MUFFProfile: Julia Rowland
“I want to see different representations of girlhood and womanhood on screens of all sizes.”
Sometimes the universe aligns and magical things happen. Case in point: getting introduced to filmmaker Julia Rowland and her short film Cherry. Was it magic or was it something called “email”? I guess we’ll never know for sure, will we? (Email. It was an email.) Julia initially shared her film with us for mini MUFF consideration and Cherry is exactly the sort of film we would screen. Unfortunately for our audiences, we haven’t had a feature that Cherry would fit well with. But fortunately for you, peoples of the internet, it means that we are sharing Cherry with you right here! Right now!
Cherry is refreshing romantic comedy filled with realistic and way-too likeable characters (like, can I be friends with all of them, please?). It follows Lucy, a super rad yet also super still-a-virgin woman as she embarks on finally popping her cherry. And of course hilarity and awkwardness ensues. Julia strikes the perfect balance between rom-com sweetness and believable dialogue and it has us itching for future writing/directing projects from her.
Julia Rowland is an award-winning writer, director, and producer based in Toronto. She wanted me to mention that she really loves cheese. And tacos — all food, really. Her writing has been featured in Toronto Life Magazine. After working on Cherry, she and Brittany Bristow (longtime friend and star) decided to continue telling great stories together and founded 45 West Films.
You can read our interview with Julia below. Following is a link to watch Cherry online!
Tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got involved with filmmaking.
Julia Rowland: I have always loved telling stories. When I was a kid I used to write, direct and star in plays that I would perform for my mom. I’d even force my friends to perform alongside me! I loved television and movies — I always thought I’d be an actor, but after taking several classes and even training in New York City, I realized that I felt most alive behind the camera, not in front of it. From there I hustled to find out everything I could about filmmaking! I worked for free — I did craft on the sets of music videos — anything to get my feet wet.
Tell us about Cherry. Where did the idea come from?
JR: The idea for Cherry followed me around for a while — I kept hearing stories about women losing their virginities in their mid-twenties — it’s something that we don’t often talk about. There’s an assumption that you have sex for the first time in high school or in college, but what if you didn’t? I wanted to explore that narrative in a fun, empowering way.
I was in Alberta at a film festival when the idea really came to life. I remember sitting down to feel out the idea and the first draft just poured out of me. It was one of those near-perfect creative experiences I’m constantly chasing.
How did you go about developing the different girlfriend characters? They are fab!
JR: Thanks! We got very lucky with this cast — they’re all incredible, but the female characters were inspired by women I know, women I admire and women I want to be friends with. I was also thinking — what do I want to see on screen as a woman? What’s funny to me? What’s inspiring? We also had some great get-togethers with the female cast members at my house (with wine) to make sure the energy and chemistry worked. Brittany, Emily, Joella, Rachelle — they’re supremely talented and brought a lot of themselves to their roles.
What was your favorite part of the filmmaking process working on Cherry? Least fave?
JR: I love collaborating and being in the process. I love it when you’re watching a scene unfold and it’s working — you can feel it. I also love doing prep work and really connected to that process during this film. We made this film for very, very little money — everyone volunteered their time and energy — so my least favourite part is asking people to do just that.
Dish: what’s the most awkward hookup you’ve almost had?
JR: Ha — how much time do you have?! The most awkward hookup actually happened after the fact. We said our goodbyes — he left — and I ran into him on the streetcar the next morning. It was an empty streetcar too — in the middle of rush hour!
Can you tell us about some/all of the other amazing women who worked on this film?
JR: Yes, I can! We got really lucky with our cast and crew. Brittany, my business partner, was my rock throughout this process — we were both working during the pre-production and weren’t in the same city, but somehow we made it work. Emily, Joella and Rachelle are wonderful. Jackie, Rachel, Sara, Lindsay, Nicole, Jeri, Jade, Carly, Aeron — they were phenomenal. Dyanna and Melanie donated their houses so we could film there! Every woman who donated to the film itself — thank you! I think there’s something really special when we work together and can champion each other — especially in this business.
Tell us about why you are a feminist and why it’s important to your filmmaking.
JR: I am a feminist because I believe in equality across the board. I believe that women’s rights are human rights. As a filmmaker I’m naturally drawn to writing female-centric stories, but I also want to see different representations of girlhood and womanhood on screens of all sizes.
Who are your favourite women working in the film industry?
JR: Right now I’m a little obsessed with Reed Morano. I love Tessa Thompson, Jessica Chastain, Bel Powley, Costance Wu… The women in Cherry: Brittany Bristow, Emily Coutts, Joella Crichton, Rachelle Ganesh! The behind-the-scenes team who worked on Cherry…Ava DuVernay, Greta Gerwig…I could talk about this all day!
What’s the best advice about filmmaking you’ve ever received?
JR: The advice I take with me is focus on the story — ask yourself what kind of story do you want to tell? Why?
What are you working on now/next?
JR: I had some time off this summer so I finished two feature scripts. I’m developing a documentary series with my friend Jason and working on a scripted dramatic television series with 45 West Films (my production company that I co-run with Brittany Bristow) as well.
What is your favourite nonsense tchotchke that you own?
JR: I had a creepy doll collection for a while — not creepy in a “this doll is going to kill me in my sleep” way — they had character and looked like they could tell you a good story, but that collection has been put to rest for now. I collect shot glasses! My dad travels a lot so I have ones from all over the world.
What three people, living or dead, would you invite to your fantasy dinner party?
JR: Courtney Love, Rihanna and Agnès Varda. If I got to pick a fourth (which is cheating, I know) — David Bowie.
If you could live in any sitcom, which one would it be?
JR: All of them? Can I spend a week in each and then decide?
Finally, recommend one #MUFFApproved film for our blog readers!
JR: Because it’s fall (aka the best season), I’m recommending Edge of Seventeen (dir. Kelly Fremon Craig) — it’s so much more than a teen movie and it’s quickly becoming one of my rainy day go-tos.
You can watch Cherry online right now — yes, right now! — at www.cherryshortfilm.com.