Its 6:41 pm
Welcome to “8 Questions with……”
I recently reviewed two very impressive women oriented films in “To The New Girl” and the short film “Pamela & Ivy”. Both films have stayed with me for different reasons and when I got the chance to interview some of the talent behind the films,I made a huge mistake.
I was offered a chance to interview both Leah McKendrick and our guest Mariah Owen who brought us “Pamela & Ivy“. I decided I would just interview Leah and so I set the wheels in motion. When I was told that Mariah was answering the questions I sent to Leah,I said “That won’t work because the questions I sent in to Leah were tailored for her. Let me generate some questions for Mariah and send them in”.
When I discovered just how much Mariah has done in such a short career,I realized I had made a HUGE mistake in judgement and that I could have missed out in bringing one of the brightest talents I have talked to yet. In fact,I sort of chopped this interview short because I want a reason to ask Mariah for more interviews.
I know,this isn’t your standard intro to a interview but then again,Mariah Owen isn’t your standard producer/actress either. She produced the unlikely hit film “M.F.A.” and produced an Web series/podcast award show called T.O. Webfest which celebrates the best creatives in Canada in those plaforms. Mariah is one of those rare talents whose future will be what she wants it be. The word “No” isn’t in her vocabulary and as soon as this pandemic leaves and takes 2020 with it,she’ll get back to work at her company GTE Productions and her next project. But for now,Mariah Owen is answering her first 8 Questions…….
Please introduce yourself and tell us about your current project.
Hi there, I’m Mariah Owen – an award-winning actor/filmmaker, I founded my production company GTE Productions when I was 21, have had films play all over the world, work in TV, Film, Digital Media and elevated events. Most recently, I produced and acted in Pamela & Ivy! Pamela & Ivy is a female-driven, fan-fiction origin story for Gotham City’s legendary super villain, Poison Ivy. The film stars Aria Lyric Leabu and Eric Roberts and is written/directed by my creative partner-in-crime Leah McKendrick.
How have you been dealing with the pandemic? What have you been doing to stay active and creative?
I personally feel like I can’t complain, we’ve been asked to do really simple things – stay home and wear a mask! I’m grateful that my loved ones and I are safe and healthy. I’ve been trying to stay as productive as I can while finding new ways to remain creative such as picking up a keyboard and learning how to play, keeping up with my acting classes and filming some distanced or via Zoom shorts.
I am also in development for 2 shows here in Canada so have been writing a bunch. When I’m not being creative, I’m usually on the bike or trying to hit 20,000 steps a day. On one hand, this time in quarantine feels like it’ll never end and on the other, I think it has forced me to be more creative than ever before. It’s all about your perspective :).
What was it like growing up in your home? What are three of your favorite moments growing up?
Everyone in my family loves the arts but no one else pursues it as a career. Growing up I went to The Second City for improv, various musical theatre camps and art classes but never thought that it would be my career. My Mom is in gymnastics so appreciates dance and movement and my Dad is a retired professor who loves to cartoon… so the arts has always been appreciated in our home and supported which is awesome.
Ooooh, just three?
1). When I was little my parents had a big box from their TV, and instead of recycling it, they let me keep it and I created a MASSIVE world from it, I created a mansion for my polly pockets (lol) everything from furniture to the pictures that they would hang on the wall to lifeguard stands they would need at their “pool”… you name it, I spent hours creating it. It’s such a fun memory to look back on and one that my family will never let me live down… yet it inspired me to create new worlds or a world different than my own which is exactly what I do now 🙂
2). I was on Team Canada for Cheerleading and we won World Championships, not only did that win help shape my identity, but the work that went into it and with my awesome teammates really helped solidify that when a group of people come together with a common goal, anything is possible.
3). My mentor and friend, Dino Ricci gave me my first business (the North American distribution rights to an Australian Hat company!!!) and taught me the ropes when I was in 4th grade, without him doing that, I don’t think I would’ve had the confidence at the time to start my production company when I did.
What led you into becoming an actress? Was there any particular moment or person who inspired you?
I’ve always loved performing and making people laugh. For as long as I can remember I’ve been a goofball. I started modelling at 2.5 days old and new up doing Improv and musical theatre. I think entertaining was just ingrained in me at such a young age that a part of me always knew I was a storyteller.
