Catherine Black is an award winning Canadian actress, artist and filmmaker. Catherine's paintings have been exhibited internationally. Most recently Catherine photographed and wrote about the journey of her large oil paintings traveling from her family farm in Fergus Ontario Canada across the Old Oregon Trail to California. As an actress, Catherine has performed on stage and in film and TV for over 20 years, playing opposite Christian Bale, Crispin Glover, Malcolm McDowell, Peter Weller, Mark and Michael Polish, Winona Ryder, Hillary Duff, Sean Astin, Shawn Ashmore, Jon Cryer, Chevy Chase, Clayne Crawford, Mark Boone Jr., Jared Leto, Reese Witherspoon, Keegan Michael-Key, Eric Idle, Elyes Gabel, Harland Williams, Katey Sagal and many more.
Catherine’s extensive practice as an actor and artist has rooted her artistic vision in filmmaking. Her directing debut, the ‘sexy and surreal’ short film, De Puta Madre A Love Story (2014), WON Catherine Best Director (London IFF 2015), Best Lead Actress (Madrid IFF 2014), and Best Cinematography (Columbia Gorge IFF 2014). Her second short film, also a horror-comedy pilot episode titled Girl Trip (2018), WON Audience Choice (Hollyshorts) and was nominated for Best Actress and Best Short (Nice IFF 2018). Girl Trip is currently on the 2018 film festival circuit and is also a proof of concept for a horror comedy TV series spin off about toxic female friendships and why women should support each other.
What do I do best?
Basically, if I decide to do something, I’m all in, and I will have to do the best job possible. Everything I do becomes an obsession for me, or I don’t do it. Cooking can be pretty intense for anyone around me. I get really into it, and the timing of it all. My real passion is story telling, so anything that involves serving a story, I’m good at. I think interest and passion is what drives anyone to do a good job, and the only two things in my life where I have ever felt like I am doing what I am meant to do, is acting and directing. Everything else (except cooking), I feel like a fraud. I prefer to communicate visually, or on a sensory level. I was a visual artist before anything, so color, composition and symbolism play heavy in my work. I like to communicate from my subconscious and strive to have a direct dialogue with my subconscious mind. I have a very deep need to find out, serve the story and share. I love all the ways I can enhance a story in film/TV, and I am most interested in utilizing all departments on a production to tell that story. I have been an actor for 20 something years. I adore acting and actors, and that has also informed my understanding of what makes a scene work, from the inside out. Being an actor paves a personal empathetic connection as a director to a story for me. I believe the two positions work in tandem, at least for me, and even though it is so much more work to do both at the same time, I think that is what I do best.
What makes me the best version of myself?
My tenacity is my best version of myself. No matter what obstacles I am presented, I will always think my way out of it. I can problem solve like nobodies business, because I refuse to give up. I enjoy the challenges, I enjoy adapting, and don’t waste time focusing on setbacks. This quality is what I like most about myself.
What are my aspirations?
I’d like to continue to discover and inspire change through my art, but mostly, I just want to always be in a position to create and tell stories with the most talented artists. In order for that to continue, I need opportunities and for my work to be recognized within the industry. Film and TV is an expensive hobby that can’t live in a bubble. It is an exciting time to be a female filmmaker and I hope that opportunities for female storytellers continue to open up. I’d like to be apart of that change and do whatever I can to ensure that it isn’t just a flash in the pan, or just words in a moment of time. I hope that perceptions are changed about the roles that women can embody, whether it’s behind the camera or in front, and that our stories are heard. I am very passionate about breaking gender stereotypes, internalized misogyny, systemic sexism and racism. I’m working with SAG to help alter contracts to be more inclusive in casting. It is my goal to educate the powers that be on their own internal bias. When I look back at my art over the last 2 decades, I can see that these are themes I have been working on as an artist my whole life. Now that I see those themes clearly, I feel even more embolden to challenge it through my art - a passive way to really open people’s minds, and legislatively - the only way to force real change. Currently, I have a completed pilot episode, called Girl Trip, which is also a proof of concept for a horror-comedy TV series with a complex female protagonist about toxic female friendships. The series is edgy, dark, funny, rooted in the taboos of female rage and relatable characters within ridiculous circumstances. It challenges gender stereotypes and systemic sexism. Girl Trip is on the 2018 film festival circuit and won The Audience Choice Award at Hollyshorts Monthly. I’m also currently developing two feature films and a sitcom. I basically just want to keep making film and TV for the rest of my life.
My Biggest Success?
It might sound cheesy, but I’d have to say my biggest success is myself. No matter how hard life can get, or has been, no matter what setbacks I have faced, I always had myself, and for that I am eternally grateful. I’m proud that I am always someone who has a desire to grow, learn, get better, love and laugh in the face of adversity. I don’t get upset with not getting my way. In fact, getting my way is just not part of the equation. I am interested in life moving forward. I am interested in ‘a way’, not ‘my way’. I am interested in problem solving and I like to laugh, and that just makes life better. It isn’t easy, this is a daily choice, and I’m proud of myself for sticking with it.
