Alumni Spotlight: Lauren Grant – WHM Edition
Posted: Oct 5, 2023
Posted: Oct 5, 2023
Lauren Grant is an award-winning filmmaker, entrepreneur, and the visionary behind Clique Pictures, a vibrant film and television production company she founded in 2006. In addition to graduating from CFC’s Producers’ Lab, Lauren is also an alumna of ACE Producers, Trans Atlantic Partners, Bell Media Executive Producer Accelerator Lab, TIFF Studio, Producers Lab at TIFF, Rotterdam Lab, and Berlinale Talent Campus. Lauren holds a Bachelor of Arts from UBC with a double major in Film Production and History – her dedication to perfecting her craft is evident, as is her talent which can be seen throughout her storytelling.
At Clique Pictures, Lauren and her team are focused on working with underrepresented talent in front and behind the camera, and they have done just that, producing content which speaks boldly to the unique voices and stories of a multicultural society. Through her creative and entrepreneurial endeavors, Lauren’s commitment to sharing thought provoking stories can be seen throughout her remarkable body of work which includes award-winning films such as Picture Day, Sugar Daddy, and The Retreat (to name a few).
In 2021, Lauren released her short film Things We Feel But Do Not Say, starring fellow alum Gita Miller, which is inspired by Lauren’s deeply personal experience of the emotional trauma of miscarriage. This October, as we celebrate Women’s History Month in Canada, we are reminded of the power of women’s voices and how by embracing diversity and sharing their unique stories, empowerment is realized and the barriers of gender inequality begin to collapse.
Currently, Lauren is in post-production on her short film Erase & Rewind, which is an adaptation of the short story by Meghan Bell. The multitalented creator has a host of exciting projects on the go which she opened up about in the spotlight below. Read on to discover Lauren’s approach to storytelling, and learn how she is leading the way for women in film.
Where does your love for storytelling begin? When did you know you wanted a career in the screen industry?
I’ve always loved stories. As a kid, I created elaborate stories with my dolls. Once I even tried to adapt a book into a play (sadly I later learned the notion of Rights). I also did community theatre as a kid. In high school, I heard an actor say, “I thought I wanted to be a doctor, but then I realized I just want to play one on TV.” and I understood the truth in that statement: just because I was pretty good at other things, it didn’t mean each was my passion. I eventually studied Film Production at UBC and haven’t looked back since. This September, I started my MFA in Creative Writing at UBC through the optional residency program.
As an alum of the Norman Jewison Film Program Producers’ Lab, can you share some highlights from your time in the program?
The learning is incredible, but the community you build with fellow residents is what really lasts. I have an ongoing group text with dear friends Kerry Young and Jennifer Mesich, who were both in the Producers’ Lab with me in 2006. It is great to have a sounding board as we navigate this industry. It was a great immersive experience and I love cheering on folks from my year.
How has your time at the Canadian Film Centre impacted your career?
The collaborators I met as a resident at the CFC as well as residents I’ve mentored has had a lasting impact on my career. I reach out to the CFC when I’m looking for composers, editors, and actors for projects as the alumni base is vast and so, so incredible. So many from my year are working and incredibly successful like writer Katherine Collins, and producers Mark Montefiore, Amy Cameron and Nicole Hilliard-Forde to name just a few.
In addition to being a talented storyteller, you are also a successful entrepreneur. Can you give us some insight into your journey as the founder of your film production company, Clique Pictures?
I didn’t set out to be a founder, and I don’t have goals of running a large company, but I realized early that I wanted to put my energy towards stories that resonated with me. I couldn’t see any company that was producing the types of projects I wanted, so I finally realized that I had to do it myself. Now I get to say yes or no to what I take on. Over the years, I’ve juggled this creative philosophy, which isn’t always a lucrative endeavour, with doing business affairs and producing work for other companies, but I love that the work I produce is based on choices I get to make.
I have learned so much working for other companies and I still do it – recently serving as an Executive Producer for Amazon, Blumhouse and Sphere on an upcoming series. I’m grateful to be at a place in my career where I can choose both my own projects and the outside work I take on. It is certainly a privilege I didn’t have when I was starting out.
October marks Women’s History Month, Clique Pictures is driven to work with female creative talent in front and behind the camera, as well as telling stories that speak to a women’s unique experience. What do you aspire to accomplish with your creative vision for Clique Pictures?
I often joke that I wanted to do stories from women’s voices, long before it got trendy; but I’m very happy the industry is talking about gender, race, LGBTQ2SI+ and the disability communities more and more. There is always more to work to be done, but this recent TIFF got me really excited after seeing In Flames, The Queen of my Dreams, Backspot and Fitting In.
Clique Pictures focuses on working with female creative talent in front and behind the camera because there is room for more of these stories, these stories have been deemed unimportant for generations, and they are stories I missed hearing growing up. As a participant in the Bell Media Executive Producer Accelerator in 2014, along with the other participants I was tasked with assessing what kinds of stories I wanted to make, and it was clear to me that this is what I had been doing all along and what I wished to continue doing. The workshop seemed to let me articulate this notion and allowed me to become comfortable with actually stating it in the company bio and mission.
