Interview: Canadian Jewish News – Leah Goldstein

Interview: Canadian Jewish News – Leah Goldstein

Indie-band singer makes her film debut
Jordan Adler, Special to The CJN, Thursday, August 6, 2015

“I am not an actress, but I play one in a movie.”

That was the go-to catchphrase for Leah Fay Goldstein at this year’s Slamdance Film Festival, where she showed up for the premiere of her film debut, the dark Canadian comedy Diamond Tongues.

Most were likely bewildered by the statement: not only does Goldstein seem like a well-trained pro in the film, acting in every scene, but she also manages to make the audience root for a rather repugnant protagonist.

“I really didn’t like her,” Goldstein says, of her first reaction to character after she read the screenplay. “She’s pretty awful.”

That character, Edith Welland, is a struggling actor. Instead of striving for her own success, she chooses to sabotage the efforts of friends who are breaking into the film industry. In one scene, Edith pulls the fire alarm at a close friend’s stage performance, since she is so frustrated by the play’s success.

It was that distance from Edith’s personality that Goldstein says attracted her to the role.

“I thought it would be fun to be an asshole,” she tells The CJN. “My mom, [Krys Goldstein], grew up acting and wanting to be an actress, and she said that playing the enemy was always the most fun.”

Goldstein embraces Edith’s unlikable traits and gives a bitterly funny performance. It is an even more impressive turn when one realizes that the dog-eat-dog world of the film industry is foreign to the Toronto native.

She has only once auditioned for a film role, and didn’t even have to try out for Diamond Tongues.

Instead, directors Pavan Moondi and Brian Robertson knew she would be perfect for the part after seeing Goldstein perform with her band, the Juno-winning indie rock group July Talk, at a TIFF party in 2013. Shortly after that show, they offered her the role.

Many character-based meetings with Moondi and Robertson helped the rookie actor find a path into making Edith believable.

“She’s relatable because she experiences jealousy,” Goldstein says of Edith. “She experiences feelings of inferiority and wanting to be good and succeed. No matter who you are, no matter how much you want to suppress those feelings and pretend they never happen to you, they obviously happen to all of us.”

A story about the difficulty of breaking into the film industry resonated with the directors. Moondi was trying to get a film with a bigger budget off the ground. During this waiting period, he began a new screenplay that became Diamond Tongues.

The dark comedy opens for a limited run in Toronto on Aug. 7 and will also play at the city’s Open Roof Festival on Aug. 19.

As the comedy’s anchor, Goldstein had to cope with a short shooting schedule (under three weeks) and many quick changes of her character’s state of mind.

On one day of filming, she worked on four very different scenes: an argument with her ex-boyfriend that concludes with her spitting in his face, an intense kissing scene, a big argument with best friend Clare (Leah Wildman), and a scene alongside TV personality George Stroumboulopoulos on his talk show.

“I don’t think I’ve ever met George, as myself… he’s a huge hero of mine,” she says. “It put my stomach in knots to go on the show and play this character who isn’t me at all.”

It also didn’t help that Goldstein had a cold on that hectic day.

Nevertheless, the vocalist is very comfortable in front of the camera. That is undoubtedly helped by her time working on videos with her feminist performance art collective, WIVES, as well as July Talk.

When she isn’t promoting Diamond Tongues this summer, Goldstein is in a Toronto studio, working on writing and recording the next July Talk album. (Her band-mate, Peter Dreimanis, also worked on the film as a co-producer and cinematographer.)

She says the album should come out in 2016, with a new single expected by the beginning of next year.

Meanwhile, the band is touring across Canada on weekends. July Talk will play at the Interstellar Rodeo in Winnipeg on Aug. 16 and at Celebration Square in Mississauga on Aug. 29.

Unlike Goldstein, Edith is filled with ego. However, she does share one notable facet with her character: an eagerness to do more acting work.

“I can totally see myself doing it again if I found a script that I loved, a character that intrigued me and a director that inspired me,” she says.

Source: Canadian Jewish News


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