Lifetime’s Imperfect High follows main character Hanna, played by Nia Siox, as she struggles with finding her way in high school while battling anxiety and addiction. Siobhan Devine is a versatile and exciting director who is bringing this film to life. She is also a multi award-winning director most known for her work on the CBC and Netflix Original show, Kim’s Convenience, starring Simu Liu. She has won several Leo Awards for Best Director of a Comedy and she was also nominated for a 2021 Canadian Screen Award. Currently, Siobhan is working on the long running Hallmark series, When Calls the Heart and Chesapeake Shores. Read on to learn about Siobhan’s work on Imperfect High, the challenges she encountered on the project and how she overcame them.
Hi Siobhan! How have you been?
Hi there, I am terrific thanks! I am so happy to be talking with you about Imperfect High today.
What is it like working with Nia Sioux? Tell us more about your working relationship with her.
Working with Nia Sioux on Imperfect High was amazing. Nia Sioux is a beautiful, talented and intelligent actor and really a joy to work with. Our working relationship was very collaborative, we met quite a few times in advance to discuss the journey of her character Hanna and always checked in with each other to make sure we were on the same page. Because of the strict Covid travel rules, Nia had to come to Vancouver by herself and do a 14 days quarantine before we even began filming so me and the entire cast and crew rallied around her to make sure she felt at home here.
You brought a unique approach to Imperfect High. Can you take us behind one or two of your favorite scenes? Tell us more about your process and how you decide the right way to approach it.
As someone who was trained in theatre I always let the script guide me as to the shooting style. In the case of Imperfect High, because this story is really Hanna’s journey, I chose to shoot the movie from her perspective as much as possible.
It is so hard to choose a favourite scene from this movie as I loved them all, however, the scenes between Nia Sioux and the incredible Sherri Shepherd are very special, these two actors really bonded and so we would work together to find the emotional centre of the scene. At the beginning of every scene I created a quiet centre in the midst of the craziness of production for me and Nia and Sherri to work out how best to tell the story of that particular scene.
Did you approach the characters in Imperfect High in a specific way at all?
When I was working with an incredible cast of Imperfect High including Nia, Sherri, Ali Skyobe, Gabriel Darku and Anthony Timpano, my main drive was to make each character well-rounded and complete. Because the movie was so important to me I wanted to ensure that every person in the story would come across as a real person with a real life behind them. I trusted that each actor would create that world and then we would talk about it so that all the dialogue was grounded in their created reality.
What were some of the other challenges you encountered with Imperfect High? How did you overcome them?
I would say that the main unique challenge was that we were making the movie during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic. Because the actors had to take their masks off during filming it was critical that we protected them as much as possible so we all wore masks and social distanced as much as possible. Directing a movie with a mask on meant I had to learn new ways of communicating, like I really had to keep the set quiet between takes so that the actors could hear me. We also needed to keep the number of people on set down so sometimes even I would have to step out to make room for another crew member! Directing during Covid was a huge lesson in teamwork but honestly, I think the movie is better for those challenges because of how much we all had to collaborate to keep everyone safe.
What are some of your other favorite past projects?
So many beloved past projects! I was really very lucky to get to work on Kim’s Convenience. It was an amazing experience to work with such talented writers and actors on a Toronto born television show. I am also excited that I recently got to work on the brilliant Disney kids show Gabby Duran & The Unsittables – my new episodes, full of fights and stunts and visual effects, will be airing in October and I can’t wait!
What else is happening next in your world?
I am thrilled to be working on the Hallmark period drama When Calls the Heart. I get to work with horses and buggies and Model T cars and women in corsets (thankfully not me) and men in smart 3 piece suits – what a fabulous adventure it is!
As you can see, directing is the very best job ever!
Thank you for reading! You can learn more about Siobhan by visiting her website.