Speaking of Women’s History Month; we would like to shine a light on your short Things We Feel But Do Not Say which stars fellow CFC alum Gita Miller. The film which you wrote and directed, is deeply personal, as it is inspired by your experience of the emotional trauma of miscarriage. Can you tell us about the making of this film, and what advice you have for women processing miscarriage?
I wrote the film at the end of 2019 as I wanted a new creative challenge. I had produced two features that year and line produced another, and felt like things on the low budget indie side were feeling a bit stale at the time. I shared the draft with close friends and colleagues (like alum Lori Lozinski and my producing collaborator Ashleigh Rains) and they told me I should try and make it. Covid hit and I wasn’t sure how, but we found a way and shot in September 2020. I love producing, and I think now that I’m writing and directing, some people think producing was what I did while I waited to try this. That isn’t true. I decided to try writing and directing as I wanted a new challenge, but, most importantly, because I found a story that I wanted to tell, that I hadn’t seen before and that was carried by my voice.
It is a scary thing to make a personal film and to tell people it’s personal. Alum Molly McGlynn has talked about this in press this year with her film Fitting In. The reception to my film has been incredible, and the most heartwarming thing is the conversations I’ve had privately with friends and colleagues who express how the film truly captured their own feelings of having a miscarriage. I’ve had people who I don’t know well reach out to tell me their stories and to thank me for sharing my own. It is a responsibility to hold these stories for others, and it comes from making something so personal.
As for advice, I’m so sorry for anyone who has experienced the grief and trauma of a miscarriage. I will forever say that I wouldn’t wish the experience on my worst enemy. I hope anyone suffering has support and loved ones who can be there for them. And to those who have friends who have suffered a miscarriage, please don’t say any of these things: “At least you can get pregnant. It wasn’t meant to be. Next time will be different.” I know people mean well, but well…just don’t say those things.
What do you look for in a script? What types of stories excite you?
As I say to the CFC cohorts when I meet with them, I take on projects where I connect to the script, where I connect with the vision of the filmmaker, and where I can see a path to getting the project financed to production. I read a lot, and I’m looking for a story that captures me, that I can see the film in my head as I read and that I’m excited by the point-of-view and voice. I also really want to know what the writer’s and/or director’s intention and goals for the film are. I want to make sure their vision aligns with what I took away from the script, and also what is possible in the marketplace. Asking questions during this initial conversation phase is so important, I can’t stress that enough, because everyone should want to make sure the partnership is the right fit for the story and that we all see the same narrative North Star. If we don’t, that’s okay, but it means that I’m not the right fit for the project.
You are currently in post-production for your latest short Erase & Rewind, can you tell us about this project and how it came to be?
I read Meghan Bell’s short story Erase & Rewind, after meeting with Book*hug Press at Ontario Creates From Page to Screen event (now called IP Market Day). The story captured me immediately as it is about a college student who is sexually assaulted and realizes she can rewind time, which she does in the hopes of erasing the experience. The short story (and Meghan’s whole collection) is incredible, and I knew I wanted to bring it to the screen with all the complexity the story requires. I’m excited to share it with audiences so they can see the incredible leads Brynn Godenir and Jesse Lapointe.
The conversations I’ve had with friends around assault ranges from some disclosing being raped; to others who recall the trauma as I didn’t’ say no, but I didn’t say yes; to women who say I wouldn’t have done it if I was sober; to many other stories we tell ourselves for self-protection. Alum Sarah Polley’s book Run Towards the Danger talks about assault and the stories we tell ourselves to survive. I think during the global #MeToo conversations, too many of us have realized that we have been telling stories to lighten the burden of what happened.
The film is really about that struggle to protect yourself at all costs, even using the ability to rewind time. I’m grateful to my collaborators on both films – Producer Ashleigh Rains, Cinematographer Gabriela Osio Vanden and CFC alum editor Katie Chipperfield, and Associate Producer Naiyelli Romero Agüero, along with the rest of our incredible cast and crew.
What is some advice or words of wisdom you have for creators starting out in the screen industry?
Find your people. The ones you can bounce ideas off, vent to, and grow with. It’s tempting to look at those ahead of us in their careers, but my strongest relationships are with people who came up with me. And watch what the new generation is making because it is damn inspiring.
What’s on the horizon for you? What can we expect to see from Clique Pictures in the coming months?
I’m currently in post-production with alum Lisa Jackson’s company Door Number 3 Productions on her feature hybrid documentary Wilfred Buck as well as in pre-production on hybrid documentary Modern Whore with Nicole Bazuin and Andrea Werhun. I’m working with CFC alum Alyson Richards on her feature film and also with Ashleigh Rains on a feature that I wrote and will direct that I hope to finance and shoot late next year. I’m also developing television projects based on books and short stories.
On your company website (Clique Pictures) you have a quote by filmmaker Lynda Obst that reads “It’s just as important to move on in the wake of stunning success as in the wake of disaster.” What does this quote mean to you and what can our readers learn from this?
The business has high highs, and low lows, and I think we tend to try to move quickly past the lows and perhaps bask and linger in the highs. To forget the process and think too much about the outcome. I’m not sure we learn that much in success either. For me, the quote reminds me to experience the feelings (the good and the bad), but also to be ready to move on. I don’t mean this from a hustle culture standpoint as in what’s next but in a way to remember that there is always more to come – take a breath, feel the feelings, and then find the next thing that excites you.
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