who started writing and wanting to make those younger versions of myself proud. Plus, I love ALL of the cute coffee shops in the area (Strange Love at Adelaide/Spadina is my new fave!). Everything I need is pretty much in walking distance and I find that friends are always down to explore the area. 🙂
What is your favourite project you’ve worked on?
Hands down, “M.F.A.” A vigilante thriller about campus rape, starring Francesca Eastwood, written by Leah McKendrick and directed by Natalia Leite. It was my first feature film and just such a wonderful project to be a part of. I grew so much as a producer as well as a person. I didn’t know anyone in the beginning, came on to the project rather blind and walked away so proud of the social conversation that the film raises with such an incredible team who I’m grateful to now call my friends.
What is your next step?
This month, I’m directing the music video for “Glass” by Common Deer, a super talented, indie band which I’m so excited for as I get to work with DOP Nina Djacic (she’s SUCH a girlboss!). After that, I’m going full tilt into my next feature film. One I’ve written; a psychological thriller currently titled “Grace”. I will also act in and produce the film. Yay!
(If you can (no worries if not) hyperlink Glass by Common Deer: here’s their live performance on House of Strombo: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EgA__nT8Wns)
Who is your idol? How have they affected the decisions you’ve made professionally?
I really admire Shonda Rhimes and Amy Poehler.
Shonda Rhimes is a force to be reckoned with. Her writing. Her voice. Her dedication to shining light on topics that society has deemed “unimportant” or “undesirable” is phenomenal. I can binge watch her shows for hours, let me rephrase that… I do binge watch her shows for hours, I admire her talent so much and really look up to her as a creator of many shows. She never stops or settles.
Amy Poehler has always been one of my favorite actresses. She is hilarious and I grew up watching her on SNL. It was after I read her book, Yes Please that I fell even more in love with her. She is so talented, driven and yet so serious about helping other young girls and women around the world realize it’s okay to be your authentic self. She is someone I look up to as she is a comedic genius, yet never jokes about female empowerment!
Pick any place in the world to teleport to right now.
Hermosa Beach Pier, California.
Photo #1 – Evans Photography
Photo #2 – Ted Belton
Photo #3 – Stephanie Anderson