TIFF SPECIAL: Nadia Litz talks to us, part I

Illustration by Ayalah Hutchins. Interview by Laura deCarufel.

One of the best films at TIFF this year also has (hands-down) the best title. How to Rid Your Lover of a Negative Emotion Caused by You!, a short directed by Nadia Litz and written by Ryan Cavan, packs a stylish, provocative punch into its 15 minutes.

Set in a light-filled Toronto apartment, the short follows Sadie (Sarah Allen) and Dennis (Joe Cobden) as they negotiate tenderness, resentment, and the other wages of coupledom—which, in this case, includes a sinister jar of lollipops and exquisitely filmed gore (think purply umeboshi plums).

The short is beautiful, bizarre and a major accomplishment for Nadia Litz, already an accomplished actress with credits in Blindness, Monkey Warfare, and You Are Here, Daniel Cockburn’s film which also premiered at TIFF last week.

Nadia talked to us about acting vs. directing, her inspirations for dressing the film, and which actor she found more difficult to direct and why.

Have you always wanted to direct? What appeals to you most about it?

“I’d wanted to direct for quite a long time, but I was a bit apprehensive to tell people—I stubbornly wanted to do it on my own. At 26, I went back to [York]  university to study film theory while also pursuing acting. I didn’t pick up a camera until my fourth year. I made a short film for class and finally embraced all the things that I was originally scared about—mostly the technology. I was a little afraid of the camera. After that, I taught myself Final Cut Pro, and started really learning about filmmaking and communicating with people. I applied to the Canadian Film Centre, and after a year, I was able to make this short.

There are certain limitations to what you can communicate as an actor—as a filmmaker, those limitations don’t exist. Communicating just opens up. That was really appealing to me.”

The look of the film is so considered—it’s obvious that details like costumes are important to you. What was it like working with Olivia Sementsova, the costume designer? What kind of direction did you give?

“Sarah is the prettiest girl in the world, so for me, it was like playing dress-up, but with someone a billion times prettier. Olivia and I talked a lot about the character, and shared ideas and images. Some of my photos were of Sofia Coppola, Kristen Dunst, ingenue girls—I wanted the girl to look really sweet and unassuming, so that the discovery of what she does is so unsettling. We ended up using a lot of my own wardrobe.”

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