I had a lot of amazing experiences along the way, one for me was completing the Young Actors Program at Strasberg in LA, another was when I wrote for the Second City MainStage as part of my comedy writing graduation show…. it’s really hard to pinpoint one specific moment, but rather several solidifications that this is what I’m supposed to do and a fabulous support system of friends and family cheering me on.
(Photo: Hayley Andoff)
Tell us about your production company,GTE Productions that you started only 21 years old. What do you like abouting being an executive producer and what is biggest difference between an EP and a producer?
I founded GTE Productions out of a necessity to create content that I wasn’t being given the opportunity to. I needed to incorporate and become a member of producing associations (CMPA in Canada, PGA in USA) in order to be able to create the work I wanted to. I named the company after my Grandpa Gerry Owen and my friend and teammate, Garfield Turner. Both have made an incredible impact on my life and have unfortunately passed. I know they’re shining down on me and I try to bring their effervescent, kind, community approach to everything I do and set I run. Since starting GTE in 2016, we have created several award-winning projects, had films in theatres, at the “big” festivals such as SXSW and Cannes and more importantly – been involved in work we’re proud of and greenlit new opportunities.
I like that as an Executive Producer, I am in a position to give or realistically, create opportunities for people who might not have them if they were working with another EP. A big part of what I want to do is give opportunities to learn, grow and shine in this industry to people like me who were constantly getting doors slammed in their face. I think it’s exciting to not have to go to anyone for approval, you’re really able to curate a team you believe in (and that you’re excited to work with).
What is the relationship between an EP and director like?
What is the relationship between the EP and studio like?
I’m not sure about a relationship between an EP and a studio because I haven’t worked on a big studio film yet. I’ll let you know when I do ;). I think the biggest key factor about the relationship regarding an Executive Producer and a Director is that the EP is in the constant pursuit of setting the director up to feel believed in, supported and left alone to shine. There is an undeniable amount of trust required, especially when money is involved.
So I would say to anyone who wants to further their careers as an EP, finance films that you believe in, with key creative members at the forefront whom you believe in …. And then let them do exactly what you hired them to do. I think it’s important to be there, but don’t smother them. Be the cool Aunt who will always be there for you, not the helicopter Mom watching your every move.
How did you meet Leah McKendrick?
This is one of my favourite stories to tell and it reminds me of the power of jumping with both feet in and that anything is possible. Leah cold emailed me in April 2016 saying something along the lines of “Hey, I’m Leah, I’m a female-filmmaker from San Francisco, this is my film and if you’re looking for a project, you should choose mine” type of thing and I thought it was a scam.
I went back and forth with my agent and read the script. Immediately, I knew in my gut that I had to do the project. I met up with Leah in LA, we hit it off and later that Summer we began filming our first feature M.F.A. (which went on to premiere at SXSW and can now be found on Amazon, iTunes, etc). I’m forever grateful that I not only met someone I can create with, but a friend for life.
Canada,despite being much smaller then the United States,has produced so much talent,why do you think this is?
Do you find the Canadian film industry treats women with more respect and gives them more opportunities?
This is a great question. There is absolutely NO shortage of talent in Canada, however, we don’t have the same star system that the USA does. Most actors, writers, producers, directors, etc have to actually leave Canada and come to LA or NYC to really find any success. Canada is the backbone for the American and U.K. film industries due to our lucrative tax incentives and I don’t think we even realize how much home grown talent we have here.
I don’t want to throw a blanket statement over and say “yes” to a different treatment in Canada because that wouldn’t be true for some. I know for me, I have had a hell of a time getting anything made in my home country because they think I’m “too young” or they want to “work with me in a couple years”… it’s honestly a bunch of BS. We film the majority of the top shows in the world in cities like Toronto, Vancouver or Montreal and yet Canadians do not give those opportunities to succeed to their own. It’s very problematic and something I hope is changing. Since making a few American projects, I suddenly have received the “American stamp of approval” if you will and am starting to feel the shift in the calibre of my opportunities here in Canada. I look forward to what the future has to bring.
I like to thank Mariah for giving me a second chance at doing this interview and I hope we can do it again very soon. I like to thank Christa for sending me such wonderful people to chat with!! I’m so glad you introduced me to some amazing women who are just kicking ass.
Mariah has a personal website in which you can keep up with her latest projects and activities and you can find it here at www.MariahOwen.com.
I like to thank you,the reader, for reading and supporting this interview.
You can catch up with my other interviews by clicking “8 Questions With” and exploring the over 100 other interviews listed.
Please feel free to drop a comment below.