My Most Challenging Moment?
At the beginning of my adult life, right after high school, I had a number of physical setbacks with my health, an injury and surgery. I didn’t have the support I really needed, I didn’t get the education I wanted, and at the very moment when I had a string of acting successes all ripe to capitalize on, I couldn’t. Instead, I was forced to surrender to my circumstances and ride it out alone. This was a defining moment in time for me, that has made me a more adaptable person and artist. I also think it made me a better artist. I don’t think anything could ever be as hard as that time in my life, because even if it is technically harder, overcoming those obstacles at such a young age made me a very durable human. I can deal with pretty much anything that is thrown at me going forward. That time also lead me to double down on my artistic endeavors and move to Los Angeles. It was a defining moment that forced me to be strong.
“Only forward. Never backwards.” ~ Maybe me..? I have a big policy to never go backwards in my life. It’s a bit of an obsession, so much so, that I wont even turn my car around if I forgot something. I don’t really care who’s fault it is, or why, unless it serves to help move things forward. As a kid I once read that sharks die if they stop moving, and I decided then that I’d always keep moving forward no matter what. I’ve learned that it is important to be still at times and allow, but there is movement in that. Nothing is stagnant.
“Nothing for it’s own sake” ~ Stanislavski - As an artist, this is an important statement, even more so as a director. Everything must serve the story.
My Favorite People/Role Models?
My favorite person was my grandfather, James Black, who passed away in 2013. My grandfather was the coolest, kindest, most loving person I have ever met. No one ever saw him angry, he listened to music loud and drove really fast. He always took joy in any moment he found himself in. After seeing me perform as Juliet at 16, my grandfather told me that I was really good and I must be an actress. He told me that ‘people may not like what you do, but they have to accept it’ – a quote that stuck with me, and is even in my first film, De Puta Madre A Love Story. I would also have to say that director Mary Harron was also a huge inspiration for me. I played Vanden in American Psycho, where I met Mary Harron. Mary directed American Psycho, sometimes with a baby on her hip. I was very young and in a scene with Christian Bale, Reese Witherspoon, Jared Leto, Samantha Mathis and Justin Theroux, but I wasn’t taken by any of that. I was watching Mary Harron calmly direct a camera on a crane, skip around set so inspired by everyone and everything she saw. Mary had her hands in all aspects of the production. She knew what she wanted and she had a strong vision, and it was then that I decided that’s what I want to do.
My Favorite Places/Destinations?
My family cottage in Muskoka is my top destination in the World and also standing in the middle of Lake Hurron. I’d have to say that both of these places represent home and defined who I am as a person. Going back, grounds me. I also think it is important to visit new places so as to continue to grow and expand. Everywhere I have never been is also my favorite destination.
My Favorite Products/Objects?
I don’t really have any favorite objects, products or tools. As an artist, I’m not overly attached to anything. I’d grab all my hard drives and paintings if there was a fire. I think moving from another country, I’ve learned to let go of so much. I value my mind, my ears and my eyes most of all. I like the Artemis Viewfinder app. It’s really useful while shooting and location scouting, and saves time with planning camera setups. It simulates different lens and camera combinations, which is very helpful, but it doesn’t give you the feel of the camera or lens. Having been on set since I was a kid, I’m always surprised at how much I’ve absorbed just being around so many different directors. I was interested, so I watched, and I learned so much about how to communicate with cinematographers, what works, what doesn’t, how many set ups, the line, lens, etc. I’m not always as interested with technology as I wish I was, but I continue to learn and pay attention. It’s directing that excites me the most, and all the technical stuff I’ve witnessed over the years is lodged in my brain and unearthed whenever I need it. I don’t just try things because it’s cool. I have a vision I want to communicate. There are many ways to achieve a look or a feel, and I’m open to whatever works.
My Current Passions?
I’ve been in class at Stuart Rogers Studios for 5 years. I’m very passionate about this class as it’s been an integral part of my growth as an artist and continued evolution in my artistic process. I’m deepening my work weekly, and Stuart is a great person to help in the discovery process by encouraging new and exciting exploration. I adore this class as an actor and as a director because it keeps me inspired about my craft. I am also very passionate about challenging gender, race, age and orientation biases in casting, so film and TV represents what society looks like - 50/50 women/minorities, 20% disabled actors, 5% LGBTQ actors. As well as giving priority to accurate representation in film/TV, I think that there are also many roles that put out breakdowns for specific age, race, gender, etc., when there is nothing in the story to dictate it other than the writers own bias. Challenging these biases takes education and legislation, and I am passionate about helping to make that happen. This kind of change doesn’t need to feel restrictive, if you think about it, it’s actually much more creative. It allows more creative freedom to the casting director, the writers and everyone really. I believe we can really create a positive change in society by representing film and TV more accurately and by challenging these biases in casting.