Hone your focus and get really good. If your talent is undeniable — people will want you. I see a lot of filmmakers trying to do too many things. It’s hard to be good at everything. His applies out other careers too. I got really good advice to just focus on one thing, and I gave up acting, writing and everything else for years. I just focused on being a good director and got really really good at it. Which is why I’m a busy director now
As a part of our series called “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me When I First Became A Filmmaker”, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Cat Hostick.
Cat Hostick is is one of Canada’s most sought-after female directors. She was recently nominated for a Canadian Screen Award in 2022 for a Discovery Plus TV series: A Ghost Ruined My Life Executive Produced by Hollywood Horror Director Eli Roth (Cabin Fever, Hostel). Her credits include shows that can be seen on Netflix, Crave, TVO, Amazon Prime & more. She has won awards at multiple festivals as a filmmaker for her feature films that she directed, wrote and acted in.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us a bit of the ‘backstory’ of how you grew up?
I grew up in a small town an hour east of Toronto, Canada called Bowmanville. My mom is a retired nurse that delivered babies. My Dad was a regional director of a large insurance company. My older brother’s a finance guy. Basically, my family are all math genius’ and I’m the black sheep. I was a gifted artist/painter from a very young age. Elite gymnast. And my filmmaking and acting interests began early on.
Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?
I always knew from a young age that I wanted to be make movies. I remember as young as 6 years old putting on plays with my animal toys, doing actual plays in school, and any opportunity at school where we had creative autonomy — I would turn my projects into a show of some sort, commercial or film somehow. I made my first horror film in grade 6 with one of those camcorders. I remember my teacher a bit disturbed when I showed it to the class since it probably wasn’t appropriate for kids our age (lol).
When I finished high school, I moved to Toronto and was auditioning and working as an actress. I remember feeling stifled as an actor and artist because I wasn’t loving all the roles I was going out for and had an urge to tell the stories the way I wanted to tell them. So, I decided to start producing my own work, which is when I really started taking directing seriously. Once I got over the fear of it all and just decided, “yes I am going to be a director…This is going to be my career”. Things started falling into place.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that occurred to you in the course of your filmmaking career?
So I did this period horror movie called Campton Manor and there was this older actor named Kenneth Welsh (The Aviator, The Day After Tomorrow) He sadly just passed away recently. Anyway — I had never worked with him before, but I knew his work and wanted him so it was a straight offer. It’s a weird scenario because usually for a movie, I always get to have in depth prep and conversations with my actors. Not this one. He came onto the movie so last minute, so I hadn’t met or spoke with him yet. I was filming a scene and they told me he had arrived on set… and I said great, I’ll go say hi.” I walk over to him and shake his hand and he just kind of stared at me. I was like, what an odd exchange. Brushed it off, went back to work. So his scenes were up shortly and a PA comes up to me and says “Hey Cat, so Kenneth says he needs cue cards..” And I think I almost had a coronary. I was like “What??” He essentially has a page a half of a Shakespearean monologue, not to mention many other scenes. How the hell are we going to do cue cards??” I seriously didn’t know what to do. So we’re about half hour away from the scene… I see a PA making cue cards on Bristol board… Kenneth did not want to do a rehearsal or proper blocking. He just wanted to go for it, without cue cards. I stood by the monitor, called action, expecting the worst. And then he delivers what is probably the most eloquent, flawless breathtaking monologue one has ever seen. The script supervisor and myself both looked at each other floored. I was crying it was beautiful. And laughing all at the same time. And then I call cut and then I walk over to him ask him asked him why the hell he wanted cue cards and he said “it’s better to under expect, overdeliver and he then was completely normal with me, very chatty, charismatic guy and hilarious. He was totally messing with me. He was the best. Rest in peace, Kenny!
Who are some of the most interesting people you have interacted with? What was that like? Do you have any stories?
I think Simu Liu (Marvel’s Shang Chi) is super interesting. Simu and I became friends just as he was getting into acting. We met on an MTV commercial years ago before he really started acting. He was a stunt/martial arts guy. The funny thing is he was playing a superhero in that commercial. And he asked me to do a short with him, where he played a superhero. And now…he’s a legit superhero. He always wanted to be a superhero and then he became one. I always believed in law of attraction and power of the mind… mixed with relentless ambition, I do believe you can achieve great things. He was probably one of the hardest workers and had the most drive out of almost anyone I know. And he’s done a lot for diversity. I think he was Time’s most top 100 influential people of the year or something. Doesn’t surprise me.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I feel grateful to say there’s been many people who have given me guidance and opportunity. Russ De Jong (who is a Director of Photography of probably over 150 features). My first feature wouldn’t have happened without him and his support. And for my Television directing career, there’s these two producers — basically brothers; Armen Kazazian and Jeff Hirschfield who gave me my first shot in television. And we still work together to this day. Really grateful for all these guys.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Don’t waste your time doing what you don’t like doing because you think you have to do it to get where you want to go. Just do the thing you want to do”.
Kind of a mouthful but I find a lot of people think they have to suffer through doing a job they don’t enjoy. I remember this story Jim Carey told about his father. His dad was a talented musician and it was a career goal, but out of fear of security, he took the “safe” path to be an accountant. In the end, he lost his “secure accounting job” anyway. And he lived with deep regret. I remember working in a restaurant and was so miserable and depressed. I knew I wanted to be a Director. I had decided that day I would quit, and even though I had no idea how I would make a living or make it in such a competitive industry — I had decided that I would take a leap and figure it out. I quit that day and 8 years later, I’ve never worked a day outside of the film industry since. Now I make a living directing film and TV. And I LOVE my job.
