An interview with Katie Boland ("We're All In This Together")
Katie, congratulations on winning Best Picture with We're All In This Together. Before we chat about the film and your incredible performance(s), we'd like to get to you know a little better. Could you please tell us a bit about your background, and what made you excited about acting?
Thank you so much! I am so happy to be here. I grew up in a very creative family - my mother, Gail Harvey, is an incredible filmmaker. My father, Kevin Boland, is now retired but was a very famous sports journalist and wrote two best selling novels. My grandfather was a Country and Western singer, the list goes on. Growing up in the environment I did, around the adults I was exposed to, there were a lot of characters and there was even more encouragement to pursue my passions. I started acting as a small child and I think what initially excited me about performing was what still excites me - the ability to try other people's reality on for size. To this day, that's thrilling to me.
With over 80 acting credits and 6 directorial credits, you're one of the busiest filmmakers in LA. Can you take us through a day in your life- what does your schedule look like, and how do you balance your career with your personal life? That's very kind but there are definitely people who are busier! My days when I'm not on set directing or acting generally look like: waking up very early to write for about five hours and then I take meetings in the afternoon. I generally have one project that's taking up most of the focus (whatever I'm actively writing) and then I switch gears later in the day after I get the lion's share of my work done. My brain works well for the first half of the day and then its diminishing returns. After I'm done with work, I try to get out in the world, exercise, see a friend etc. I'm still figuring out the work-life balance. Sometimes I just don't have space or energy for all that I want to do. What's really important to me is my spiritual life. When I meditate and pray every day, balance feels more intuitive and less like something I have to chase. You're also in development for five (!) television series that you have created, which is incredibly impressive. And alongside screenwriting, you're also a published writer - your collection of short stories "Eat Your Heart Out" has been published by Brindle & Glass. Please tell us a bit about your creative writing process- where do you find your inspiration, and do you ever encounter writer's block? If so, how do you handle it? That's really nice, thank you. I am really lucky that I don't get writer's block. I don't look at writing as something someone else gives me. I decide if and when I do it, that's why I started writing, this is the main reason I do it, because I control the process. As an actor, you rarely decide if you work. I love being a writer because I can work for hours everyday. I think of myself as someone who has a craft, like a plumber, almost. I try not to be any more precious about my scripts than a plumber is about a toilet. Some scripts are harder, some things take more time, but I understand now that that is all part of the creative process. You don't get to control when or how something comes through you , you just have to sit down everyday and do it. I don't mean this in a negative way, but I almost never feel inspired. Once I have an idea fleshed out enough to write, I am done being inspired by it. It's work and it's hard, but I think it takes patience and practice to know that some days it's easier than others. I don't really care if I'm blocked, I write anyway.
Let's talk about the behind-the-scenes of your excellent film (which won Best Picture at LAFA): We're All in This Together. Why did you decide to tell this story, and how did you approach the screenplay based on Amy Jones' novel?
Thank you so much! I wanted to tell this story because practically I saw a route to getting the film financed in Canada. I also was really intrigued at the thought of directing myself as twins. I have played almost every other kind of role I've wanted to, this felt truly different. The book is very famous in Canada and more importantly, it's excellent. So I tried to keep the parts I loved most and the essence of what was special about the novel while writing the screenplay. It was tough. I had to be very brutal and cut some amazing characters, but I kept going back to what excited me about the book; how it looked at mental illness and the challenge playing twins presented.
When you adapted it, did you already know you were going to play the roles of Finn and Nicki and if so, did this influence the writing at all?
I did already know I wanted to play the parts. That did influence the writing because I knew their story was the heart of the film for me so the other storylines became less urgent to include. I think subconsciously I wrote to my strengths as an actor. It's strange, thinking about it now, it's not like I saw myself in my mind's eye or in the scenes as I was writing it. I just tried not to freak out about the fact that I was taking something so daunting on and focussed on writing the best script I could.
What was your casting process like?
I did hold auditions, the callbacks were the day before the world shut down for Covid! If only I'd known that was the last time I'd see people for months. I also offered many of the roles out to actors I knew and loved. It's strange to be an actor and have people audition for you, I felt guilty. I really prefer just having a conversation with someone and figuring out if you can collaborate and going from there.
It must have been quite a challenge to direct and act at the same time. How did you prepare for this shoot?
It was extremely challenging, no doubt. I rehearsed a ton. I put myself on tape as both characters at an audition studio, which was really helpful because that gave me the opportunity to watch myself back and direct in real time, like I would on set. In some ways, I thought the least about the performance and was so focussed on the directing, producing and writing during pre-production that I think about two weeks before we shot I started panicking. I watched a lot of movies and tried to steal the performance beats I liked. It felt like really harried preparation as an actor, honestly. Once I got on set, especially once I did a day where I played both twins, all that anxiety went away.
What was it like to film during Covid times? Did you have to take extra safety precautions?
Yes, there were many extra safety precautions and we filmed pre-vaccine. It was stressful. We were delayed by several months, there were moments early in the pandemic when we didn't know if the movie would ever happen. There was no insurance for Covid then, if someone had gotten Covid, particularly if I had, the movie would've gone down completely. It certainly added an element of WTF are we doing on top of taking on a massive creative challenge. But everyone was respectful, our set was safe and no one got sick, thank God!
The film's themes are coping with trauma, mental illness, and redemption. What message were you hoping to convey to the audience?
I was hoping to just start a conversation about all these topics. I hoped people would watch the film and look at their loved ones differently. I think we all play roles in our family and our cast in roles in our family and sometimes that's deeply frustrating. I wanted to give people the opportunity to think about their family members in a new way. I also wanted to have honest conversations about how difficult mental illness is, for the person who's suffering and for the people who love them. I wasn't concerned with putting a positive spin on things, I wanted the film to feel like a raw nerve.
You're currently a recurring actress on the New Apple and Disney + Show, Five Days at Memorial, from Academy Award winner John Ridley and Carlton Cuse.
Yes, I am! It airs in August, I'm really excited about it. It was incredible to watch filmmakers of that calibre work. I learned a lot as a director, actually.
Often great actors bring to the table more than just their talent. In your opinion, what makes a great collaborator?
I love when actors have ideas but understand the time and place to share them. I want to collaborate, I want to hear what an actor thinks, but I don't always want that when we're already shooting the scene. I also don't love being told how to shoot things by actors. That said, actors are usually some of the smartest people you'll have in our arsenal, so their opinions can be invaluable. I think a great collaborator as an actor is like any great collaborator artistically in that they respect the weight of other people's responsibilities. I also love when an actor is willing to bring themselves to the role and asks for things to be changed to feel more realistic, or more like a unique experience they've had. We all have different lived experiences, if I'm getting something wrong, I want to know.
What is your dream project?
I would love one of the television shows I've created and have in development to be greenlit. I want to be a showrunner. That's my dream.
How did you get representation with the Gersh Agency, and what advice do you have for young actors who wish to follow in your footsteps?
I was set up on the meeting at Gersh through my manager, Brittany Kahan Ward, so that was actually a relatively straightforward match. I am very lucky. Britanny is widely respected, so her co-sign helped. Finding great representation took me a really long time, which dovetails into my advice for young actors - don't quit. If you don't give up, you can't fail. You will get rejected, people will say no, but if you keep coming back, eventually you can't be denied. I also pivoted from being an actor to mainly a writer/director/creator. That wasn't a straight-forward journey either but I found my place in the world. Keep searching, keep trying, you'll be led and guided towards what's right for you. And stay open - the best things for you might not be things you envisioned for yourself.
What's next for you, and what's next for We're All in This Together?
What's next for me is...I just directed a Lifetime movie called Jailbreak Lovers that will premiere July 2nd, opening their hot summer movie block! I also just wrote another feature that I am packaging now. We're All In This Together has had a wonderful festival run and plays Cinequest throughout April online. You can buy tickets here: https://creatics.org/cinejoy/moviepage/189801/We're-All-In-This-Together/#!#pills-all
Is there anything you'd like to add or someone you wish to thank?
Just thank you so much for having me. I'm honoured!
Where can our readers follow more of your work?
Give me a follow! Instagram: @katieboland13 Twitter: @katieboland and www.katieboland.com
Watch the trailer