Published on December 2nd, 2014 | by Biz Books
The Biz Interview: Taylor Hill of Leap 4 Your Life
Leap 4 Your Life was one of the local surprises at the 2013 Vancouver International Film Festival. It was also a dream project of Taylor Hill, who wrote it while battling bronchitis. Since its VIFF premiere, Leap 4 Your Life has continued to tour the festival circuit and also made its way to Shaw on Demand and Super Channel, where it currently airs.
We spoke to Taylor Hill about Leap 4 Your Life and how the success of the film has allowed her to take the next leap forward in her own blossoming career.
Tell us a little bit about you and what projects you have on the go right now.
My name is Taylor Hill and I am the writer/producer/ and one of the stars of the award winning comedy Leap 4 Your Life. We currently secured distribution with Pacific Northwest Pictures and Leap can be seen on Super Channel, Shaw-On-Demand and a few more platforms in the coming months. I am also very grateful to have just won Best Newcomer at the 2014 UBCP/ACTRA Awards.
What was the moment when you knew you wanted to be involved in acting, writing, and producing?
I always wanted to be an actor, but I don’t know if there was a specific moment I decided that. I’d always watch movies with my family growing up and wanted to get lost in those worlds. I started acting when I was 7, but I’ve never been very patient (said everyone who knows me). Having to wait around for someone else to tell me to be creative is the worst part of this business. I discovered my love of writing in university and producing seemed like a natural role when work started getting slow.
Who were some of your greatest influences early on?
Julia Benson and Peter Benson are such an inspiration to me. They are not only two of the kindest people I have ever met, but are incredibly talented filmmakers. I am very excited to see their world premiere of WHAT AN IDIOT at the 2014 Whistler Film Festival.
Leap 4 Your Life is a film that is very close to your heart, as an actor, writer, and producer. Can you explain your creative process for Leap 4 Your Life from the idea stage all the way to film release?
Well it all started with having a bad day. I was in the thick of my university exams, hadn’t booked an acting gig in awhile and was sick with bronchitis and told my Mom I wanted to quit the business. She told me I needed a creative outlet and suggested I write this mockumentary I have been talking about for years. I grew up as a competitive dancer and a huge fan of Christopher Guest films and I always thought a dance mockumentary would be a fun movie to make. My Mom and I started brainstorming characters that day and I knew we had something special.
Then we teamed up with Gary Hawes and knew we were in good company. He is such an amazing director and incredibly detailed oriented. He took everything in my head and made it better. I think it’s pretty rare and special when you find someone you can collaborate with so well and I owe much of Leap’s success to his incredible vision.
Leap 4 Your Life has played at several film festivals – including the Vancouver International Film Festival. How important are film festivals like the Vancouver International Film Festival for filmmakers today and what insights can you share into the process of getting a film chosen by a festival?
We premiered at VIFF in 2013 and we were lucky that they also launched the Must See BC program which highlights BC features. It really put our film on the map. We were definitely the underdogs going into such a large festival, but thankfully we were able to develop a fan base and we won the Must See BC Award which really gave us a platform for people to get to know our film.
We’ve been very fortunate with our festival run and have screened around North America and made our European Premiere in Scotland in October.
There’s a lot of film festivals out there, so do your research if you think your film will be a good fit and of course expect more no’s than yes’s.
Film festivals are an incredible platform to get your name out there and also connect with other passionate filmmakers. If you are lucky enough to get your film screened, go! It’s a surreal experience.
As a mockumentary, Leap 4 Your Life exists in a challenging and unique film genre. In your mind, what are the three most important things that every mockumentary needs in order to be successful?
1. Heart. I think any movie needs heart or what’s the point of watching it?
2. Great actors. Mockumentaries can really lend well to over the top scenarios, but having grounded and honest performances are really what keeps the audience engaged. We were very lucky to have such an amazing cast that could make you laugh and cry all at the same time.
3. Let the audience in on the secret. I love watching mockumentaries because the audience gets to go along for the ride and is privy to information that a lot of the characters aren’t.
Acting, writing, and producing are three very different areas of the creative spectrum. What do you enjoy about each of them and is there one that is more rewarding for you?
With acting and writing, my favourite part is losing yourself completely in what you are doing. It’s a great outlet for me. Producing is another beast. It can sometimes be hard to keep perspective from the amount of work there is to do. Then you realize wow, I just climbed this huge mountain.
It’s hard to say which one is more rewarding. I think when you put all three together then that’s the most rewarding because it seems the most impossible.
Tell us a little bit about your creative approach. As a writer, where do you find inspiration? As an actor, what steps do you take to get into a character?
As a writer I start with what I know and inspiration will come to me at random times. I’ll normally get a scene stuck in my head and I’ll have to write it down and I won’t know what do to with it. It becomes this weird obsession, so I just have to let it simmer and stew before that light bulb moment happens.
As an actor I have to find one thing that kind of unlocks the character for me. For Molly it was her braces, once I had that I knew exactly how to navigate her. I have to find a secret or something to make her special that I can relate to. In the movie, she is always wearing hearts and it was just my way of her always having her heart out….(Sounds cheesy, I know).
As an actor, is it easier for you to get into characters that you have created yourself?
It’s just different. If I write for myself I already know how I want to play her, but if it’s someone else’s it takes a little bit more investigative work on how I can relate to them.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to pursue a career as an actor, writer, or producer?
Ask questions. Find people who are in the profession you want to be in and ask them how they did it. You have to be relentless and be prepared for a lot of no’s before you hear yes’s. But even then, if you believe in your project it doesn’t matter who says no to you; just make it happen.
From your standpoint, what is the current state of the film industry in Canada today? How can things be improved?
I’m definitely not an expert about the industry as a whole in Canada, but I can talk about the vibrant indie scene happening here. There are a ton of talented actors, writers and filmmakers here in BC creating their own projects. I think it’s an exciting time and we need to keep helping each other create our projects and build this indie community. Filmmaking is becoming a lot more accessible and there really is no excuse for you to not get your work out there. We don’t have to just be a service industry to the big U.S. productions, we can and are making some great films.
What would you like audiences to expect when they see a film with your name on it?
That you’ll probably see my whole family in the end credits. And hopefully, you’ll leave with a smile on your face.
What books have been influential to you in your creative journey so far?
Tina Fey’s Bossypants is really a must read for anyone in the business. She writes with so much honesty.
I’m dyslexic so books have always been a love/hate relationship for me. I think that’s why I fell in love with movies so early on.
Where can people find out more about you and keep up with your current projects?
Go to our Facebook page at Facebook.com/leap4yourlife
If not, you will probably see me hidden behind my laptop at a JJ Bean in Vancouver, so just ask.