I am very interested in diversity in the entertainment industry. Can you share three reasons with our readers about why you think it’s important to have diversity represented in film and television? How can that potentially affect our culture?
Absolutely –For stories to be told as truthfully, uniquely, and relatable as possible — we need diverse perspectives in storytelling. It’s important for people to feel seen and heard and by making sure they feel accurately and authentically represented. I was once asked to do a movie with an all-black cast and thematically the show was about racism within the adoption system. While I hate turning down work, I respectfully bowed out of the offer and suggested a black female director because I felt they could bring a stronger perspective to the work and it was a great opportunity for them. Second — Role models. I think when young people see themselves on TV, or behind the camera, or in powerful positions, it allows them to see it as a possibility for themselves. If they don’t believe it’s possible, because there’s no evidence of their ethnicity in these positions, they will likely not even think of it as a career path. I also feel seeing yourself represented in the media increases your confidence and self-esteem. I think because people feel accepted and heard. This is more important than ever with young people and raising them to be confident successful members of society.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
I’ve been working a lot with Eli Roth (Director of Cabin Fever, Hostel). We’ve got this terrifying new show scripted show on Discovery plus called Urban Legend.
On the other side of the genre world — I just directed a dramedy series called Poly is The New Monogamy. It may be the first thing I’ve done that’s 100% my voice. More details to come, but I kind of did it all on this one — Directing, writing, acting, producing. I totally Lena Dunham’d it.
Which aspect of your work makes you most proud? Can you explain or give a story?
Two things — my creativity with shots and building suspense with an emotional touch. Second is my strength at working with actors. I do wish people could see the before and after sometimes. I’ve had actors tell me “I take them to the gym”. Being an actress, I really hone in on performance details when it comes to directing.
Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
I will speak to this as both a Director and Actress.
- Don’t waste time at low end agencies as an actor. There’s exceptions to every rule, but I was at a couple lower end agencies at the start of my career. I remember a friend that works for a casting director brought me in to audition for a role and they booked me. The casting director asked who my agent was because he said I was really good and wanted to bring me in more. When I told him who it was, he had never even heard of him and told me to get a new agent. As a director — when I audition actors, it’s always like 5 agencies’ clients they bring into the room. I think if you aren’t in this little group, you won’t get seen unless they are doing major outreach for something specific. So get really good at your craft, so you can get a good rep.
- Don’t waste money on film school. Use your tuition to make your first feature film. You can make a low budget feature for 25k if you are smart about it. I’ve seen people do it for 12k, even. I see all these kids come out of film school and they’ve done a crappy short filmed on ancient technology that the schools provide. OR you could have your own feature film shot, playing at festivals, and you’ll have something to show that will get you work. A short — unless it’s in TIFF, Cannes or Sundance likely won’t get you work right out the gate. My first low budget feature literally gave me a career.
- Find a solid mentor and don’t be afraid to go big. They’ll just give you more insider info so you don’t waste time trying to figure it out on your own. The key is finding people who are willing to help. I do think some people are afraid of having you replace them in 10 years… so you need to find the right match. Some of the most successful people in the world want to give back and have no ego, don’t be afraid to reach out to them. I’ve had some pretty big people make time to sit down with me in my early days.
- Collect your NO’s. This industry is full of rejection, criticism, and failure. It can be discouraging. At one point, I was afraid to ask or make moves that might propel me forward because I didn’t want to be told no or fail. I started to think that for every 100 no’s… I’ll get one yes. Just like the guy who started Starbucks. He was turned down by 300 banks before he got a yes. So, now I just collect the Nos, because it will get me closer to my yes.
- Hone your focus and get really good. If your talent is undeniable — people will want you. I see a lot of filmmakers trying to do too many things. It’s hard to be good at everything. His applies out other careers too. I got really good advice to just focus on one thing, and I gave up acting, writing and everything else for years. I just focused on being a good director and got really really good at it. Which is why I’m a busy director now
When you create a film, which stakeholders have the greatest impact on the artistic and cinematic choices you make? Is it the viewers, the critics, the financiers, or your own personal artistic vision? Can you share a story with us or give an example about what you mean?
I do a lot of genre (specifically horror). When it comes to genre films, audience expectation is important. An audience inherently has expectations of the genre… so if I am doing a movie that is labelled horror/thriller, and the movie feels more like a thriller…I have to make sure creatively that I am hitting checkboxes for horror/using conventions of the genre or that audience will be disappointed. Example, I did a mixed genre project once — a horror/mystery/thriller. The script did not call for blood. While not necessary for horror, there was opportunity for it. When we screened for a test audience, people said they would have enjoyed the movie more if there was blood. On set, I’m always looking for opportunities to make something scarier, or give the audience a jump scare.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I am currently working on a documentary project about how women’s reproductive health is underdeveloped and misunderstood. I think a lot of women are suffering health wise from chronic illnesses and don’t feel heard by western medicine. I want to be an intermediate and get woman help and answers by talking to some experts in the field.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this. 🙂
Elon Musk (funnily enough, my friend created paypal with him). I just have so many questions about tech and where he thinks the future will be like in 100 years. The possibilities/future with Neuralink. All so stimulating!
How can our readers further follow you online?
Instagram is the best way to follow what I’m up to! @cathostick
This was very meaningful, thank you so much! We wish you continued success!
Cat Hostick: 5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me When I First Became A Filmmaker was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.