Sharon Lewis’s talent successfully criss-crosses the genre of television, film, digital, print and theatre in a variety of roles as an award winning director, actor, producer and writer. Sharon garnered the highest ratings for hosting the CBC live political talk show, counterSpin in the history of that show. She is the first woman of color in Canada to host a national prime time talk show. She is a Leo and Gemini nominated television host for ZeD an interactive television and web CBC show.
Voted one of the top most powerful people in Canada by Elle Magazine in 2004, award winning writer/director/producer Sharon Lewis has been creating ground-breaking content since her 1994 play Sistahs. Sharon has a track record of working with a variety of top tier Canadian and International talent, including Drake, Timothy Hutton, Jennifer Beals, Maroon 5, Property Brothers – Jonathan and Drew Scott, Dan Akroyd, Clarke Johnson, Tonya Lee Williams and many more, in diverse capacities.
Her award winning short films Chains and Ritch have been sold and broadcast on such networks as BET, HBO, and CBC. She has received support for various projects from funding agencies such as the Toronto Arts Council, Ontario Arts Council, Canada Arts Council, National Film Board of Canada.
She has directed over 100 hours of popular television, appearing on HGTV, CBC, SUNtv and the Food Network.
Sharon has currently wrapped her debut afropunk feature film inspired by Nalo Hopkinson’s award winning novel, Brown Girl in the Ring. Sharon wrote, directed and produced with a stellar team this groundbreaking sci fi feature film. Sharon has already received development funding towards a video game, inspired by the novel.
Sharon was one of the first women of color to co-found a theatre company in Toronto,the first woman of color to host two national live TV programs, and now the first to bring to the screen a Canadiana-Caribbean fantasy film.
CaribbeanFilm: Tell us a bit about yourself and how you became a filmmaker.
SL: I started behind the camera as an actor. My first role was a lead, and the film went to Cannes – heady times for a new actor. Best part was it was the first all Black above the line Canadian feature film.
CaribbeanFilm: In your own words, tell us what this film is about and why you chose to tell this story.
SL: IN BETWEEN LIFE, is about that space in your head and in life when you aren’t moving forward. It’s so painful, you contemplate exiting life, but those who love you remind you —all is not lost, just by them being them.
CaribbeanFilm: The film has a distinct visual aesthetic – what served as your inspiration visually?
SL: I am often inspired by a location first. This location with all the “dead” animals and old things of a prop house, fed into the idea of the lead character feeling “dead” inside.
CaribbeanFilm: What was the most challenging aspect of making the film and why was that so?
SL: The process of the film began as a take on our “girls nights,” but then morphed into this tale of being stuck in between times of good and bad – just blah. What was challenging, was trying to incorporate the genuine laughs and camaraderie of the original idea of a girls’ night, with the location and the organic movement of the story toward Mona’s inner turmoil.
CaribbeanFilm: Describe some your best experiences while making the film and some of your worst. If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything?
SL: The best part of making the film was the ability to direct some of my favourite actresses and work with them in a creative setting. What was the most challenging, was doing it with so little money or time when what I wanted, was to allow plenty of rehearsal time.
CaribbeanFilm: What do you want the audience to take away from this film?
SL: I want the audience to know that even when surrounded by death, and stagnant energy, the love of other humans can free us. Cliched, I know, but it’s true. There is a sisterhood which exists, I never take for granted, and feel lucky to be a part of.
CaribbeanFilm: If you were to pick an aspect of filmmaking – producing, writing, directing, cinematography, editing – which would be your favorite? why is that? – which do you dislike the most? and why is that?
SL: I love directing the most. I love being on set and trying to get the best performance, best shot, and best sound that will make the scene sing.
CaribbeanFilm: If you did not have to think about a budget, what film would you make and who would you cast as the lead actors? (ideal world question)
SL: I would make THE TAROT CARD MURDERS – a neo-noir murder mystery with an all female – lead cast. I would cast Queen Latifah as the lead.
CaribbeanFilm: Currently, there is a sort of awakening in the Caribbean to filmmaking as a form of artistic expression. Can you share with us your thoughts on what is happening in Caribbean film and where you see this energy leading filmmakers?
SL: What I love is that in the Caribbean and the diaspora we aren’t just telling identity films in relation to North America and who/how we are in relation the West, we are telling our stories from our point of view. For example: The Harder They Come is a classic. It changed me when I saw that film and saw my culture reflected on the big screen.
CaribbeanFilm: Do you think there is a “Caribbean film aesthetic” being created as more and more films are being made? If so, can you describe what you’re seeing as that aesthetic?
SL: I don’t think that I would describe a Caribbean film aesthetic. I saw SHOTTAS out of Jamaica, which had it’s own unique Miami Vice style, but then I also watched the Bajan film, A HAND FULL OF DIRT, which was a much more classically shot film.
CaribbeanFilm: And then some completely random questions: What is your fav film (or 2 or 3) all time? What did you enjoy about it the most?
SL: I LOVE Black Orpheus, Brazilian film won an academy award in 1959, and Daughters of the Dust, by Julie Dash.
CaribbeanFilm: What is your fav Caribbean film? What did you enjoy about it the most?
SL: I would have to say Jimmy Cliff’s, The Harder They Come (1972). It was a docudrama before we even understood that term. It was realistic, captivating, beautiful and confident in being exactly what it wanted to be.
CaribbeanFilm: Is there a particular director’s work you admire? If so, who is that and what is it about their work you admire?
SL: There are so many directors that I admire. I truly enjoy “Pariah” and “Bessie,” directed by Dee Rees – putting women of color at the centre of her film and dealing with sexuality in a way that is organic to the story. I am a big fan of Steve McQueen’s work as well, as he is very confident in allowing the story to unfold at it’s own pace.
Watch “IN BETWEEN LIFE”: